WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29: A new non-competition class open to vehicles of all eras has been added to next year's 13th annual Targa Tasmania tarmac rally.
The class will be known as 'Thoroughbred Sport', and was announced today by global sports and marketing company Octagon, which owns and produces Targa.
Those participating will drive all 44 stages, plus the Temco Prologue at George Town, in the 2004 rally from April 27-May 2.
Octagon General Manager Tasmania Rob McGuire said those participating would be able to drive at a speed of their choice within the regulations, and their vehicles would be fitted with the same safety equipment as entrants in Targa's four competition classes, including a roll cage and safety harness.
"They can drive at whatever speed they are comfortable with, but no times will be recorded and they won't be included in official results," said McGuire.
"Our aim is to cater for people who want to take part in Targa without the pressure of competition. They can push hard if they want, or back off and run at a pace they feel like doing."
The four established competitions in the event are: Historic (for cars from 1900-46), Touring Classic (1947-65), Classic (1900-81), and Modern (1982-2003).
McGuire said the non-competition 'Touring' class, introduced for this year's rally, would also be retained for the 2004 event. This class is for participants who wish to drive many of the classic stages of the event at street-legal speeds.
"The 'Touring' class proved a successful addition to Targa this year, and is ideal for those wanting to be part of the event and drive exotic or rare vehicles over some of the world's greatest roads," said McGuire.
Confirmed starters in the 'Touring' class for 2004 include 53-year-old financial planner Owen Weeks, driving a $700,000 1989 Ferrari F40, with fellow-Victorian Dennis Clayton as navigator.
Weeks has competed in the Trading Post Grand Prix Rally, also promoted by Octagon, seven times, but will make his Targa debit in next year's event.
"The 'Touring' class is ideal for me, and others in the same situation, in terms of being able to drive around the Tasmanian roads without the worrying about going too fast, or fitting roll cages," said Weeks.
"My Ferrari always attracts a lot of attention and it's good for Targa to have these types of interesting cars on the road."
Weeks' vehicle had a high-profile presence before the 1996 Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, when it led six-times world champion Michael Schumacher in a following F50 to a Ferrari Car Club welcome at Parliament House where the German was met by former Premier Jeff Kennett.
Entries for the 2004 Targa rally currently number 237 and the final starting field is expected to be close to 300.
The 2004 entry list includes seven-times winners Jim Richards and Barry Oliver, and V8 Supercar driver and dual Bathurst 1000 champion Tony Longhurst, who will make his Targa debut in a Subaru WRX STi with fellow-Queenslander Michael DeVere.
Other confirmed starters are Victorian Rex Broadbent, who third in 2003, and 2001 runner-up Tony Quinn of Queensland, both driving Porsche 911 cars. The Tasmanian challenge will be led by Launceston's Greg Garwood, who was fourth in 2003, in a Porsche 911 GT3, and Jason White and John White, third in 2002, in a Nissan Skyline GTR.
Total distance of the 2004 Targa rally will be approximately 2000km, with about 450km in competitive stages.