From showroom floor to Targa Tamania

One of the attractions of Targa Tasmania is that anyone, in virtually any type of car, can compete in what is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest motorsport adventures.

For people such as 38-year old Brisbane driver, Simon Clarke, it was one of the things that lured him to the event, and saw him make his debut in 2008.

With little motorsport background, Clarke entered the Targa Rookie Rally last year in a virtually standard Honda Integra Type R. He finished in 14th place after suffering power steering failure on day one and missing some stages.

In 2009 he returns to the event with a new car, a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X that has been prepared by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart for the Showroom Class.

Clarke will be co-driven by his step-father, 66-year old Peter Wickham who, while having only competed in Targa Tasmania once, has a long and successful motorsport background.

Back in the 1970s, Wickham won a round of the Queensland Rally Championship in an ex-Holden Dealer Team Torana XU1, and took the same car to third place in the 1975 title race. He was also the winner of the 1968 Queensland Motorkhana Championship, driving a Mini Cooper.

The team's new Lancer Evo X has completed one sprint meeting at the Lakeside race track in Queensland, and enters Targa with support from Skymesh Satellite Broadband Services.

Clarke, who runs his own business, is looking forward to getting the event underway, and would love to perform well in the Showroom 4WD class.

"The challenge of Targa Tasmania is that it it six days of competition against a class field," Clarke says. "It's an event with top quality organisation, a huge variety of roads, and has a brilliant atmosphere with the crowds that line the roads to spectate."

Perhaps unrealistically, they're hoping Tasmania's often fickle weather will be more like their native Queensland, although as Clarke is quick to add: "But not as hot as we do not have an air-conditioner!"

The Queenslander will have one of the most interesting service crews at Targa Tasmania, with three people to look after the car during the six days of competition.

"We'll have a crew of three (read ‘friends') with zero mechanical and/or racing experience," Clarke adds.

"One is small, so he can check the tyres; one has long arms, so he can clean the windscreen; and the third is an accountant, so he can give financial advice and refuel the car with the cheapest fuel."

All jokes aside, the Clarke/Wickham entry is similar to the majority of the competitors in Targa Tasmania. With only a handful of professional teams in the event, the bulk of the field is made up of keen motorsport competitors, with friends and relatives who service their cars during the rally - all for the love of the sport.

It's the camaraderie that is built by the amateurs that ensures Targa Tasmania's success, and keeps bringing competitors back to the event year after year.