Targa Rally Sprinting: Not for the Faint of Heart

Lotus Rally Sprint

Image thanks to CMR Photographic

Vicky Rowe kicked off her 2017 motorsport season with a white-knuckle rally sprint at the Kwinana Motorplex. Read along, and enjoy the story!

By Vicky Rowe

The Motorplex in Kwinana is a large, multi-use venue, that is mostly utilised for high octane crowd spectacles such as drags and speedway events. Over summer there’s around five Thursday evenings secured by the Shannons Targa Rally organisers for a very popular rally ‘sprint’ which links parts of the complex into a thrilling yet dangerous course.

Under the remit of the rally organisers typical rally rules apply, somewhat different to normal raceway sprints, with categories forming a part of the broader targa rally season. But that doesn’t exclude non rally entrants. As a result there’s a wide range of vehicles competing, from rally ready Evos and Subis to drift cars and spring adjusted dirt rally cars, right down to everyday commuters. It’s really popular, with around 90 vehicles involved in round 2, held late last year.

Many of our friends from the Perth motoring community get involved and describe it as a challenging but rewarding event. I’ve always wanted to give it a go.

Doug was eager to get his Evora out to give his newly rebuilt engine (including a super massive Harrop supercharger) a shake down. Round 3 in January was the first motorsport event for 2017. We both entered, two newbies and the only two Lotus in the field of about 70.

Steve Metlitzky, who has had a lot of success here in his ballistic Elise S2, provided lots of advice, warning of some of the trickiest spots around the course. He also loaned me his Stilo helmet so I could actually hear my navigator (necessary for this event), an experienced navigator who would ensure I didn’t get lost and would give me some added confidence. My stock standard V6 Exige was my weapon of course, best suited for its ‘point and shoot’ competence.

Lotus Rally Sprint

I described this course as dangerous earlier in the article and I’m not kidding. For those wanting to get a sense of what it was like then here is a bit of a Cook’s tour: You effectively start in the car park, pass through a narrow gate and turn immediately right into a wide straight road. Sounds okay, but opposite the gate is the first of numerous concrete barriers. One of the barriers collected a car during this round. The car was a complete write-off!

After the straight you turn right through a narrow section of road. More barriers loom, but it’s the curb as you follow the road left that you really need to watch. Another tricky corner and more curb, then you head into the keyhole (or lollipop as some call it). Effectively a sweeper as you pass the entrance to the speed dome.

A small straight and another tight turn straight down towards a very narrow entrance, with pillars of tyres on each side. This is the entrance to the goat track (yes you heard right and the name is very apt). It’s narrow and winds down a little hill into a very tight left-hander (first gear) around some tyres, on to a wide straight. Up over the rise and around the bend and you hit the first chicane. There’s one 100m marker, which was hard to see and it was the only marker I saw on the entire course.

A few hundred metres further down the road and you get to the right hairpin, passing a shipping container and another tyre wall. This wasn’t too bad, other than the long continuous wall of concrete you can’t help but notice as you try to floor it into the wide straight (drag strip).

Without any sense of where you are and how fast you’re travelling (did I mention it’s night time and hard to see?) a concrete wall ahead suddenly appears and you need to pick the right braking point and judge how fast you can get through the tight opening between the tyre walls on the right to then tight left down the next road. Another chicane, a big bump as you drive through the skid pan and then another chicane, before exiting the drag arena under the bridge left, right then sharp left, skimming past the concrete barrier, curbing and tyre wall, spitting you out onto the car park.

It starts out wide as you head for the fence (another obstacle taken out during the course of the evening), right-hander around the curb and a concrete barrier is dead ahead. Right past the barrier and stay wide to get past the curb and left through a narrow section on approach to the final turn. This now is the epitome of entire course as you’re surrounded by hard obstacles; curbs, concrete barriers and now a concrete toilet block. Phew! It’s an achievement just to get around unscathed.

Definitely challenging and completely uncompromising if you get anything wrong. I don’t think there’s any run off other than a little grass up the hill, opposite the gate from the drag strip. Three cars were damaged during the night, that I’m aware of. Two in very bad shape. Apparently there’s at least two cars damaged per sprint, so I guess it was just an average night.

Despite both getting worse times on our second runs in the dark, Doug and I improved our times significantly over the course of the night. But the gap between our times was also significant. Doug not only has a very fast car, but he is also an excellent driver and finished second in class. A superb achievement for a first time competitor. I reckon he’ll be back for the next round and I think I’m willing to give it another crack too.

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