A doctor prescribes repeat of 2009 success Sydney orthopaedic surgeon John Ireland is getting better with age. While always among the elite in his chosen career, the 55-year old Porsche driver is showing rapid improvement in rallying, becoming...
A doctor prescribes repeat of 2009 success
Sydney orthopaedic surgeon John Ireland is getting better with age.
While always among the elite in his chosen career, the 55-year old Porsche driver is showing rapid improvement in rallying, becoming more competitive with every outing.
Together with best mate and long-time co-driver, Mike Ribot, Ireland is about to line up for his 13th consecutive assault on Targa Tasmania, the ultimate motoring adventure.
Ireland and Ribot will drive a 1977 Porsche Carrera that was previously owned by one of their biggest rivals in the fight for Late Classic honours, fellow New South Welshman Bill Pye.
"I was going to give the sport away in 2006, but the opportunity came up to buy Bill Pye's old 911 and this resparked my enthusiasm," Ireland says.
"It has taken a while to come to terms with the Porsche. We are still learning, but are starting to do justice to it.
"We are now competing more frequently, recently in Targa Wrest Point and the Lake Mountain Sprint. Even at my age you can still improve with regular driving under varying conditions."
The father of five has contested every Targa Tasmania since 1998, with his crowning glory (to date) being victory in the Late Classic competition last year.
The Porsche 911 is one of Targa's most popular and most successful cars, and the Ireland / Ribot example is no exception.
"It is an original imported car, built to its current specifications by Grant Geelan, at Autohaus Hamilton in Brookvale, Sydney," he explains.
"He and Bill Pye developed and campaigned the car in Classic Adelaide and Targa Tasmania with a couple of wins, before I bought the car during one of Bill's weak moments, in 2006.
He stresses that the car is fast, but is not particularly high tech
"It has limited modifications that include suspension changes, turbo, brakes from the same era and an engine up to around 3.3 litres. There are some ratio changes, but otherwise the car is close to original. It is only 40kg lighter than its original weight of 1160kg."
Ireland is attracted to Targa Tasmania by the people, the scenery and the chance to spend time with his best mate (Ribot).
"Our goal is a podium finish and to hopefully be in the running for the Australian Tarmac Championship, with Targa is the final round of."
Weather could play an important role in their success, and while requesting "Porsche weather", he's not too concerned with what conditions they face.
"Last year was the first time after three years of competing in Kermit (the 911 is green) that I had ever driven in the wet. We were hopeless on day four, but by the Arrowsmith stage we were dialed in and only 46 seconds outside our dry time from the previous year."
The variable weather, and the length of Targa Tasmania, ensure a real challenge for all crew members over the course of the event, and Ireland admits that it takes its toll.
"I think as a part time driver you need your confidence up to perform, but I enjoy the endurance side of the event. You need to maintain a high level of concentration for long periods, even when you're exhausted.
"I seem to manage that side of things reasonably well, and it may have something to do with my professional training. All those late nights putting people back together in my earlier years!"
"We are Autohaus Hamilton's B team, so we tag along after Bill and Grant and if everything is going okay they service Kermit as well.
"There should be three or four guys in the service crew, but a few of Grant's other customer cars will also be serviced. It means we have to wait in the queue longer. It's not easy being green," he jokes.
As a final word, Ireland says he can't wait for the 19th edition of Targa Tasmania to get under way in George Town on April 27.
"Let the games begin," he says.
After a 5.1 kilometre prologue around the streets of George Town to decide the event running order competitors tackle 39 Targa stages over a total competitive distance of over 400 kilometres.
Targa Tasmania is primarily based in Launceston, while the event also spends one night in the west coast town of Strahan, before finishing in Hobart on May 2.
-source: targa tasmania