Tight tussle for modern honours

Audi driver Matt Close takes a corner in yesterday's stage from Launceston to Strahan.

Audi driver Matt Close takes a corner in yesterday's stage from Launceston to Strahan.

ACROSS the first seven stages on day three of Targa Tasmania, on the run from Launceston to Strahan, nothing could separate the front two runners in the battle for modern honours.

Steve Glenney started the day with a 38-second buffer over arch- rival Jason White, and after the opening 113 kilometres he had only increased that by three seconds.

But on the final stage the day took a dramatic turn. White charged down the 32-kilometre Rinadeena stage in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 to take 15 seconds off the Nissan GT-R. It reduced Glenney's lead to 26 seconds, sparking new interest in the contest with two days to go.

No such drama among the classics, with Craig Haysman continuing to build his outright lead, with his 1981 Triumph TR7 now two minutes 19 seconds clear of the second-placed Barry Faux in a 1981 Mazda RX-7.

Again showroom 4WD was full of intrigue. Launceston's Ben Newman, in a Subaru WRX STI, led for most of the day but a late charge by Clinton Arentz saw the Mitsubishi driver grab a five- second buffer going into day four.

All the action takes place in White's backyard in the state's North-West on the penultimate day. Its reputation as super Saturday, one that always defines the outcome of the event, seems set to continue.

Glenney had concerns after the final stage and has some work to do overnight.

"I think we've got a gearbox problem again," Glenney said.

"It looks and sounds like the same one which stopped us in Targa Wrest Point.

"I heard a noise five minutes into the stage and we had to do the rest of the stage in fifth gear. Hopefully we can get it fixed overnight."

White knows he is giving everything to the challenge of defending his title.

"We've been on the absolute limit and it's about as much as we can do with the little shopping trolley," White said.

"We had a real serious crack at Rinadeena. It's the fastest we've ever been through that stage even in the Lambo.

"The Lambo leaves this car for dead in the fast open stretches, but the Evo's been as good as the Lambo through the tight stuff like Rinadeena. It was a hell of a ride."

While the modern cars are pushing it all the way, Haysman had the luxury of a more strategic approach in classic outright.

"We had a pretty conservative start to the day because we weren't sure what the weather was doing, but we pushed a bit harder this afternoon and I've really enjoyed the afternoon stages," Haysman said.

"The car's good and strong and we've only had minor problems like a fuel leak yesterday, which was easily fixed."

Tasmanian Ben Manion continued his dominance of early modern, his 1990 Skyline GTS-t stretching its lead over Peter Nunn's 1990 Porsche 994 S2 to three minutes, 32 seconds.

Jim Richards continues to lead showroom sports in his Porsche Cayman S.

Andrew Bollom also looks to have an unassailable lead with a 13-minute buffer in showroom. Craig Dean is supreme in his Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and controls the modern muscle car class. Defending regularity champions Philip and David Frith continue to hold a narrow lead.

In other classic competitions, Leigh Achterberg's 1982 Porsche leads late handicap, Peter Ullrich tops early handicap in his 1963 Jenson CV8, Glenn Rees is the new leader in classic florio and Graham Copeland, the flag car, still is out in front in the vintage rallye.

The course heads to Burnie and back to Strahan today with another eight stages across another 113 competitive kilometres.

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