MOTOR racing stars Tony Quinn and Jim Richards and Family Feud host Grant Denyer share the top of the showroom competition leader board after the opening day of Targa Tasmania.
The three big-name drivers all shot out of the blocks quickly, however it was Quinn, the 2009 Targa Tasmania champion, who set the early pace.
Tasmanians Eddie Maguire and Jason White are battling it out for the modern competition and lie first and second, while Peter Ullrich and Pete Nunn are tied after the opening stage of the classic outright class.
The 24th running of the tarmac rally got under way at the Launceston Country Club, with 160 competitors setting off to battle six days and 2000km of Tasmania’s best roads.
The opening day of Targa is designed to ease competitors into the event, with four stages totalling just 24.5 kilometres. The base times for the first three stages were all easily obtainable, however the final 4.81km stage around the streets of George Town was where the real action began.
Driving a 2014 McLaren 650S, Quinn blasted around the stage in a time that was an impressive nine seconds faster than eight-time Targa Tasmania winner Jim Richards, in a Porsche Cayman S.
In third, just a second further back, was TV star Denyer, driving a Renault Megane with American co-driver, Alex Gelsomino.
‘‘It’s been a learning curve, but today’s been fine and we’re driving the car well,’’ Quinn said.
‘‘It’s a bit stiff and I think our tyre pressures were too high today. It’s good and fast – it’s totally different to our Nissan, but it’s the first time for this car, so it is what it is and we have to get used to it.’’
The surprise leader in the modern competition is last year’s Targa High Country winner Maguire, who drove his Mitsubishi Lancer to a two-second stage win at George Town, ahead of favourite White in his Lamborghini Gallardo.
West Australian Ben Searcy lies third in modern, three seconds off the pace in his Nissan GTR.
‘‘Just because we won today doesn’t mean we’re going to be the fastest car all week,’’ Maguire said. ‘‘This is my first Targa Tasmania as a driver and my expectations are first and foremost to finish the event – we’re just going to run our own race and hopefully we’re there at the end.’’
DAY 1 RESULTS – SHOWROOM: 1. Tony Quinn-Naomi Tillett, 2014 McLaren 650S; 2. Jim Richards-Barry Oliver, 2014 Porsche Cayman S, +9s; 3. Grant Denyer-Alex Gelsomino, 2012 Renault Megane, +10s.
MODERN – 1. Eddie Maguire-Michael Potter, 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo; 2. Jason White-John White, 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo Squadra Corse, +2s; 3. Ben Searcy-Mitchell Lukasz, 2007 Mitsubishi Evo IX, +3s.
CLASSIC OUTRIGHT: 1. Peter Ullrich-Sara Ullrich, 1963 Jensen CV8; Pete Nunn-Keith Johnstone, 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo; 3. David Gainer-Peter St George, 1971 Datsun 240Z, +1s.
SPORTS TROPHY: 1. Jeff Beable-Nerida Beable, 2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R N1; 2. Allan Hines-Kerry Hines, 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo S, +11s; 3. Adrian Smith-Alanah Miles, 2015 VW Golf R, +17s.
4WD SHOWROOM: 1. Stewart Liddle-Michael Lloyd, 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RS; 2. Richard Perini-Chris Perini, 2013 Mercedes A45 AMG, +1s; 3.