For a man who was a late starter to the world of racing, ironically due to a career at sea working on oil tankers, Victorian Matt Close has achieved much success in his 20-year motorsport career.
The defending Targa Tasmania GT2 champion is predicting a close contest in this year’s edition when it gets underway on Monday.
Tasmanian stars Jason and John White in their Dodge Viper, Tony Quinn and Naomi Tillett in their Porsche GT3 RS and last year’s runners-up Michael Pritchard and Gary Mourant, also in a Dodge Viper, are considered the biggest threats.
“I've got my eye on a smoky if the event turns up a lot of wet roads – Pete Nunn and Keith Johnstone in a new Porsche Cayman GTS will be hard to match,” Close said.
“It's a very smart combination, and Pete is a gun driver and won't hang around if he gets his conditions.”
Close and co-driver Cameron Reeves took out the GT2 class in a 2015 Porsche GT3 last year.
Twelve months later, the titleholders will compete in a 4.0-litre 2017 Porsche GT3 RS despite having spent limited time familiarising themselves with it.
“We were offered an incredible opportunity by Porsche Australia; we took delivery of the car on April 3,” Close said.
“I’ve done 250kms of highway driving in it. I’m on a very steep learning curve when we start next week.
“Cameron (Reeves) hasn’t even seen the car. I’m sure he thinks it’s all just a joke and I’m bringing the red GT3,” Close said.
This will be Close’s 13th Targa Tasmania and he said there is one simple reason he keeps returning.
“It’s driving those awesome roads in Tasmania. It’s like racing 40 different race tracks in one week,” he said.
“Also, the friendships you develop over the years with other competitors, organisers and volunteers is important. I missed Targa in 2015 and I was not a happy camper; I actually had to fly down for the finish to feel a part of it.”
Close started racing in the late 1990’s, competing in a 1997 Subaru WRX, a move that didn’t amuse his boss at the time.
“I started hill climbing in my company car, and after winning the Collingrove Australian Hillclimb Championship I was encouraged to buy a dedicated race car after that,” Close said.
As for the best driver he has seen?: “I think I speak for many Tarmac competitors here – Jim Richards,” he replied.
“He has won so many races in so many different disciplines; it’s hard to compare anyone else to that.
Featuring 35 stages, Targa Tasmania gets underway on Monday and runs for six days, finishing on the Hobart waterfront at lunchtime on Saturday, April 29.