Ford enters factory Falcon XR6 in Targa Tasmania tarmac rally

THURSDAY, MARCH 29: Global car manufacturer Ford today announced it would enter a factory-backed car in Targa Tasmania for the first time when the tarmac rally celebrates its 10th anniversary event next month. Ford Racing Australia's General ...

THURSDAY, MARCH 29: Global car manufacturer Ford today announced it would enter a factory-backed car in Targa Tasmania for the first time when the tarmac rally celebrates its 10th anniversary event next month.

Ford Racing Australia's General Manager of Motorsport, Howard Marsden, said a works-prepared Falcon XR6 would contest the Targa event from April 18-26.

Melbourne-based Ford Racing Australia engineer Steve Hoinville will drive the Falcon, and the navigator is Greg Foletta, from the company's Product Development division, who partnered Cody Crocker in the Group N class of the 2000 Australian Rally Championship.

The Falcon is being built at Ford Racing's Melbourne headquarters, and Hoinville and Foletta will be supported by a crew of four during the event, which comprises a total distance of 2,110km, with 525km in 54 competitive stages.

Marsden said one of the major reasons Ford decided to compete in Targa was to promote the six-cylinder Falcon XR6's potential as a recreational race car, rather than press for outright victory.

"We want to show that people can have fun in their Falcons, and Targa is an ideal event to target that type of marketing appeal," said Marsden.

"The XR6 is a family car, but it can also be highly competitive for the weekend club racer, enthusiasts, and in hillclimbs."

Marsden said the Falcon entry for Targa would compliment Ford's other factory-supported motorsport programs in karting, Formula Ford, and V8 Supercars.

"Ford is already heavily involved in cutting-edge motorsport, such as V8 Supercars, and with Targa we can promote the Falcon to a wider market," he said.

Marsden said Ford had deliberately restricted modifications on the Falcon it would enter in Targa because it wanted to promote the XR6 as a cost-effective racer.

"We want Falcon owners to know they can derive a great deal of enjoyment from being involved in various forms of motorsport without necessarily spending large amounts of money," he said.

"The modifications to our XR6 at Targa will improve engine performance by about 25kW, and the car will be 75kg lighter than a road-going Falcon."

"Apart from that all we will be doing is tweaking the suspension and making some geometry changes."

Marsden said Hoinville and Foletta would test the Falcon before Targa, and they would also travel to Tasmania in early April for reconnaissance over the course to prepare for the event.

Hoinville's past driving experience includes competing in Targa in 1998 in a Falcon EL GT, this year's Rally of Tasmania in a Ford Escort RS1600, the Classic Adelaide tarmac rally, and the Grand Prix Rally. He has also raced Formula Fords, club cars, and sports sedans at club level since 1993.

The 30-year-old joined Ford Racing Australia in 1999, after previously working as a race engineer for the CAT Racing V8 Supercar team, and before that as a chassis technician at Ford's high-performance Tickford division.

"Targa will be a very good development exercise for the Falcon because it's an event with a wide variety of road conditions," said Hoinville.

"I believe we've covered most things that need to be done in preparation, and our aim is to finish and demonstrate the potential of the XR6 in these types of events."

Ford is the seventh manufacturer to enter Targa with factory-backed cars, along with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Holden, Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota.

High-profile drivers entered include defending champion Jim Richards in a Porsche 911 turbo, five-times 500cc motorcycle world champion Michael Doohan, who will make his car racing debut in a Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG, nine-times Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock in a V8 Holden Ute, and former Australian Rally Champions Neal Bates in a Lexus IS200 and Murray Coote in a Mazda MX-5 turbo.

The Targa event, which has attracted more than 280 entries, is promoted by global sports marketing company Octagon Worldwide, the sports marketing and entertainment division of the Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest advertising and marketing communications groups.

Octagon Worldwide's other motorsport events in Australia for 2001 included the Grand Prix Rally in Victoria during, and the Australian Safari international cross-country rally in the Northern Territory from August 19-26.

Mike Porter mikep@qldnet.com.au

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Jim Richards , Neal Bates , Peter Brock , Cody Crocker
Teams AT Racing