Wrapping Up an Impressive Outing for Lotus at the Inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef

Targa Great Barrier Reef by Emma Morley

Lead image thanks to Emma Morley, Lotus Cars Australia

Targa Great Barrier Reef was held over the 31st of August to the 2nd of September, 2018, bringing Targa to Queensland for the first time. It also brought nineteen Lotuses to Queensland, with nine teams driving the tour and ten tackling the competitive classes, all supported by Lotus Cars Australia. We caught up with a few of the drivers to find out what it was all about.

Martin Duursma: “Between Tour, TSD Trophy, GT Sports Trophy and GT2 it was one of the strongest Lotus showings at a Targa event yet. In GT Sports Trophy we had a good shot at locking out the top five at one point.”

“When I started out and we did our first Targa Tasmania, I think we were the only Lotus. I started encouraging Simply Sports Cars to get back into Targa four or five years ago and they really embraced it. Along the way Lotus has grown to become one of the most active marques.”

“Targa’s wonderful in that anyone can get into it. You can start in tour, which is very relaxed, do TSD and then Sports Trophy and move into full competition if you want.”

Jeff Morton’s been steadily progressing his rallying in recent years. This year he stepped into open competition for the first time, competing in the Rookie Rally at Targa Tasmania. He won that with an impressive thirteenth outright, so we were looking forward to watching his progress at Targa Great Barrier Reef.

Jeff Morton & Cameron Reeves – Exige Sport 350 Lake Morris Angryman Photography

Jeff Morton & Cameron Reeves – Exige Sport 350 thanks to Angryman Photography

Jeff Morton: “In the world of tarmac rallies there’s a guy called Bernie Webb who runs Smoothline, a business doing stage notes for rally drivers. Through this business, he’s become a bit of a co-driver whisperer, so I mentioned to him that I needed a navigator for Great Barrier Reef.”

“It turned out that Cameron Reeves, who’s won Targa Tasmania and Targa High Country, was available. He had been chasing the win in Targa Tas earlier this year when they crashed out on the last day, so his usual driver wasn’t going to Great Barrier Reef.”

“An opportunity presented itself for us to have a conversation and we went from there. It was an amazing opportunity to get someone with his experience into the car to help me step my rallying forward.”

“This was the first time that Targa Great Barrier Reef had been run, which made for a more level playing field as we were all going in fresh. At Cameron’s suggestion we flew in a few weeks early to do recce. He recorded everything and when we got back he worked through the footage and continued to refine our notes.”

“We got to the event on the Monday, hiring a car and continuing our recce. This time we focused on stages that we thought were more important and could track changes since we’d first been there. By the end of that process we had notes which we were very confident in.”

Mark Meletopoulo’s navigator Scott Meletopoulo didn’t have quite so much experience in the car, but that didn’t hold the father and son team back much.

Mark Meletopoulo: “Prior to Targa High Country in 2017, Scott had never laid eyes on rally stage notes. He had to learn it all from scratch. It was also his first real taste of motorsport. I ‘spose I should be a little kinder and let him drive my car on the track!”

“Scott had the added problem of securing time off work, so he didn’t actually get in until Thursday morning. We went straight into the logistics of the event, doing scrutineering and paperwork, and didn’t have much time for recce.”

“I take my hat off to the navigators, to Scott. Most of the time the nav has his head down staring at notes and somehow they manage to know where you are and they’re calling three or four corners ahead and reminding you of critical information. All I have to do is listen to him and drive a nicely-handling car.”

Martin Duursma & Richard Wodhams in the Exige Cup 430 Angryman Photography

Martin Duursma & Richard Wodhams in the Exige Cup 430 thanks to Angryman Photography

Martin Duursma: “We went up there with big expectations for the first Targa outing of the new Exige Cup 430, especially after tying first at High Country last year and winning Targa Tasmania. We were aiming for the podium, but it wasn’t to be.”

“I had the car set up too soft on the first day and the ride height was wrong, which led to us losing a lot of time. We improved the setup as we went and our times came back on the second and third day, but we weren’t able to claw back the gap to the front.”

Jeff Morton: “I went aggressive on the tyre strategy, running softs all ‘round. On an Exige the rears tend to wear almost two-to-one to the fronts. I knew that the softs would make the distance up front, and because the rally was shorter I decided to manage softs on the rear as well. The main concern with softs is not to overpressure them, which accelerates the wear, particularly in the middle of the tyre.”

“Cameron asked my goal going in to the rally. He was there to participate in the first ever running of the event and to get some experience for next year. I wanted to have some fun and learn from him.”

“Since I’d been 13th at Targa Tasmania I hoped for a top 10 overall and top five GT2. At Targa Tas Paul Stokell had been fourth or fifth outright and third GT2 in an Exige V6 – about ten minutes ahead of me. That showed me what the car was capable of and gave me a long term goal.”

“We had decided not to look at times, but at the end of the first stage someone came up to us and told us that we’d placed third. That was a surprise! It was our first stage as a team and I felt I’d left time on the table. At the end of day one we were third outright just a little behind Stokell and the Whites in the Viper, with some clear air to fourth.”

“In the last two stages of day one there was a tight, narrow section made up of mostly second and third gear stuff. It was awesome in the Lotus and we managed to get second outright. We knew we were going to run it again on day two, so we went back that night, looked through the in-car footage and worked out exactly where to shift up to third or leave it in second, writing the changes into the notes.”

2018 Targa Great Barrier Reef – Lake Morris 2 – 1st outright stage win

Jeff Morton (driver) and Cameron Reeves (nav) pilot their Lotus Exige Sport 350 to Jeff's first ever outright stage win in a Targa event. The run up Lake Morris Rd to Copperlode dam was completed in 7:41.129 besting the Dodge Viper ACR Extreme of Jason and John White by 4 seconds.

Posted by Jeff Morton Racing on Monday, September 3, 2018

“On day two I went nine seconds faster and won the stage, which was my first ever outright Targa stage win. I actually made up 30 seconds and caught the car in front of me.”

“We had another good few stages on that day and managed to catch and pass Stokell, so we finished the day in second just a second in front of him.”

“At this point we had already exceeded all of our expectations and I didn’t want to get involved in Stokell and the Whites’ championship fight, so we just went out to have fun. Day three was the biggest of the rally, but it was unfortunately cut short when the event ran out of time for the road closures. Paul had just overtaken us, so it was a shame that we didn’t get to challenge him, but we were still more than happy with where we were.”

“My parents both came up for the event, and standing on the podium in front of my mum was really special.”

The Lotus Tour Heads through Kuranda Angryman Photography

The Lotus Tour heads through Kuranda thanks to Angryman Photography

Featuring three days of amazing roads and several stages that seem sure to become Targa classics, Targa Great Barrier Reef was particularly well suited to the lithe little Lotuses.

Emma Morley: “The roads up there were spectacular. I was co-driving with Alborz Fallah, and whenever we finished a stage he would proclaim that the roads were the best in Australia.”

“After the Kuranda Range on Sunday he said “Forget going to Europe! We have range roads here that are on par with any other driving experience.” That’s an impressive statement coming from someone with as much experience as him.”

Mark Meletopoulo: “The Exige, but Lotuses in general, suit the roads we found at Great Barrier Reef. They were very narrow and twisty, and left little margin for error. There were a lot of corners that you couldn’t afford to cut or go wide.”

“Our favourite stage ran up to Copperlode Dam and back. They were the tightest roads with the least margin for error. There were a few areas with loose gravel that were fairly exciting, but the Lotus is a stable car and it doesn’t take much to get it settled again.”

“The stages with lots of spectators sitting on the side of the road were also highlights. It’s a unique experience. You’d come over rises or through corners and see all of the spectators watching the action.”

“The car didn’t miss a beat – it never does. The roads are a bit rough and the Lotus is low, so you have to be careful going through dips on occasion, but that’s the price you pay for a machine that handles like ours does!”

Martin Duursma: “Great Barrier Reef may actually be more challenging than other Targas. One thing I didn’t factor in enough was that it was so much hotter than other Targas we’ve done, and importantly more humid as well. We went through a lot more water, ran the air conditioning. You have to get your head around the heat.”

Lotus Cars Australia provides a unique level of support to the Lotus community and the team has created a family and race team that anyone who drives a Lotus can be a part of.

Mark & Scott Meletopoulo Exige S V6 Emma Morley

Mark & Scott Meletopoulo with their Exige S V6, thanks to Emma Morley / Lotus Cars Australia

Mark Meletopoulo: “The support of Lotus Cars Australia makes you feel like a rock star. The service team is waiting for you at the end of most stages, so you stop and they come and see you and check on the car, perform any necessary work and send you off to the next stage. At the end of the day in service they’re crawling all over the car to make sure it’s good and ready to go.”

“It’s an extraordinary level of support. All you have to say is “I’m not happy about this or I’m not sure about that” and they’re onto it.”

“And then there’s the social and everyday logistics side. They prepare the car and you just do the driving and in the evening come back to your hotel and a meal. It’s amazing.”

“To tell you the honest truth, that and the community are why I own a Lotus. I bought a car that I liked and then discovered this amazing community. The people who drive the cars and compete are a great bunch. They’re always willing to help. It doesn’t matter if they’re your closest competitor – there’s no secrets, no problem sharing experience.”

“In the evenings everyone gets together and has a good time. The camaraderie is wonderful, everyone’s friendly and there’s plenty of joking and ribbing. There’s a great spirit in the Lotus community, which applies to the track and social events as well.”

Family Photo, Emma Morley

Family photo, thanks to Emma Morley / Lotus Cars Australia

Martin Duursma: “We’re a Lotus family group and everyone supports each other. Even though we compete with each other during the stages, out of the car we’re always joking and having fun.”

“We joined in the opening night dinner, which was a fun night and a great opportunity to meet all of the Lotus people. We also went to the celebratory dinner on the final night, which was at a nice restaurant down by the harbour. Both were extremely well organised and a lot of fun.”

“Targafest on Saturday night was a highlight for us. All the cars were parked along the Cairns Esplanade and it felt like the whole town and then some turned up to check it out. Cairns is definitely a car place!”

“The other element that elevates the event is the support of Lotus Cars Australia. It’s a big deal – they organise transport, servicing, food and accommodation and take care of a lot of everyday organisation so that you can focus on the event.”

“They do an awesome job and work hard to bring the community together. I don’t think any other marque supports all the categories like they do. No matter where you are, you’re effectively part of a factory-backed effort.”

Jeff Morton: “I’d like to send a big thanks to Cameron. He was awesome!”

“Also to the whole team at Lotus Cars Australia – Emma and Richard and the entire service crew. So much organisation goes into what they do and the event being so far away created an even bigger logistical challenge. The number of cars they are supporting just gets bigger and bigger and they do it so well. It’s truly awesome being a part of that team and community.”

Celebration at the finish Angryman Photography

Celebrations at the finish, thanks to Angryman Photography

Emma Morley: “Targa did an amazing job of organising the event. The atmosphere in town and the people who supported the event were just incredible. It was even better than other Targa events I’ve been to.”

“Targafest on Saturday night on the Cairns Esplanade was brilliant. We had all of the cars on display and something like 25,000 spectators checking it all out, with person after person walking by going “Wow, this is amazing.” They were so welcoming.”

“Lotus Cars Australia sent a support crew up for the event. Our support van left Sydney and drove to Cairns towing one of the race cars – that by itself was basically a three-day effort. We trucked most of the tour cars up there, with some drivers driving their own cars. All of the competition drivers trucked their cars up.”

Richie Kearney, thanks to Emma Morley

Richie Kearney, thanks to Emma Morley / Lotus Cars Australia

“We had eight crew including representation from Lotus Queensland. Scott Robinson, Richard Gibbs, Stuart Mak, Richie Kearney (head race mechanic), Nick Ray, Harley Boskovic, Alastair Noble and myself (Emma Morley).”

“It was so nice that we all travelled so far together, put in this massive effort getting to the event and everyone had a great time and produced such incredible results. The whole Lotus team pulled together and made it happen.”

“We had an amazing celebration at the end of the event on Sunday night. I try and bring everyone together and make sure that we pull together as a team and enjoy the social side and interaction between the crew, competitors and tour. We think of the Lotus community as family, and that’s how we take care of them.”

With thanks to Martin Duursma, Mark Meletopoulo, Emma Morley and Jeff Morton.

Images thanks to Angryman Photography and Emma Morley / Lotus Cars Australia

Results

GT2

2nd – Paul Stokell / Malcom Read – Exige S V6

3rd – Jeff Morton / Cameron Reeves – Exige Sport 350

Both teams also finished second and third outright.

GT Sports Trophy

1st – Mark Meletopoulo / Scott Meletopoulo – Exige S V6

2nd – Mitch Rinquet / Darryl Rinquet – Exige Sport 350

4th – Tony Seymour / Sandra Seymour – Exige Sport 350

5th – Martin Duursma / Richard Wodhams – Exige Cup 430

10th – Mike Rider / Kate Rider – Exige S V6

TSD Trophy

2nd – Peter Taylor / Tristan Taylor – Elise S

3rd – Rob Bryden / Doc Lange – Exige Cup 380

Mitch & Darryl Rinquet get a little sideways in the Exige Sport 350 thanks to Angryman Photography

Mitch & Darryl Rinquet get a little sideways in the Exige Sport 350 Angryman Photography

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