Sullens leads but race wide open
With just one day remaining of Targa Tasmania, 2004 champion Tony Sullens, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX RA, has established a handy 48 second lead in the drivetravel.com Modern competition over reigning title-holder Jim Richards in his Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
The Lamborghini of Kevin Weeks is in third place, a further 29 seconds behind, having lost valuable time on the day's penultimate stage with a minor off.
In the Shannons Classic competition, Rex Broadbent, driving his 1974 Porsche 911 RS, stretched his overnight lead of 34 seconds out to one minute nine seconds after the day's seven stages and 99.42 competitive kilometres. Steve Coad, in a Monaro GTS third, a further one minute 31 seconds back.
Weather and tyre wear across the final 137 competitive kilometres down Tasmania's West coast tomorrow will determine the winners of the two events.
Little changed on the Modern leaders' board over the day's first four stages, but the afternoon saw Sullens start to put valuable time between himself and his challengers.
On the famous Cethana stage, the Subaru driver took 20 seconds from Richards, another four on Gunns Plains and then 17 more seconds on the South Riana stage when rain showers hit the area.
Weeks is also a real threat for victory, and would have been much closer to the leader except for the penultimate stage off which cost him around 45 seconds.
Yesterday's big mover, Tony Longhurst, was the big loser across today's afternoon stages, as tyre wear on his Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec C became an issue., particularly in the wet.
Sullens is well aware that the event is far from over.
"I've done a few calculations about how far in front I need to be at the start of the final day, but really a lot depends on the weather," Sullens said.
"It's a bit in the lap of the gods."
"I'd like to take it to him (Richards) and push him all the way, but on the longer stages I'm going to have to get out of it three quarters of the way through to stop the tyres going off. That's the biggest drama."
Richards knows he is certainly not out of the race.
"We can still win in this car depending on what the weather is like," Richards said.
"We didn't have enough time to prepare the car properly, but you can win the event in this car. Whether or not it's this year is another thing."
"I thought my car would be more nimble and agile on the windy roads, but it hasn't been really -- the Subarus and the Evos are lighter and more powerful
Broadbent is hoping for fine weather in his quest for a second Classic Targa title.
"We're on a different tyre strategy to Bill (Pye)," Broadbent said.
"If it's wet we would need a lead of five minutes and even that may not be enough. Bill is set up perfectly for wet weather and we're not."
"In the wet, we could lose our lead in one stage, so I'm not the in least bit comfortable."
The weather forecast is fine for tomorrow, but the West Coast is notorious for its fickleness.
Targa Tasmania, presented by Pure Tasmania, will conclude in Hobart around 4pm on Sunday.
Top 5 -- drivetravel.com Modern competition - end day 4 of 5
1, Tony Sullens
2, Jim Richards +48 secs
3, Kevin Weeks +1 min:17 secs
4, Tony Longhurst, +1 min 21 secs
5, Tony Quinn, +1:53 secs
Top 5 -- Shannons Classic competition -- end day 4 of 5
2, Bill Pye, +1 min 09 secs
3, Steve Coad, +2 min 40 secs
4, Peter O'Keefe, +3 min 28 secs
5, Gary Tierney, +4 min 13 secs