BMW new official car supplier for Targa Tasmania rally

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4: BMW Group Australia is the new official car supplier for the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally.

The German manufacturer will supply 16 vehicles for the 2004 rally, to be held from April 27-May 2 and promoted by global sports and events marketing company Octagon.

BMW Group Australia's General Manager Marketing and Communications John Kananghinis said the models supplied for Targa would include the high-performance M3, the new 5 Series sedan, and the X5 sport utility.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for BMW to be involved in a world-class motoring event for hundreds of cars from various eras on some of the most challenging roads you will find anywhere," he said.

The fleet of BMWs in Targa will be used as the competition 'Zero' car, which operates at the front of the field as the final course checking vehicle, the '999 Sweep' car behind the field, and by officials including area co-ordinators, safety officers, and the assistant Clerk of Course.

Targa 2004, the 13th annual staging of the rally, will be contested over a total distance of about 2000km, with 44 competitive stages over approximately 450km.

BMW's past involvement in Targa included an entry for Australia's three-times Formula One world champion Sir Jack Brabham in 1994. The company's current international motorsport activities include a partnership with the BMW Williams F1 team, and in the 1990s it dominated the Australian two-litre Super Touring Championship.

Octagon Tasmania General Manager Rob McGuire said securing BMW as official vehicle supplier was a boost for Targa's profile as an event of growing significance. He said there were already 252 entries for the 2004 rally, and organisers were on target to better the record field of 300 in 2000.

"It is fantastic for Targa to have a prestige manufacturer such as BMW becoming one of our partners," said McGuire. "The addition of a high-profile manufacturer like BMW, and the strong early entries means everything is shaping up really well for next year's rally."

Kananghinis said BMW had been attracted to Targa by the growth of the rally, plus the diversity of vehicles and drivers in the event.

"BMW has a proud motorsport heritage, and Targa provides us with a chance to showcase our products in an event which continues to grow," he said. "The rally is a challenge for serious racing teams, and also motoring enthusiasts who simply enjoy testing their driving skills in a non-competitive environment."

The four established competitions in Targa are Historic (for cars from 1900-46), Touring Classic (1947-65), Classic (1900-81), and Modern (1982-2003).

The non-competition 'Touring' class, introduced in this year's rally, will 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.

Another new non-competition class open to vehicles of all eras has been added to next year's rally, known as 'Thoroughbred Sport'. Those participating will drive all stages, plus the Temco Prologue at George Town.

Those in the 'Thoroughbred Sport' class are able to drive at a speed of their choice within the regulations. Vehicles must be fitted with the same safety equipment as entrants in Targa's four competition classes, including a roll cage and safety harness.

The 2004 entry list in the Modern Competition 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 was third in 2003, and Targa New Zealand winner 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.