MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27: Defending Targa Tasmania champion Jim Richards will this week take delivery of the new Porsche 911 turbo in which he will attempt to secure a record fifth outright victory in Australia's premier tarmac rally in 2001.

The 53-year-old Melbourne-based New Zealander said he would then begin performance-enhancing modifications to the Porsche's engine and suspension, and install interior safety and navigation equipment in preparation for next year's 10th anniversary Targa from April 18-24.

Richards, who previously drove Porsches to outright Targa victories in 1996-97-98-2000, said he expected his new 1,460kg four-wheel-drive car would generate about 450-horsepower in race trim for next year's event over 54 stages.

"As usual I'll be preparing the car for Targa myself," said Richards.

"It's arrived in Australia from Germany and has been at the Sydney Motor Show, but I'll be getting it this week."

"Over the next few months I'll be making all the necessary modifications, and fitting the roll cage, navigation instruments and fire extinguishers, and plus new brake pads and wheels."

"In reality there isn't that much to do because the Porsche comes pretty close to 'race spec' and that's one of the reasons we race it in Targa."

"The engines are always strong and reliable, and the four-wheel-drive gives you the grip you need for the variety of road surfaces and weather conditions in this event."

"There's a chance I may run the car in a smaller rally in Tasmania early next year as a 'shakedown' for Targa, but we'll see what happens."

Richards will again drive in the Targa event with Tasmanian Barry Oliver, his team-mate in his four previous wins.

Their Porsche is being built to Limited Modified Specification division rules in the 'Targa Tasmania Modern' competition, which features the outright victory contenders. The competition is split into four categories of high-performance vehicles from 1977 to the present.

Richards, whose career achievements also include six Bathurst 1000 wins and five Australian Touring Car Championship titles, said Targa was his favourite motorsport event.

"It's the greatest single event in the land for the motorsport enthusiast, whether amateur or professional drivers," he said.

"Every day you do something like eight to 10 races on different tracks and roads, testing yourself against the clock and the conditions. There's nothing else like it in Australia."

Targa is promoted by global sports marketing company Octagon Worldwide, the sports marketing and entertainment division of the Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest advertising and marketing communications groups.

Octagon Worldwide's other motorsport events in Australia for 2001 include the Grand Prix Rally in Victoria from February 24-28, and the Australian Safari international cross-country rally in the Northern Territory from August 19-26. It's overseas motorsport activities include ownership of the World Superbike Championship and Brands Hatch Leisure.

TARGA TASMANIA NEWS BRIEFS

Targa Tasmania Competition Secretary Stuart Benson said 200 invitations had been despatched to competitors to contest next year's event from more than 260 nominations received by organisers since April this year. Benson said nominations would close in February, 2001, and the final entry list was expected to be around 300, similar to the previous event.

All four competition winners from Targa in 2000 will be among the starters in next year's event. They are Melbourne-based New Zealanders Jim Richard and Tasmanian Barry Oliver (Targa Tasmania Modern), South Australian Jeremy Browne and NSW's Stella Plenderleith (Targa Tasmania Classic), NSW pair John Williamson and David Patterson (Targa Tasmania Shannons Touring Classic), and Victorians John Lawson and Andrew Lawson (Targa Tasmania Shannons Historic).

There will be three Bugattis, all powered by 2.3-litre 8-cylinder engines, in next year's Targa Tasmania Shannons Historic competition. The oldest is a 1926 model 35B, entered by South Australian Nick Cox, which was previously raced in Targa in 1993. Richard Longes will drive a 1927 Bugatti 35B, and fellow-NSW competitor Maxwell Lane will compete in a 1931 Bugatti 51 model.

The oldest car entered at this stage in the 2001 Targa event is a 1908 MAB, to be driven by Dr Stuart Saunders of the A.C.T. The newest cars are two 2000 Porsche 911 turbos, one entered by four-times outright champion Jim Richards, and the other by Ray Lintott of NSW.

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

www.targa.org.au