Targa Tasmania veterans Jim Richards and Barry Oliver celebrate their 25th year

TEAMWORK: The partnership of Jim Richards and Barry Oliver will see the pair competing in their 25th Targa Tasmania this year. Picture: Phil Biggs
TEAMWORK: The partnership of Jim Richards and Barry Oliver will see the pair competing in their 25th Targa Tasmania this year. Picture: Phil Biggs

Jim Richards and Barry Oliver notch up their 25th Targa Tasmania rally together this year and their 75th tarmac rally as a team in a special achievement for the driver-navigator duo.

Having competed in all but the very first Targa Tasmania, the close friends aged 69 and 72 respectively have won the event eight times since starting in 1993 and will again this year pilot a brand new, 2017 Porsche GT3 RS around Tasmania’s roads.

“It’s a bit hard to believe that we’ve actually reached that mark to be honest and I don’t think either Jim or myself ever imagined this would happen,” Oliver said.

“Jim has often said ‘Where else in the world do you get a chance to do 36 Targa stages on different pieces of road over six days’ – that’s better than a race meeting and they are fantastic roads.

“Apart from Targa Tasmania we’ve done two Targa New Zealand events, Rally Tasmania and Rally Burnie, Targa High Country, Classic Adelaide, Targa West, Targa Wrest Point and one on the Sunshine Coast – so there’s been quite a lot.”

Richards said the enjoyment they have had over the years kept them coming back.

“It’s gone pretty quickly and it’s more than just a rally – it’s a social event and we bring our wives all the time when they’re available and the girls drive and follow us around,” he said.

“We’ve tried to mix the cars up a little bit but have always been in Porsches but the longest we’ve done in a car is three years and then we sell it off and try something different and we’ve enjoyed that as well going through a huge range of Porsches.”

Oliver said the GT2 class which they would be contesting this year was for two-wheel drive, showroom standard cars and included two Dodge Vipers, a Mustang and various other cars in a competitive field. 

“If we finish in the top half dozen but maybe we’d like it to be closer to third we’d be reasonably happy – we probably don’t try as hard as we used to and the competition keeps getting better every year,” Richards said.

The combination recorded three-straight Targa Tasmania victories from 1996-98 and four in a row from 2000-2003 before their last in a Porsche GT2 in 2006 – a record that is unlikely to be broken.

“In the 74 tarmac rallies that we’ve done to date we’ve been on the podium 42 times so there’s been a bit of champagne sprayed,” Oliver said.

Richard’s career highlights also include seven Bathurst 1000 victories, four Australian Touring Car Championships, four Nations Cup championships, five Grand Prix Rally wins and Touring Car Masters titles in 2010 and 2013 with the New-Zealand born Victorian inducted into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“The fact that we’ve won Targa Tas eight times is nice record to have but we’re not trying to win the event outright anymore,” he said. 

“We don’t press as hard as we once did – it’s now much more about driving a nice car, looking after our sponsors and enjoying the experience and to finish in the top half dozen would be a great result.”