Mazda will drive home its commitment to motorsport in Australia with a turbocharged triple treat for Targa Tasmania 2009.
Two Mazda3 MPS performance hatchbacks and a turbocharged Mazda RX-8 SP rotary sports coupe will headline Mazda's biggest attack on Targa Tasmania in over a decade.
Not content to merely make up the numbers, Mazda has secured a top notch driver line-up that will ensure all three Mazda Motorsport-prepared race cars perform at their peak.
Targa Tasmania 2008 winner, South Australian Steve Glenney will give the Mazda RX-8 SP its motorsport debut. He will be partnered with his co-driver of four years, Bernie Webb and be competing in the Modern Competition.
The pair jumped at the chance to give the Mazda RX-8 SP its motorsport debut. Glenney says nothing short of a podium finish will do.
"I'm excited to be chosen by Mazda Motorsport to play a role in the development of the Mazda RX-8, and to be driving it in its Australian rally debut," he said.
"The RX-8's a great-looking car, the rotary engine is synonymous with Mazda's Motorsport history in Australia, and I'm confident of getting a top result for Mazda."
Glenney is looking forward to his fifth Targa experience and says the RX-8's inherent attributes will give his rotary-spun rally car a competitive edge in the five-day event.
"The RX-8's perfect 50/50 weight balance will give it a huge dynamic advantage on Tasmania's twisting roads. That, combined with its torquey turbocharged engine, will make the RX-8 SP a standout at this year's Targa."
The two-pronged Mazda3 MPS attack for honours in the Showroom 2WD Competition will mix the best attributes of experience and youth. Australian rallying mainstay Rick Bates returns for his fourth Targa with Mazda, and is determined to achieve the top-ten outright finish that eluded him last year.
In the second car is the brother and sister team of Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth. This is Brendan's first Targa, but it's far from his first motorsport event. Together the siblings won the showroom category of the 2008 Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge behind the wheel of the same Mazda3 MPS they will be driving in Targa.
Bates, an eight-time Targa competitor three with Mazda finished 10th outright in 2007 in the Mazda3 MPS. In 2008 he was poised for a top-ten finish before mechanical gremlins scuppered his charge to the chequered flag.
"We got a great result in 2007 and were agonisingly close in 2008. This year's a new beginning, and with the rally pedigree of the Mazda3 MPS under me, we've got a real opportunity to win the Showroom Competition and better our 2007 result."
Expert co-driver Anthony McLoughlin will call the corners for Bates. The pair reunites following a successful Targa in 2007.
Reeves will be the youngest driver to score a factory drive in Targa Tasmania, and is keen to show that youthful aggression can be just as effective as years of experience.
The dynamic brother and sister duo have competed in more than 25 rallies together, including rounds of the World Rally Championship. They won the Showroom class in the Tasmania Tarmac Challenge in October 2008 in the same Mazda3 MPS they'll drive in Targa.
"I am really excited to be driving my first Targa with Mazda," says Reeves, who turned 20 in August. "The Mazda3 MPS has a proven rally pedigree at endurance events like Targa, and I've already had some competitive time in the car, so I am confident I can get a great result for Mazda."
Mazda Motorsport manager Allan Horsley is the mastermind behind Mazda's most potent attack on Targa.
"It's great to be able to put together our biggest Targa team in ten years, especially in these challenging times. Competitive motorsport is an integral part of Mazda's Zoom-Zoom spirit."
Horsley says a lot of preparation has gone into making the Mazda RX-8 SP as competitive as possible, but is cautious about its prospects.
"Targa Tasmania is not a race to be taken lightly. It's a flat-out sprint over 2,000km in five tough days, and that's a real test of man and machine. The RX-8 SP has plenty of potential, but it is an unknown package in a rally environment. So it's difficult to know how it will perform at its first competitive outing."
Horsley also believes the Mazda3 MPS hatchbacks driven by Bates and Reeves will dust up some of the more highly fancied competitors.
"Rick and Anthony will be very quick in the proven Mazda3 MPS and I have equally high expectations of Brendan and Rhianon.
"Last year the Mazda3 MPS came home ahead of Lamborghinis, Porsches, Evos and other exotica, and I'm confident the boys can do it again this year."