Images thanks to Eddie Lankhorst
Targa High Country 2017 was one of the highlights of the year. After looking back at the event from a NSW perspective a few weeks ago, it’s time to get the Western Australian angle, thanks to Eddie Lankhorst and Vicky Rowe.
Targa High Country Victoria – A WA connection
By Eddie Lankhorst and Vicky Rowe
When Vicky and I participated at Targa West in August, we got a taste of tarmac rallies and how much fun they can be. When the invitation from Simply Sports Cars came up for their package to participate in Targa High Country, Vicky didn’t hesitate to express our interest.
The package seemed a little pricey initially, but after seeing and experiencing the event with SSC I realised the value. SSC provided all accommodation, entry fees, breakfasts, (lunches provided by Targa organisers) dinners, full mechanical and moral support, car washes daily, lead car for the “Lotus Tour” and full application of rally decals etc. If I’ve got your attention and you want to be involved next year, keep your ears tuned to SSC. They will be encouraging participants to Targa tarmac rallies all over Australia and possibly even WA.
Ok, so you want to do a Targa, but at what level? There is usually a ‘Tour’ group, which gives you the full experience without the complication of needing a roll cage in your car. You will need a navigator to guide you around the stages (a basic book – no pace notes allowed) and you’re speed limited to 130kph, which is usually more than ample to get a thrill on the challenging terrain. Unlike Targa West we didn’t have to carry Rallysafe at Targa High Country, so in effect they didn’t know what speed we were doing. As a general rule you can expect the roads to be challenging. Endless twists and turns, strong camber and potential hazards. The road on the long Jameson stage was awash with stones as the heat (yes it was very hot) caused parts of the tarmac to melt and spilt.
Next, there is the very competitive “Time Speed Distance” (TSD) category, which is a bit like Regularity, except that they set an average speed per stage (~80kms/hr) that applies to everyone and you are penalised for being too slow, or too fast, and if you exceed the speed limit. No roll cage required and still speed limited to 130kph. You can even overtake. But this is a strategic challenge, requiring some maths skills and good communication between driver and navigator.
The other competitive categories start to get more serious and will require you to fit a CAMS-approved roll cage. Most Targa events have similar or same categories, but WA (like with most things) seems to be a little different. For example, there’s no TSD as part of Targa West.
Our participation in the three-day Targa High Country rally went like this.
The day before the official start (Friday) SSC were busy applying decals to our cars; supporting us to get cars through scrutineering and then washing the cars so that they were ready for a photo shoot before dinner. After an early wake up, it was breakfast and onto the first stage – down Mt Buller.
Day one, stage one, we were all a little tentative, unsure of the structure and the speed of the other drivers. However, we quickly settled into a place which didn’t hold up others or hold us up. What an adrenaline rush it was going down Mt Buller mountain road at full tilt (not really, but it was fast), utilising the full road. If you have ever been to Mt Buller you would certainly remember the multitude of twists and hairpin bends for the ~10km up the mountain, with sheer drops on one side and sheer cliff on the other. Thankfully the weather was excellent, which meant we had full tyre grip, unlike last year when there was snow and black ice.
Each day and stage saw us on different adventures, exploring all the twisting and winding roads that were on offer around the Mansfield, Whitfield, Jameson, Alexandra, Lake Eildon areas. The whole time we were led by our trusty SSC and Lotus lead car driven by Duncan in his S1 Elise. The stages ranged from 10km to a very twisty and challenging 48km.
Would we do this again? Certainly! Vicky has her sights set on TSD next year, forming an all girl team to compete in her Exige S. I will be looking for a navigator to do the tour again. At least I’ll get to do all the driving next time. Vicky says she has to drive because she can’t navigate, but I think it’s an excuse. She managed okay, the morning of day 3, when I finally got to drive.
Would we recommend it to others? Yes, definitely! The Tour and TSD groups are suited to anyone in any Lotus, provided you’re sensible and well prepared.
If you’re serious about getting the most from your Lotus, I suggest you diarise the dates 9th to 11th November 2018 and plan a budget to get you and your car there. You won’t regret it.