One of Australia’s biggest tarmac rallies finally gets underway next week with the 2021 Targa Tasmania to take over the apple isle for six days of racing.
It’s been a long time coming since the premiere round of the Motorsport Australia Targa Championship last competed, having not run in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The cancellation of the 2020 edition was the first time in the great rally’s history that the event didn’t go ahead – meaning its 30th anniversary was also delayed until 2022.
Alas, the big week of motorsport returns in style with around 235 vehicles to feature in the six-day race, 154 of which will be competing for points in the final round of the 2020/21 season, while the other 81 make up the event’s touring field.
Visiting all corners of Tasmania, crews will cover more than 2000km of the state, contesting 600 competitive kilometres across 37 picturesque stages.
Of the 154 crews taking part in the competitive aspect of Targa Tasmania, there are plenty of contenders who will be vying for top honours – most notably six time winners Jason and John White.
Despite the Whites last run in the championship being back in 2019, when they won Targa High Country but couldn't finish Targa Tasmania that same year, the duo still remain as the crew to beat and the benchmark of the competition.
While 2019 Motorsport Australia Targa Champion and the winner of the last Targa Tasmania in Paul Stokell is not running this year, a number of other names will be standing in the way of the Whites securing their seventh victory in the iconic event.
From RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship regular Luke Anear and local Tasmanian rally stars Eddie Maguire and Stephen Maguire to Targa West veteran Peter Rullo and 2020 Targa Great Barrier Reef winner Tony Quinn – all would be considering themselves as a serious shot for victory – especially with such a lack of racing since the Whites last stood on top of the Mount Buller podium in 2019.
One driver who would also feature in that list of drivers capable of snaring victory despite a lack of seat time is 2019 Targa Tasmania runner-up Angus Kennard.
Having once again enlisted the services of famous rally outfit Les Walkden Rallying, the New South Welshman will be lining up alongside regular co-driver Ian Wheeler in the same 2015 Nissan GT-R he used in previous years.
“I am very excited for next week. It’s been a long time between rallies, so I am really looking forward to getting back into the car and back on those Tasmanian roads,” Kennard said.
“The thing I love about this race is that because it’s six days and so many kilometres, anything can happen. One late call or bad corner, and suddenly you're out. It’s so fickle, so you have to treat it like a marathon and be on your game for so long.
“The other big challenge for us but definitely one of the exciting things are the condition variations. Pretty much everything in terms or surface, length of road, speed, bumpiness is different. So it’s really important to have your notes right and car set up right.
“For me I want to drive my best and wherever I end up, I end up. With that said, I want to finish somewhere in the top five and I think it's possible, although there is certainly some good competition such as the Whites and Eddie Maguire that could be ahead of me.
“Today was my first time in the car for almost 18 months and I think there are a lot of people in the same boat who will be a bit rusty. So my goal is to work my way into it early and build my confidence as the race goes on.
“The crew have done an astounding job and the car is ready to go, The guys at Les Walkden Rallying are behind me and have done a really good job preparing the car. There are no excuses to get a solid result next week.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for fans to view the live action through multiple spectator points each day, as well as the lunch breaks where fans can view the cars up close and personal.
The 2021 Targa Tasmania takes place around Tasmania on 19-24 April.