Title defenders face local pressure

The great Jim Richards on his way to victory in Targa 2012.
The great Jim Richards on his way to victory in Targa 2012.

Now in its ninth year, the tarmac rally is run on fast roads in and around Perth, Kalamunda, Toodyay and Bullsbrook and has again drawn a top field, headed by Jim Richards and Barry Oliver in their mighty Porsche GT2RS.

They won last year and aim to do so again, but face pressure from local pilots such as Ben Searcy, Peter Rullo, Mark Conacher and Jon-Paul Van Loenhout, all in formidable Nissan R35GTRs.

Right in the mix will be the Evo 10 of previous winner Peter Major.

The timeless Tolley Challis will be there again in his Evo IX, facing the hard-charging Carson Van Loenhout in a similar car and last year’s Challenge Modern winner, Brett Wilkinson, who has moved up into Competition Modern this year. He also has an Evo IX.

The event, a round of the CAMS Australian Tarmac Rally Championship, is divided into four equal status categories: Competition Modern, Competition Classic, Challenge Modern and Challenge Classic.

Classic Competition should be hard-fought between Home Chef owner Paul Moltoni in his Porsche 911 and Simon Gunson’s Ford Perana with the two Datsun 240Zs of David Moir and Simon Lingford.

Joining the two in a Datsun trilogy are the amiable Cecchele brothers, Bernard and Roberto.

Challenge Modern has cars ranging from an HSV GTS and a VW Amarok to the Fiesta ST of Razvan and Dr Iona Vlad and a Renault Megane and Challenge Classic has another mix of potent collectibles. There’s a Jaguar XK140, a Ford GT40 replica, a 1965 Corvette and last year’s winner, Bruce Lake in his 240Z.

Flying the flag for Community Newspaper Group will be perennial podium placer Rob Buys in his silver Porsche 911, battling the similar, but jet black model of Paul and Mitchell Thompson.

The two 911s finished joint second last year in one of the most bizarre results in tarmac rally history.

The rally starts from Forrest Place at 11am on Thursday and finishes with the Super Special Stage on Riverside Drive on Sunday afternoon. Full details are available on the Targa West website.