Targa Tasmania leg four report

Targa Tasmania Tarmac Rally -- Saturday, April 20 Leg 4 Report: Hobart to Burnie, 10 stages (115.27km competitive) Tyre penalty for Richards allows Targa rivals to close gap. A pot-hole on a country road has slashed Jim Richards' lead in the...

Targa Tasmania Tarmac Rally -- Saturday, April 20
Leg 4 Report: Hobart to Burnie, 10 stages (115.27km competitive)

Tyre penalty for Richards allows Targa rivals to close gap.

A pot-hole on a country road has slashed Jim Richards' lead in the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally and allowed his rivals to close within striking distance going into tomorrow's fifth and final leg.

Richards, who has won Targa five times, received an automatic 2-min penalty after being forced to change a tyre on his turbo Porsche 911 in today's fourth leg between Hobart and Burnie. The 54-year-old Melbourne-based New Zealander fitted the tyre after damaging the right-front rim on his car when he drove over a pot-hole at 200-km/h in the Cethana stage.

The tyre penalty was confirmed by Targa Clerk of Course Tom Snooks, and it reduced Richards' lead in the 1,977km event to 1-min 5-secs over fellow-Porsche driver Tony Quinn of Queensland. Richards has an overall penalty time of 10-min 15-secs.

"Unfortunately the pot-hole bent the rim and we had to replace it, which meant we got the tyre penalty," said Richards. "It's closed everything up and the pressure is on for the run to Hobart tomorrow. At least we are still going. When you hit a pot-hole like we did then anything could have happened and we might have been put out of the race."

Richards' position could have been worse if his main rival this year, South Australian Steve Glennie, had not crashed his Nissan Skyline out of the event in the Cethana stage. Glennie, making his Targa debut, had held second position from the opening leg until Cethana, which he started 2-mins 15-secs behind Richards.

"I got a flat tyre coming down a hill and slid straight ahead on the gravel into a big tree," said Glennie. "The rear fender was damaged and it broke a suspension joint. It's a frustrating situation because I could have just about been level-pegging with Jim after he got the tyre penalty."

Quinn, runner-up to Richards in Targa 2001, is changing the suspension on his Porsche overnight in a bid to try and win the rally.

"We decided to run a proper rally suspension system and got some flash stuff from Germany just before Targa," he said. "This week we've spent four days trying to get it right, but the car is bouncing all over the road. We're going to go back to the suspension we had on the car before, and hopefully that will give us a better chance of putting some pressure on Jim."

Former Targa champion Peter Fitzgerald holds third place in a Porsche, 1-min 43-secs behind Richards, followed by the Tasmanians Jason White and Greg Garwood in Mitsubishis, and nine-times Bathurst winner Peter Brock in a V8 Holden Monaro.

"This is the stage of the rally where we usually start to go better," said Fitzgerald. "I don't drive these cars as often as Jim (Richards) and I need a few days to warm into it."

Brock, competing in Targa for the third time, believes a top-five result is possible, despite being slowed after being forced to drive slowly behind a First Intervention Vehicle in the Cethana stage. He successfully applied for a derived time for the stage, which reduced his penalty time by 42-secs, and he is now 3-mins 56-secs behind Richards.

"I'm pretty excited about the way the Monaro is going," said Brock. "It's a low-flying weapon and we're getting it airborne quite a bit. We've made up a couple of places from yesterday so I can't wait to start tomorrow."

Rally ace Rick Bates was forced to retire from the event when in sixth place after the exhaust system failed on his works Mazda RX-7 SP toward the finish of the Natone stage.

"It was right under the engine bay and it sent gas into the cabin," said Bates. "Then the heat melted the wiringn and the car stopped. At first it gave the impression the car was on fire, but that wasn't the case."

There were a spate of crashes on Cethana, one of 10 stages in the fourth leg. In the worst of them, NSW team-mates Gary Burchett and Stella Plenderleith were taken to Mersey Community Hospital in Latrobe after crashing their Nissan Skyline. Tonight both were in a stable condition. Burchett, 47, is suffering from lacerations and bruising, while 44-year-old Plenderleith was admitted to hsopital with lacerations and back and abdominal pain.

Tomorrow's fifth and final leg comprises eight stages, starting at Burnie and finishing in Hobart with a total competitive distance of 140.81km. - www.targa.org.au

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Jason White , Jim Richards , Rick Bates , Tony Quinn , Peter Fitzgerald