WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20: Volkswagen has joined the growing list of car manufacturers who will contest next month's Targa Tasmania tarmac rally with works-supported entries. Tasmanian Paul Stokell, a three-times Australian Gold Star champion...
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20: Volkswagen has joined the growing list of car manufacturers who will contest next month's Targa Tasmania tarmac rally with works-supported entries.
Tasmanian Paul Stokell, a three-times Australian Gold Star champion and leader of this year's Nations Cup series, will drive a Volkswagen Beetle RSi in the 1,968km Targa event from April 16-21.
The car is built to Germany's Beetle Cup series-production specifications with a 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine producing 150-kW, and is being prepared by Volkswagen Group Australia.
Other works-backed entries in Targa include defending champion Jim Richards in a Porsche 911, nine-times Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock and V8 Supercar racer Steven Richards in Holden Monaros, rally star Rick Bates in a Mazda RX-7, and Victorian Steve Hoinville in a Ford Falcon XR6.
The Beetle that Melbourne-based Stokell will drive in the Modern Competition of the 43-stage Targa event was previously raced in Australia in the GT Production Championship in 2001.
Stokell, who has raced in Targa twice and was third outright in 1999 in a Lotus Elise, said he would familiarise himself with the Beetle and drive sections of the course after competing in the Nations Cup round at Symmons Plains near Launceston from April 5-7 in a 300-kW Lamborghini Diablo.
"I need some driving in the Beetle before Targa because it's obviously a lot different to the car I'm racing in Nations Cup," said Stokell.
"I also need some time to get back into learning how to use pace notes, which is always difficult when you're mostly doing circuit racing rather than rallying all the time."
Stokell said it was unlikely the Beetle would be a contender for outright honours in Targa, but he hoped to be sufficiently competitive for a class win.
"We can't run the same pace as the Porsches, but I think we can cause some surprises, like in '99 when we ended up third in the Lotus ahead of many bigger and more powerful cars," he said.
The 33-year-old from Hobart, who raced karts and Formula Vee in Tasmania before moving interstate to further his racing career, said his favourite stages in Targa were Cethana and The Sideling.
"Those two stand out for me as a real challenge, but I enjoy all of it," he said.
"Targa is a fantastic event and when the opportunity came up to drive the Beetle I jumped at it. I have family and friends in Tasmania so there will be plenty of 'home-town' support."
Targa General Manager Rob McGuire said more than 280 entries had been received for the 11th annual rally since 1992.
"We are delighted to have Volkswagen competing this year with a works entry, and it proves that Targa is becoming an increasingly important opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their vehicles," said McGuire.
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.