Mazda enters RX-7 SP in Targa Tasmania tarmac rally TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19: Mazda's RX-7 SP, one of Australia's most successful production racing cars of the 1990s, is returning to motorsport with works support in this year's Targa Tasmania tarmac...
Mazda enters RX-7 SP in Targa Tasmania tarmac rally
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19: Mazda's RX-7 SP, one of Australia's most successful production racing cars of the 1990s, is returning to motorsport with works support in this year's Targa Tasmania tarmac rally in April.
Former Australian Formula 2 rally champion Rick Bates will drive the rotary-engine Mazda in the 11th annual Targa event from April 16-21 with experienced navigator Lyndall Drake.
The car they are entered in was previously raced to victory by Tasmanian John Bowe and Queensland's Dick Johnson in the 1995 Eastern Creek 12-hour endurance event in Sydney, while the Japanese manufacturer also had three successive wins with the RX-7 SP in the Bathurst 12-hour production race at Mount Panorama.
Mazda Australia Motorsport Manager Alan Horsley said the RX-7 SP was being completely rebuilt for the rally and would be fitted with updated components that complied with Targa regulations.
"Our car won't be the newest in Targa, compared to the latest Porsches, but it's got proven reliability and I think we're a chance to finish on the podium," said Horsley.
He said the Targa-specification RX-7 SP would weigh around 1,150kg, and would have increased power compared to the 204kW engine fitted for production racing in Australia during the 1990s.
"Technology has moved on since we raced this car in production-trim, and there are some things we can do to the engine and brakes up to improve the performance," said Horsley.
Bates, who has competed in the past three Targa rally events, said he had driven the RX-7 SP and it had made a favourable impression.
"It's a beautifully balanced car, well-sorted, predictable, and there's good torque out of the rotary engine," said the 36-year-old.
"There's going to be some tough competition in Targa, but I think we can surprise a lot of people if we're there at the finish."
The Targa rally will comprise a total distance of 1,967km, including 447km of competitive driving in 43 stages.
Horsley said the Mazda team would conduct a five-day reconnaissance assessment of the course in mid-March to familiarise themselves with changes from the 2001 rally.
Bates said he was relishing the opportunity to test his driving skills in the tight and twisty stages of the course.
"I like the stages such as Hellyer Gorge because they're more challenging from a driver's point of view," he said.
Apart from Targa, Bates' other motorsport assignments this year including driving a BMW M3 in the Trading Post Grand Prix Rally in Victoria later this month, racing a Subaru Group N car in three rounds of the Australian Rally Championship, and competing in a Daihatsu Sirion in GTP Production Car events.
Entries in this year's Targa include five-times winner Jim Richards in a Porsche 911 turbo, nine-times Bathurst 1000 champion Peter Brock and V8 Supercar racer Steven Richards in works Holden Monaros, and Victorian Steve Hoinville in a factory-backed Ford Falcon XR6.
Targa Tasmania is owned and produced 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.