Last weekend saw the TargaRacing team travel to Mt Buller in Victoria for the inaugural Targa High Country. This is a 2 day tarmac rally based around Mansfield/Mt Buller and consists of over 200 km of competition stages including several passes up and down the famous Mt Buller road.
Our teams consisted included the return of Geoff Kennedy and Kelly Handley together again for the first time since Targa Wrest Point in January and the debut of Andrew McKay and Alex Hailstone competing in their first Targa event.
Friday got underway with the usual paperwork and scrutineering, which the cars sailed through.
The first stage was a demonstration event on the streets of Mansfield on the Friday afternoon followed by Targa Fest in the evening where all the spectators and fans can get up close and personal with their favourite cars and drivers/navigators.
Saturday began with a clear but cool day with the 1st pass down the 7 km mountain road from Mt Buller. Most teams used this as a feeler for the event with most times being competitive but well within the generous nominated time allowed.
The next 3 stages took the crews towards Wangaratta where they would have lunch before returning on the same road for a reverse pass on the stages. These were very fast stages with some of the top cars reaching well over 200 km/h at various times. The MX5’s performed well but struggled against some of the more powerful cars on the open plains. The final stage of the day was the 16km return up the mountain to the Mt Buller Summit. Again the MX5 suited the tight, twisty corners and punched above their weight to some of the more fancied cars. By the end of day one the McKay/Hailstone car was 3rd in class just ahead of the Kennedy/Handley car.
Sunday began foggy on the mountain but the 1st stage down the hill was overall dry but with damp patches ready to catch out anyone who overstepped the mark. Again this stage was taken carefully by all competitors as the cold condition combined with lower temps meant generating heat in the tyres was somewhat difficult. The MX5’s suited the conditions well and with their exceptional brakes and good grip were able to take advantage of the testing conditions. The crews then headed over to Jamieson, then the long 28 km Big River stage into Eildon before the Skyline stage and back to Eildon for lunch. Unfortunately just 5 corners from the end of Big River, the Kennedy/Handley car ran wide on the approach to a sweeping right hand bend, ran out of grip and hit an earthen embankment.
Geoff was fine but Kelly suffered from lower back pain and was removed to hospital in Melbourne for precautionary checks and x-rays which revealed a broken tailbone. She was released the following day and is well on the way to a full recovery and can’t wait to get back in the car with Matilda Mravicic for Targa Wrest Point in January. Several competitors later the factory Mazda Australia 3 MPS ran out of brakes on the same downhill section, and ran off the road hitting an embankment and rolled over.
Fortunately the crew was fine but the 3 is slightly shorter than it used to be.
Due to these and other delays the 2nd pass through Skyline after lunch was cancelled and the crews did the reverse pass over the other stages before the return to the Mt Buller summit and the finish.
After the demise of the class leading Mazda 3, the McKay/Hailstone car was now in 2nd position in showroom. They completed the final stages with cool heads and confirm a 2nd position on the podium in their 1st event.
Congratulations to both Alex and Andrew on this achievement and to all the other placegetters.
Now we roll on to Targa Wrest Point where we will be running 4 NC’s and debuting a BMW 130 as well!!