Tasmanian stars switch to Nissan Skyline GT-R for Targa rally.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18: Tasmanians Jason White and John White, who finished third in Targa Tasmania this year, have switched to a turbocharged Nissan Skyline GT-R for the 2003 tarmac rally in a bid to win the event for the first time and end the domination of Jim Richards and Porsche.
The four-wheel-drive Skyline the Whites will race in next year's rally from May 13-18 is a 2001 V-Spec II model, which they hope will generate about 400-horsepower and weigh 1,550kg in race trim.
In 2002 they drove a 260-horsepower Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII in Targa, and finished behind the Porsches of Richards, who won Targa for the sixth time, and Peter Fitzgerald.
"The Nissan punches out a lot more power than what we had this year, and it accelerates much better on the exits of the turns," said Jason White. "So long as we have a good run with reliability this should be our best chance of going for the win and beating Jim (Richards) and the other Porsches."
The 29-year-old fabricator, who moved from Devonport to Hobart two months ago, said the switch to Nissan had been influenced by the strong performance in the 2002 Targa rally by South Australian Steve Glennie, who was second to Richards for a lengthy period in a Skyline before crashing.
"We realised we were underpowered this year, and after looking around we decided the Skyline was the way to go," said White.
"Our car is a 'newer-spec' than what Steve (Glennie) had this year, and I think the Nissan could even have an advantage over the Porsches in the wet."
John White, a 53-year-old engineer from Devonport, and uncle of Jason White, said features of the Nissan's V-Spec II package, compared to previous Skyline models, included an upgraded turbocharger which allowed greater boost and improved reliability, plus larger engine and differential oil coolers, a different exhaust system, and strengthened engine block, conrods, and pistons.
"As in the past we will prepare the car ourselves, and design and build the roll cage and the other things we are allowed to do under the regulations," said John White.
The Whites have been evaluating the Nissan by competing in the Tasmanian circuit racing series organised by Octagon, the global sports events and marketing company which also owns and produces the Targa rally.
John White said preparation for Targa would also include racing in the Rally Of Tasmania in February.
"The car will have a full engine re-build and new gearbox for 'Rally Tas'," he said. "This also gives us a chance to trial things like brakes, suspension, brake caliper configurations, and tyre wear."
The Whites will be supported during Targa by a service crew of four, comprising mechanics and refuelling personnel.
Jason White does not believe Richards is unbeatable in Targa, despite the 55-year-old's imposing record in the event, and the fact his 2002 results also included a seventh win in the Bathurst 1000 with the Holden Racing Team and victory in the Nations Cup series in a Porsche.
"Jim (Richards) is a fantastic driver, but no one is unbeatable," said White. "This year he (Richards) had to change a tyre in Targa, which cost him 2-minutes, but we were too far behind to take advantage of the situation."
"If the same thing happens next year we should be better placed with a more powerful car. Ideally we'd like to lead from the front, but in Targa you have to drive within the limits of the car and the tyres."
Next year's rally will be the 12th annual Targa event in Tasmania since 1992, and will be contested over a total distance of 2,299km, with 464km in competitive stages.
Entries have increased to 231 in the four competitions ^Ö Shannons Historic (for cars from 1900-46), Shannons Touring Classic (1947-65), Classic (1900-81), and Modern (1982-2003). There is also a new non-competition touring class for rare and exotic historic and classic cars.
Richards is among the Modern Competition confirmed entries for 2003, along with fellow-Porsche driver Tony Quinn, who was runner-up in 2001.
Octagon is the global marketing-led sports and event marketing company. It offers worldwide expertise across all eight major sports and event marketing disciplines: athlete representation, consultancy, event management, property representation and sales, TV rights sales and distribution, TV production and archive, new media and licensing and merchandising.
Octagon is part of The Interpublic Group (NYSE:IPG), the world's largest advertising and marketing communications group. The Interpublic Group is the only marketing communications and services group with a global sports marketing capability. Octagon employs over 1,500 people in 24 countries on all major continents. For further information please visit: www.octagon.com