Whites `top dogs'

TARGA Tasmania drivers discounting Jason and John White as potential winners this year do so at their own peril, race director Mark Perry says.

But a quick poll of the competition's top contenders in the pits at Symmons Plains yesterday showed that no one  The Examiner  spoke to had fallen into that trap.

The Whites are without their all-conquering Lamborghini this year and will instead compete in a Mitsubishi Evo - the Lamborghini having caught fire and been destroyed during Targa Wrest Point.

Jason White said that his father, who died last month, always reminded him that he earned Targa gold, for three wins in the 1990s, something his son has not yet achieved.

``Dad alway joked that although I had bigger trophies, he had gold,'' White said.

``We try hard and either finish well or fail to finish - we're yet to finish three times in a row.''

Targa Wrest Point winner Matthew Rickards faces an all-night mechanical vigil to make the starting line this morning.

He said that he was getting to grips with the new brakes on his Mitsubishi Evo at Symmons Plains yesterday, when the motor stopped abruptly.

``It's as if it seized the head,'' Rickards said.

``We'll have to pull it apart and see - the one positive we can take out of it is that it happened today and not race day.''

One driver who has been snapping at the heels of a Targa podium is Audi TTRS driver Matt Close.

``Fourth is the best we've managed so far, in our old Porsche, and we've had quite a few second-places in the other Targa Australia rallies in the Audi,'' Close said.

``But we've had a bit of bad luck in the longer Targa Tasmania the past two years.

``Four or five years ago, everyone conserved their cars and tyres in Targa Tasmania and the other Targa events were sprints, now Targa Tasmania is a six-day sprint.

``The only way we can get the 4WD Audi up the front is to take the tuning as far as we can - we're finding out what it can do and what it won't.

``You'd have to put Steve Glenney down as the raging favourite and the rest of us should be pretty even if everything keeps working on our cars.''

Close said that he was hoping for rain because he was able to gain on the front-runners in wet conditions.

Scott Tony Quinn has won the event twice and been on the podium half a dozen times and will again campaign in his Nissan GT-R.

``If the car doesn't break down and I don't crash, I'll almost always be on the podium,'' Quinn said.

``The car's been fluttering about today - this year is the last time I'll run this car.

``It has 14 computers telling you what's going on  - it's trying to take over, but  I don't understand what it's trying to do.''

Quinn said that there were probably six drivers, including Rickards, White, Close and himself, who could win the event and 10 who would fight for a podium spot.

Multiple champions Jim Richards and Barry Oliver will not be in contention this year, driving instead in the showroom sports class, for cars worth between $100,000 and $200,000.

``The Porsche is right in the middle at about $150,000,'' Richards said.

``We should probably finish somewhere in the top 20 outright and should be competitive in our class, but we've not competed in this car yet, so we'll have to see.''

The six-day event begins with the traditional prologue in George Town today.


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