Hair-raising drive after false starts

PERHAPS it was the excitement of being part of Targa Tasmania again after sitting out last year's event.

Or maybe it was just the absence of the expected SMS informing us of yesterday's start time from the Silverdome.

Regardless, my 2013 Targa Tasmania trip, as a guest in Barry Cassidy's National Automobile Museum of Tasmania-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro, got off to a false start.

Barry phoned me on Monday evening to say that due to the lack of any information emanating from that evening's drivers' briefing (not being a driver, I opted out), we'd meet at the Silverdome at 7am.

An almost-empty car park and bolted Silverdome doors raised suspicion, even in my sleepy brain, that I might just be a little early.

Barry and partner Wendy Burrows were the only other people within cooee of the Silverdome when I arrived.

Still, we had a great time talking about mutual friends and their two-wheeled racing exploits, like the time a well-known Tasmanian rider was flying down the back straight at Symmons Plains next to a mate, reaching over to flick off his ignition switch.

I also enjoyed, once security arrived and unbolted the doors, walking around the still-deserted Silverdome for a closer look at this year's entries.

Once a Targa official arrived, I discovered the tour would not start until after 9am, so went home to relax in comfort.

The sun was shining bright and trying hard to cut through the cold morning air when I returned and with joy in my heart I took my place in the offered front passenger seat before, alas, we experienced a second false start.

After being parked on the Silverdome's near-20 degree banking overnight the Camaro's carburettor had drained and starter motor almost qualified for long-service leave before it overcame gravity and pumped enough petrol through to allow the 350 cubic inch V8 motor to burst into life.

A short drive to Country Club Tasmania for the official start and we were off.

It was a wonderful feeling to be gliding along the East Tamar Highway in 1.8 tonnes of softly sprung, open-topped US motoring history with the sun slowly warming our faces and the wind playing gently with our hair.

I say ``our'', but really should have said mine and Barry's.

Sitting, as we were, in the front, directly behind the windscreen, we were protected from the 100km/h wind.

Not so Wendy, who had earlier deferred to my longer legs and offered to sit in the back _ fortunately, her jacket had a hood and was soon fastened around her chin.

thNote to self: Be a gentleman and offer to sit in the back in future.

The combination of cool air and open top saw Barry and I jump out of the car at the start of the Kayena stage to answer nature's call in a thinly wooded paddock.

``Have one for me,'' came the request from a jealous woman for whom the cover offered by the trees was insufficient to allow her to feel comfortable.

Kayena was also where tour leader Bronnie Long requested I jump into her passenger seat to navigate in the absence of her official navigator, so I swapped the plush leather bench seat of the Camaro for bland, plastic interior of Bronnie's hired Camry.

It seems needing glasses to read, but not drive, made reading the course notes difficult while on the move and I navigated us, safely, I might add, to the start of the George Town stage before jumping back into the Camaro and The Examiner's waiting video camera.

There was another difference between the Camaro and Camry _ nowhere nearly as many people waved to Bronnie's Camry as Barry's convertible.

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