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HOW TO SEE TASMANIA AT 200 km/h
When Melbourne-based racing team principal Peter Fitzgerald
first offered me a position in his service crew for Targa Tasmania, I
wondered how a girl who barely knew the front of a car to the back could
possibly be of assistance. However, over the six days of the rally, I
discovered a resource pool of endurance and improvisation I never knew I
had, especially considering I'd arrived in Tasmania with naught but my
camera, corkscrew and a big woolly coat.
Targa Tasmania is a unique international classic rally held
annually since 1992. It attracts the best touring, sports and GT cars in the
world, with the competition concept being drawn directly from the best
features of the Mille Miglia, the Coupe des Alpes and the Tour de Corse. The
competition is open only to select cars from around the world, and showcases
a range of vehicle types, from historic cars from 1900, to touring classic
and modern sports cars.
of 254 cars taking part in this year's rally, as part of Fitzgerald's
service crew we were responsible for keeping a stable of nine cars refuelled
at strategic locations around each day's course, and for maintaining the
vehicles in top mechanical condition. This translated to 18 hour days
comprising of frantic dashes to meet drivers at pre-organised locations,
juxtaposed by long hours of tedium waiting for all nine cars to pass through
our net. Either side of these activities, we worked behind the scenes
sourcing and collecting fuel supplies on an island that doesn't import
racing fuel (not even premium unleaded), or lying under engines replacing
suspensions and brake pads. Sometimes we were even expected to carry luggage
and do laundry, although I don't recall that being on my job spec before I
One of the rally was focused on the Prologue - a 5.08km timed run through
the streets of Georgetown to decide the starting order. The day started with
school choirs and excited locals sending the cars off from the Launceston
Country Club Casino. The official start process took over two hours in order
to ensure a 30-second gap between each car, by which stage the starter's
flag had either gotten too heavy or they'd run out of VIP's because I got a
turn. I sent a 1972 Fiat 124 Sport on its way which was fortuitous as it was
later voted "Most Spectacular" by the judges after a spin on the
the prologue from roadside vantage points, the crowds were thrilled with
driversí tight cornering and rev action. Peter Brock in his 2002 Holden
Monaro CV8 cemented his position as crowd favourite as he threw his tail out
around a chicane while waving one hand out the window. Meanwhile, world
champion aerial skier Kirsty Marshall announced she was just happy to make
it through to the end.
the starting order was determined, we got ready for Leg One (a Launceston to
Devonport loop) the following day. We climbed into our van, named
Jean-Claude (Damn Van), and hurtled towards Devonport in order to beat the
road closures. Even though we passed enticing tourist attractions and
wineries, there was no time to spare - our priority was to be in position
for refuelling when the first of our cars came through. Any sight-seeing was
from the front seat of Jean-Claude, or for roadside wee stops. At one such
stop just out of Longford, I resorted to visiting a tractor shed as there
were no trees in sight. A farmer surprised me by being present in my
intended throne-room, but played an incredibly gracious host and built me a
cubicle out of hay bales. His hospitality was a measure of all Taswegians I
met - they are some of the friendliest people in Australia.
the action was happening on the race stages, I was waiting with my service
crew team in obscure and isolated roadside verges in Tasmanian high country.
During Leg One, I finally got the chance to refuel my first Porsche. Fuel
can in hand, I stood by as driver Tony Quinn squealed to a stop beside our
crew in his 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo.
can't stand the suspension", he said.
really? I love the anticipation!" I replied.
fellow service crew members quickly demoted me to window washer as they took
over to check the, ah, (mechanical) suspension in question. Ace mechanic
Andy Gillespie refuelled while German-factory-qualified Porsche mechanic
Danny Dixon scurried under the engine. Sixty seconds later, the Porsche
roared off and we settled back into the tranquility of the paddock space
while we waited for our next customer.
weather for the first two days of racing was unusually fine for this time of
year. However, we were greeted with overcast skies on the morning of Leg Two
(Launceston to Hobart via the east coast). Drizzle accompanied us during the
sprint to Bicheno on the east coast, and was our constant companion all day.
I was delighted to find a real cafe latte at a quaint coffee house in
Bicheno's main shopping strip (of four shops). It was heaven in a
polystyrene cup sipping it while watching Peter Brock work his way from
outside the Top 20 to ninth position and Rick Bates in his 1995 Mazda RX7 SP
drive his way into third position behind the unbeatable Jim Richards and
Barry Oliver team.
Three saw us racing around the Hobart region, criss-crossing our way around
the course. The route took us through beautiful hills and vales, historic
towns and by lush natural beauty. At the idyllic Cygnet stage, Steve
Richards in his Monaro heard navigator Jenny Cole's call of "right
three" but saw tyre marks going left, and compromised by driving
straight ahead into an embankment at 80km/h. Mental note: approach hairpin
turns (and there are thousands of them in Tasmania) with respect.
on the course, six navigators reported car sickness on the winding roads,
one of them into his lap. Sydney motorsport marketeer Richard Fowler was
another victim, giving the left hand side of his supercharged 1970 Porsche
911T a techni-colour paint job. He described the leg as one of the worst
days of his life, and has vowed to never be a navigator again - not at over
100km/h at least.
next day we woke up to front-page headlines about a 1955 Fiat 600 being
powered by a lawnmower engine, while a plane-meets-building disaster in
Milan scored a brief mention on page 19 of the Mercury. It was just another
indication of how much the Taswegians love their rally - like the 200,000 or
so spectators who line the route aren't proof enough of that already.
headed north again, straight up through the middle of the island to Burnie.
Our outlook was the vast farmland and rolling pastures, melding into a
stunning and wild coastline as we reached the northern coastal township. I
recall passing the town of Penguin, which got us wondering what its footy
team would be called - not the Penguin Killers one would hope.
the first time in the rally, we got the chance to have dinner and to sample
some local wine. We stopped at Boat Harbour, one of the prettiest little
harbours I've ever seen. As I sipped on a Freycinet Cabernet, I was
enraptured with the sunset over the waves and the wild beauty typical of
final leg took us back to Hobart via the mining town of Queenstown. The red
and stark landscape was an extreme opposite to the lush green mountains we
passed through south of Burnie, but just as breath-takingly beautiful in its
own way. This leg was designed to test endurance, with the Strahan stage
running for 33.59km and the Mount Arrowsmith stage (running through the
Cradle Mountain National Park) running for 47.67km.
Following the rally from behind, we passed dozens of car casualties
littered along the roadside, the most wrenching of which was a 1939 Jaguar
weary travellers reached Hobart's Wrest Point Casino before sundown, and
many saw sunrise the next morning as they celebrated their achievements
throughout the night. Amongst the revellers were television presenter Glenn
Ridge and navigator Bob Edwards. They drove their way into Targa history
books by joining the elite Diamond Honour Roll, comprised only of teams who
complete each and every Targa stage within trophy time an amazing nine
also entered the record books with a new prize category: "Best Service
Crew"... it was a self-awarded chocolate medal on a shoe-lace strap,
but all teams agreed they couldn't have done Targa without their dedicated
service crews working so hard behind the scenes.
I imbibed the local Cascade beer and toasted the bravery and strength of the
drivers and navigators (again and again - there were over 200 teams who
crossed the finish line after all), I wondered how it is that Tasmania has
remained one of Australia's best kept secrets. The scenery is sublime, the
people relaxed and hospitable, and the food, wine and lattes incredibly
Whether as part of Targa Tasmania at 200km/h, or at a more sedate pace as a tourist, my advice is to make the trip across the Bass Straight to see the delights of this magical little island.