Everything old about Targa Tasmania is becoming new again.
There has been a significant shift in registrations with a growing number of competitors choosing to tour more than 1170 kilometres of the state rather than race in the iconic motorsport event.
Director Mark Perry said Ferrari would take part for the first time this year to celebrate the manufacturer’s 70th anniversary, joining Lotus and the ever present Porsche.
He said there would be an average 270 cars on the state’s roads daily from Monday to Saturday next week.
“To get to 270 is a great outcome and the diversity in the field is the appealing thing for us, there are a lot less rally cars and a lot more of what people actually want to see,” Perry said.
“We do a lot of tours now, organically that is the way the event is going… our tour field has gone from 20 cars four years ago to 100 this year.
“People are far keener to do tours, which while they are still on the closed road, they are restricted to the speed limit of the road.
“It does arch back to one of the original concepts of Targa, which was to have a cavalcade of motoring history touring around rather than racing.”
Perry said one reason behind the shift was the fact that certain cars are now a lot more valuable and owners as a result are more reluctant to race their possessions once worth $50,000 and now sellable for $500,000.
He said this demographic seemed to spend more money “because they’re not spending all night getting their car ready, they’re eating in nice restaurants”.
“They still want to take part, they just don’t want to thrash their cars around Tasmania for a week,” Perry said.
“There are still plenty of great things about Targa and on display but the competition field is reducing as the days go on and the event is diversifying into other areas.
“You just die a slow death unless you change the way you think and operate.”
Course shift for Anzac Day
Drivers will this year have to tackle The Sideling in just the second stage of Targa Tasmania, which event director Mark Perry says is making some a little nervous.
The 26th edition begins on Monday with the seven-stage return leg from Launceston to St Helens, taking in the infamous North East passage, Kayena, Moorina, Weldborough, Pyengana, Elephant Pass and Rossarden.
The traditional opening stage – the George Town prolog – has been moved to Anzac Day on Tuesday.
“We must run between Easter and Agfest every year and once every 11 years we clash with Anzac Day and for Launceston in particular, you just can’t have Targa and Agfest on at the same time as there is not enough accommodation and it would be a ridiculous thing to do for both events and the economy,” Perry said.
“In fairness to the general public and out of respect of Anzac Day it was really the only logical way we could make it work short of going back to a Tuesday to Sunday format.
“However, a lot of competitors had already book their travel around this introduced Monday to Saturday format from three years ago.”
Perry said competitors will have the opportunity to go to dawn services before departing the Silverdome for George Town at 11.30am, lunch in Regent Square and a 2pm prolog start.
The event moves North-West for stage three, which culminates in a night at Burnie on Wednesday following 219km from Launceston via Sheffield.
The fourth and longest stage (415km) leaves Burnie on Thursday headed for Stanley before finishing in Strahan – passing through Montumana, Irishtown, Edith Creek, Oldina, Hellyer Gorge, Mount Black and Roseberry along the way.
Competitors then travel South on Friday during the penultimate stage before stage six and the crowning of the 2017 champions at Princess Wharf No. 1 in Hobart on Saturday.
Perry said this year’s racing is set to be some of the closest in years, thanks to several rule changes last year.
“We went to these GT rules last year primarily, wrote a whole new set of rules… and I think what you will see next week is why we did that,” he said.
“There are a lot of new cars coming and all of a sudden we are back to the days where there are 10 cars that can win and not two cars.
“They’re showroom cars so they are a bit slower, more reliable, they look more like road cars and they’re just not so souped up.
“Since the inquest we’ve had to make the conscious decision to manage the speeds of the cars and that is why we had to make some tough decisions.”
Perry said some of the drivers to watch include John and Jason White in their Dodge Viper and both Tony Quinn and Jim Richards in new cars for 2017.
- Sunday: Silverdome from 6-9pm.
- Monday: George Street, Launceston, 6-8pm.