John Ireland and Janet Binns find wedded bliss at Targa

READY TO ROAR: Navigator Janet Binns and her driver husband John Ireland with their 2017 Dodge Viper ACR in a Targa hot laps session at Symmons Plains. Pictures: Paul Scambler
READY TO ROAR: Navigator Janet Binns and her driver husband John Ireland with their 2017 Dodge Viper ACR in a Targa hot laps session at Symmons Plains. Pictures: Paul Scambler

A one-time Australian volleyball representative that once was in the Tasmanian rowing train-on-squad is the driving force behind a switch to test out the elite Targa drivers this week. 

Janet Binns, who grew up in Launceston but resides in Sydney, will navigate the roads in a new Dodge Viper with husband John Ireland.

The man behind the wheel will contest his 20th Targa Tasmania race, but wife Binns will sit in the pressure seat for just her third time.

They are one of a number of husband/wife teams, but Binns hopes her time in top-level sport, coupled with a faster new car, after two years in “crash test dummy” mode as Ireland calls it, can now make a difference.

“It makes a big difference, my background,” Binns said.

“There is a lot of pressure when you’re in this car to get with the new one – it’s twice as fast as what we had before.

“It helps to keep you really focused. I also find my fitness is really important.”

Binns recently completed a two-day training co-driver course to find a competitive edge over her competitors.

“That course was awesome and fitness was an important part of that,” she said.

“It helps you stay on your game and it helps you with stress when we need to get in and out of cars quickly.”

STRAP YOURSELF IN: Binns adjusts her husband's helmet.

STRAP YOURSELF IN: Binns adjusts her husband's helmet.

Moving up from the laidback Classics to the dead serious GT2 class, the pair will rub shoulders with reigning champion Jason White and his rival Matt Close.

Binns said Ireland made the decision to move into another gear while they were best equipped to do so. 

“John has been very successful in the Classics, but we needed a fast car to get into that top category,” she said.

“We’re still learning to drive this car. It’s a lot of car and it’s a left-hand drive, so I am calling from the driver’s seat without a steering wheel.

“So it takes a little bit to get used to – the speed, the corners. Twice the speed of our previous car, so the corners come up a lot more quickly.

“It’s about adjusting your call rate and making sure John is getting the right information at the right times, so we can go as fast as we can.”

Ireland has full confidence in his wife’s navigating abilities, adding that she pretty much got hooked into the role on her first race in 2016.

But that was back in a much friendlier Porsche. 

“She is right into it now and has since come on leaps and bounds,” Ireland said.

TAKING A BREAK: The couple show off their pride and joy on Sunday.

TAKING A BREAK: The couple show off their pride and joy on Sunday.

“She’s enjoying it a lot.

“But this is a bit of a step up from the other car we were in. She has to be on her game when you’re in a Viper.”

The couple’s relationship started six years ago and were only married 18 months ago before their first race.

Ireland said the rapport has easily transferred from the family home into the car.

“She’s sort of got that focus from her competitive [sporting] days when she puts her mind to it,” he said.

“So, she has actually become a prime mover.

“When it came to getting a new car, it was her logic that we’re not getting on that podium in the Porsche – so let’s get a Viper instead.

“Not too many guys can say their wife is encouraging them to spend more money on a fast car.”

The Dodge Viper ACR has cost close to $250,000 to bring the car up to a “reliable and competitive” speed that also includes a $US140,000 price tag prior to it being shipped across to Australia. 

Targa Tasmania starts on Monday and will conclude on Saturday.