Stacey, Doohan in Mercedes-Benz for Targa Tasmania

TUESDAY, MARCH 6: Mark Stacey, who won the 2000 Australian Rally Championship title as navigator for Possum Bourne, will team up with 500cc motorcycle legend Michael Doohan in next month's Targa Tasmania event. Mercedes-Benz announced today...

TUESDAY, MARCH 6: Mark Stacey, who won the 2000 Australian Rally Championship title as navigator for Possum Bourne, will team up with 500cc motorcycle legend Michael Doohan in next month's Targa Tasmania event.

Mercedes-Benz announced today that Stacey would be Doohan's navigator for the five-times 500cc world champion's car racing debut in a CLK 55 AMG coupe.

Doohan, who retired from motorcycle racing in 1999 because of injuries, said recruiting Stacey would help combat his inexperience in the Targa tarmac rally, which will be held from April 18-24.

"Mark is one of the best navigators on the Australian rallying scene, and it's going to be good having him calling the shots from the seat next to me," said Doohan.

"This is my first official car race, so everything is going to be new to me and Mark has the experience we need to be as competitive as possible."

Stacey, 42, had his most successful year in 2000, navigating alongside Bourne in a works four-wheel-drive Subaru WRX to win the Asia Pacific Championship, as well as the Australian title.

In a career spanning 20 years, Brisbane-based Stacey has also won four Group N class national rally titles with Mitsubishi, and his record includes three starts in Targa with a best result of third in 1995.

"The nature of the course and variety of cars always makes Targa exciting, and I also enjoy it because it's a full tarmac rally and most other events we do are on gravel," said Stacey.

"This is a unique chance to race with Mercedes-Benz and Mick (Doohan), who I always admired because he kept winning at will on motorcycles, whatever the conditions and circumstances."

Stacey said the biggest challenge he and Doohan would face in Targa was formulating an effective pace-noting system for the 2,200km event, which includes 500km in 54 competitive stages.

"Mick is a professional racer with a feel for speed, cornering, and braking, but to start with he probably won't find it easy to learn how to use pace notes," said Stacey.

"We'll do some desk-top instructions before trying anything on the roads, and then it's a question of getting into a routine that he feels comfortable with."

Stacey said a planned reconnaissance trip by himself and Doohan to Tasmania later this month would be crucial to their prospects.

"This will give Mick and I the chance to write notes over the Targa course, and experience on how he can best use the constant feed of information describing the road ahead," said Stacey.

"Many other teams in Targa have been working together for years, so they have an advantage, but if we keep our expectations realistic and prepare the best we can then I think we'll be okay."

"One thing in our favour is there are quite a few new stages this year, and they've also changed some of the old ones, so that will level out the playing field in some respects."

The eight-cylinder car Doohan and Stacey will drive in the Targa event was prepared by engineers at Mercedes-AMG in Germany and arrived in Australia in late January.

Before competing in Targa with Doohan, Stacey will team up with New Zealander Bourne in a Subaru in the opening round of this year's Australian Rally Championship near Perth from March 30-April 1.

The Targa event, which has attracted more than 280 entries, 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.

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mark Stacey