THE first round of the Targa Australian Championship gets under way on Thursday with the running of the four-day Targa Adelaide event, which will be conducted over 34 special stages.
Ninety-four entries have been received for the event covering 10 separate competitions plus the tour and regularity components, and there are a number of Tasmanian entries that could figure in the results.
Jason and John White will go into the event as the team to beat in the modern competition in the Lamborghini Gallardo, having won the event last year and taken out the four-round championship by also winning Targa Wrest Point and Targa Tasmania.
Their only hiccup was a DNF in Targa High Country in Victoria when the Lamborghini suffered a broken front differential, but since then the car has only suffered relatively minor problems.
The team of Steve Glenney and Bernie Webb will be very hard to beat in their Nissan GTR R35, and after a competitive second to the Whites in this year's Targa Tasmania they will be going all out to turn the tables in their favour.
Tony Quinn and Naomi Tillett have scored numerous wins including Targa Tasmania and Targa New Zealand in their Nissan and will be front- runners.
It will be interesting to see how three-time Tasmanian Rally Series winner Jamie Vandenberg performs in the Nissan, which is normally driven by Matthew Sims.
The early modern competition should see a great battle between talented Hobart driver Matthew Rickards in his Mitsubishi Evo 7 RS and South Australians Tim Possingham and Ben Scott in the Nissan GTR.
Rickards has turned in some brilliant performances in the past, and as he has done previously should finish overall in front of some of the modern competition teams.
The showroom four-wheel- drive competition looks set to be a three-way battle between the Launceston team of Ben Newman and Crichton Lewis in the Subaru WRX STi, Clinton Arentz and Peter Burrey in their Evo 10 Mitsubishi, and Stewart Liddle and Michael Lloyd in their Subaru.
Newman-Lewis have scored podium finishes in the past but are yet to stand on the top step and this could be their best chance to achieve their goal.
Highly regarded race engineer Campbell Little has been loaned to the Dick Johnson Race team by his employer Ford Performance Racing to assist the Queensland-based Ford team to gain improved results.
As senior engineer at FPR, Little has previously engineered for Mark Winterbottom but this year moved across to the third FPR- prepared car of Alex Davison.
Queensland-based Little will still be the engineer for Davison on race weekends, but in the interim he will be heading up the technical operations at the DJR workshop, which is not far from his home.
Little has previously worked for Stone Brothers Racing and the former Triple Eight racing operation, and is considered to be one of the best engineering brains in the business.
Ironically, the struggling DJR team scored a long overdue race win at the last round of the V8 Supercar championship at Queensland Raceway when young gun Chas Mostert showed maturity beyond his years to win his first race in the main game.
Mostert is actually a contracted FPR driver who was on loan to DJR and there is no doubt his performances so far have marked him as a star of the future.