Longhurst upbeat, despite challenging day

Les Walkden Rallying's Tony Longhurst remains upbeat after the first day of Targa Tasmania, despite a day that saw him hit a rock and damage a tyre in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Debuting the newly-built car for the Launceston-based team, Longhurst was hopeful of finishing inside the top 10 after the opening day.

However, he and co-driver, Linda Long, hit a rock on the outside of a corner on the fourth competitive test, which saw the tyre partially deflate.

"It was extremely unlucky as we just clipped the rock," Longhurst said. "While the tyre didn't go down completely, the rim had a piece taken out of it, and we were forced to change to our spare tyre."

Under Targa regulations, changing one of your original four tyres incurs a two minute penalty, pushing the LWR car right back down the order.

"It's frustrating because the car was going really well," Longhurst added. "We are down on power because of the new rule which means we can only run 98 octane fuel, but on the positive side the car handles incredibly well.

"On the tight and twisty stages it's great, but when the roads are fast we are getting beaten fairly easily by the Porsches, Lamborghinis and Nissan GTRs."

Co-driver Linda Long remains confident of improving on their current 36th placing.

"Hey, things could have been a lot better, but we've still got over 400 kilometres of competitive stages to go, and anything could happen," she said.

"Tony has driven really smoothly and the team have been improving the car at every service break.

"But we really need more twisty stages and for it to rain solidly for the next three days."

Fine weather is predicted for tomorrow's stages, but with rain expected as the event moves down the west coast of Tasmania, the hopes of the four-wheel drive cars could improve.

The second day of Targa Tasmania heads east of Launceston where crews will contest nine competitive stages. A lunch break at the coastal township of St Helens will be followed by a return to Launceston tomorrow afternoon.

At the head of the field Queenslander Tony Quinn leads the pack in his Nissan GTR, ahead of local favourite Jason White and eight-time winner Jim Richards. Last year's winner, Steve Glenney, is languishing in 12th place after a disappointing first day.

-credit: lwr