FRIDAY, AUGUST 15: Two-times Bathurst 1000 champion Tony Longhurst will make his Targa Tasmania debut in the 2004 tarmac rally, driving a Subaru WRX STi. The 45-year-old from the Gold Coast will compete in the 13th annual Targa rally from April...
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15: Two-times Bathurst 1000 champion Tony Longhurst will make his Targa Tasmania debut in the 2004 tarmac rally, driving a Subaru WRX STi.
The 45-year-old from the Gold Coast will compete in the 13th annual Targa rally from April 27 to May 2 with fellow-Queenslander Michael DeVere as navigator. The entry was announced at today's official launch for the 2004 Targa rally at the Country Club Resort in Launceston.
Longhurst won Bathurst in 1988 in a Ford Sierra with Tomas Mezera, and again in 2001 in a Holden Racing Team Commodore with Mark Skaife.
While Longhurst does not have a fulltime drive in this year's V8 Supercar Championship, he has been announced as part of the Holden Racing Team's driver line-up for the 2003 endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst.
Longhurst said that despite his lack of rallying experience he hoped to be competitive in the four-wheel-drive Subaru against the fleet of more powerful Porsche 911 drivers, led by seven-times Targa champion Jim Richards.
"I'd be disappointed if I couldn't quickly adapt to the style of driving you need in rallying," said Longhurst.
"Our biggest challenge will be coming to grips with using pace notes and communication inside the car because that's all new to both of us."
"We will be down on power compared to the Porsches, but our Subaru is lighter and more nimble and we could surprise Jim (Richards) and a few others if the weather turns wet."
Longhurst said that in assessing his prospects, he was encouraged by the performance of the Subaru raced by NSW's Tony Sullens in the 2003 event. Sullens was as high as second and consistently in the top five until being forced out by mechanical problems on the fourth and penultimate leg.
"We will be running the car as light as we can, and 'tweak' the exhaust, engine management system, springs and 'shocks' as much as we are allowed to do under the regulations in to get as much speed out of the car as we can," said Longhurst.
DeVere, a 39-year-old solicitor based at Sanctuary Cove, will also make his Targa debut in 2004. He said it was possible he and Longhurst might enter the Rally Tasmania tarmac event from February 20-22 to prepare for Targa.
The Longhurst-DeVere team was among a record 212 'Early Bird' entries announced at today's 2004 event launch by Rob McGuire, General Manager Tasmania for Octagon, the owners and producers of the Targa rally.
Other high-profile entries confirmed are Richards, who will again team up with Tasmanian navigator Barry Oliver, Victorian Red Broadbent, third in 2003, and 2001 runner-up Tony Quinn of Queensland, both driving Porsche 911 cars.
The Tasmanian challenge will be led by Launceston's Greg Garwood, who was fourth in 2003, in a Porsche 911 GT3, and Jason White and John White, third in 2002, in a Nissan Skyline GTR.
"It's shaping up as a top-class field, and having another Bathurst champion like Tony Longhurst is going to add plenty of excitement because he's got a reputation as a real hard-charger," said McGuire.
"Interest is as high as it's ever been, which is shown by the large number of entries already received. There will be a steady run of more entries over the coming months, including the manufacturer teams."
McGuire said it was hoped the final entry list would be close to the record figure of 300 set in 2000.
As in the past, there will be four competitions in Targa. They are Shannons Historic (for cars from 1900-46), Shannons Touring Classic (1947-65), Classic (1900-81), and Modern (1982-2004). They will be joined for the second successive year by the non-competition Shannons Tour class category for rare and exotic historic and classic cars.
2004 TARGA TASMANIA COURSE OUTLINE & SUMMARY
The 2004 Targa Tasmania will be the 13th annual staging of the tarmac rally since it began in 1992. The total distance next year will be approximately 2000km, with about 450km in 44 competitive stages, the same number of stages as in 2003.
Octagon Tasmania General Manager Rob McGuire said the 2004 course was still provisional, and would be finalised in December, and there would be an inspection by a CAMS Course Checker in January.
A total of 41 of the 44 stages in the 2003 course have been retained for next year's rally.
There are two new stages on the provisional list, Holwell (4.2km), situated about 40km north-west of Launceston, on the opening leg, and Channel (4km), which has been added to the third leg. Tribunna returns to the second leg.
The three stages in the 2003 rally not included in next year's event are High Plains replaced by Holwell on the opening leg, Perth, replaced by Tribunna in leg two, and New Norfolk.
McGuire said the Holwell stage had been created to shorten the touring section to Moriarty on the opening leg.
"Perth was included in 2003 because we spent an extra night in Launceston, but Tribunna now comes back because leg two is returning to its previous schedule and finishing in Hobart," said McGuire.
"New Norfolk, which has traditionally been the final stage, can't be held in 2004 because of development on the Lachlin River property. However, the cars will still re-group in New Norfolk so the 'locals' there will have a chance to see all the cars up close."
"We certainly haven't closed the door on a stage at New Norfolk in the future if a suitable venue can be found."
The rally will begin with the traditional Temco Prologue at George Town to determine starting positions.
2004 TARGA TASMANIA COURSE SCHEDULE (provisional)
TUESDAY, APRIL 27 -- Temco Prologue; George Town
Official start: Country Club Resort, Launceston
Vehicle Expo: Launceston Silverdome
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28 -- Leg 1; Launceston to Launceston
Leg 1 start: Launceston Civic Square
Stage 1: Legana
Stage 2: Holwell
Stage 3: Moriarty
Stage 4: Devonport
Stage 5: Nook
Stage 6: Sheffield
Stage 7: Quamby Brook
Stage 8: Longford
Vehicle Expo: Launceston Silverdome
THURSDAY, APRIL 29 -- Leg 2; Launceston to Hobart
Leg 2 start: Launceston Silverdome
Stage 9: The Sideling
Stage 10: Derby
Stage 11: Winnaleah
Stage 12: Weldborough Pass
Stage 13: Pyengana
Stage 14: St Mary's Pass
Stage 15: Elephant Pass
Stage 16: Cranbrook
Stage 17: Triabunna
Stage 18: Grasstree Hill
Vehicle Expo: Wrest Point
FRIDAY, APRIL 30 -- Leg 3; Hobart to Hobart
Leg 3 start: Salamanca Place
Stage 19: Bonnet Hill
Stage 20: Howden
Stage 21: Oyster Cove
Stage 22: Channel
Stage 23: Woodbridge
Stage 24: Cygnet
Stage 25: Longley
Stage 26: Ridgeway Park
Vehicle Expo: Wrest Point
SATURDAY, MAY 1 -- Leg 4; Hobart to Burnie
Leg 4 start: Wrest Point
Stage 27: Hobart
Stage 28: Colebrook
Stage 29: Ross
Stage 30: Symmons Plains
Stage 31: Mole Creek
Stage 32: Cethana
Stage 33: Wilmot
Stage 34: Gunns Plains
Stage 35: South Riana
Stage 36: Natone
Vehicle Expo: Marine Terrace Car Park, Burnie
SUNDAY, MAY 2 -- Leg 5, Burnie to Hobart
Leg 5 start: Wilson Street, Burnie
Stage 37: Hellyer Gorge
Stage 38: Mount Black
Stage 39: Rosebery
Stage 40: Strahan
Stage 41: Queenstown
Stage 42: Mount Arrowsmith
Stage 43: Tarraleah
Stage 44: Ellendale
Finish: Wrest Point
COMPETITIVE DISTANCE: 450km (approx)
TOTAL DISTANCE: 2000km (approx)
TOTAL STAGES: 44