Leading Australian motor racing identity, Tony Longhurst, returns to the scene of his last victory this weekend when he tackles Rally Tasmania for the Launceston-based Les Walkden Rallying team. The two-time Bathurst 1000 winner last drove the...
Leading Australian motor racing identity, Tony Longhurst, returns to the scene of his last victory this weekend when he tackles Rally Tasmania for the Launceston-based Les Walkden Rallying team.
The two-time Bathurst 1000 winner last drove the LWR Subaru Impreza WRX STI last October, winning the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge. His break-through rally win has him brimming with confidence ahead of his first competition outing of the season.
"It was great to get my first rally win last October, so I'm definitely heading into this weekend's Rally Tasmania with victory in mind," Longhurst said.
"After years of circuit racing, the switch to tarmac rallying has been an interesting one, but I've got more and more competitive over the last three years, and we're now in the leading bunch."
Longhurst will compete in the Burnie event with a new co-driver. His former co-driver, Jahmeil Taylor, is pregnant, so the experienced Linda Long steps in to call the pacenotes for Rally Tasmania, and the forthcoming Targa Tasmania.
"Jahmeil was unwell at the last event we did at Mt Buller in November, and it turned out she was pregnant then. It will be a bit different with a new co-driver, but with a combination of Longhurst and Long', you'd think that it should all work okay."
The Queenslander will drive the same Impreza WRX STI that he used in 2008, although the car is continually being refined by the Les Walkden Rallying team. A pre-event shakedown not only helped blow the cobwebs out of the car, but out of Longhurst as well.
"The car felt great during the shakedown, and it gave Linda and I some time in the car to build a good rapport, and to get our pacenoting system worked out."
The pair's main opposition in Rally Tasmania is likely to come from the Porsche 911 GT2 of Jim Richards, and the new Nissan GTR of Tony Quinn.
"The new GTR of Quinn is incredibly quick and should win at a canter, but we'll be in there giving it our best shot," Longhurst added.
"Over the last few events the Subarus and Mitsubishis have been at a distinct disadvantage against cars like the Nissan GTR, the Porsche 911 and the Lamborghini Gallardo, but it's a three-day event, and anything can happen."
Dry weather is predicted for the region this weekend, but stages like Savage River are often wet or damp, meaning that tyre choice will still play a key role in the rally.
"Unlike Targa Tasmania, there's no limit to the number of tyres we can use in Rally Tasmania, so if the weather's dry, that will be a benefit to us.
"Whatever the weather, though, we'll be putting on a show for the spectators and hope to come home with another victory."
Rally Tasmania starts on Friday afternoon with three stages to kick off the event. Saturday is the rally's biggest day, with eight stages over 116 competitive kilometres, while a further eight stages (72 kilometres) make up Sunday's schedule.
The longest stages of the rally are the two popular Savage River tests. Competitors drive 25 kilometres downhill and into Savage River, before regrouping and driving the 25 kilometres back out again. It is one of Australian rallying's most famous stages, and is one that all competitors look forward to.