Story by Drew Dundas, pics by Drew Dundas and Trevor Doyle.
Two years of lead up
After volunteering to help out in TARGA GBR 2018 and 2019, I thought it was my time to race. After all, how much fun would it be to race on closed roads and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow competitors.
After many hours research and surveying the cars and owners that entered TGBR, I purchased a 2012, 1.8l supercharged Elise, for the purpose of competing at some local club events and ultimately to enter TGBR 2020. The salesman told me it was driven to church once a week by a dentist, how could I go wrong?
TARGA is a team event and you must have a navigator. So after a few drinks with a mate, Mick and establishing that he doesn’t get motion sickness – ‘ever’, the invitation was made about navigating with me in TGBR.
Our discussions from this time on revolved around possible sponsorship ideas and which category to enter. After considering budgets, what modifications I was prepared to make to the car, my ability level as a driver and how busy the navigator wanted to be during the rally, we decided to enter ourselves in the TSD Trophy category. Average speed over a set distance – how difficult could it be?
The obtaining of obligatory items of fire extinguishers, helmets, inter helmet communications, timers and clothing was undertaken gradually at first and then with more haste when it appeared the event was still going ahead as some states came out of Covid lockdown. We had intended on using the Lotus race support package to take the worry out of car preparation, but had to think about our options when border closures prevented SSC from attending the event.
Friends and mates who wanted to be involved and absorb the atmosphere of motor racing, kindly volunteered to be crew and run spares and tools around the various stages.
Simply Sports Cars were very supportive of a couple of rookies, who were doing their best to prep’ an Elise for their first competition. Through sponsors Wescto Motors, Fuch’s oils and Bursons Autoparts, Fuchs oils were obtained and an oil change, brake fluid flush and check of brake pads was completed with time to spare. On a side note, since the Fuchs oil has been used, the niggling timing chain tensioner rattle, has all but disappeared.
There were 6 stages on day 1 and started with a fairly short and easy stage to work ourselves into a routine. Butterflies, adrenaline and a heavy foot had us in before time and a hefty penalty, but more was to come.
The Gillies Range was next up and our aim was 20km of 200 plus corners at 82kmh average. This was the stage we were all looking forward to. Driving on the wrong side of the road didn’t feel right at first but once the tyres came up to temperature we settled into a routine, we arrived a little behind schedule this time for more penalty points.
Some teams and crew were looking very pale and glad to have some down time at Atherton, after racing up the Gillies range. After some laughs, lunch, stories and tips, it was the Gillies Range in reverse direction, this time to really test the motion sickness stamina of the drivers and their crew.
Next was Copperlode Dam along Lake Morris Road. It is 12km of the narrowest and challenging roads around the Cairns area and 10 minutes of the most fun you could hope for in a Lotus. Credit to my navigator who managed to navigate, keep time, call corners and have lunch 2 more times on this stretch of road.
The other Lotus in this class, driven by Peter Quinn and Ross Johnson, were always there to say hi and to offer tips on how to get the best out of a Lotus. Thanks for the help boys.
There is something about driving an Elise fast around challenging roads that brings a grin to the face of any one who remotely loves cars.
We were running 5th – mid field we thought, was not embarrassing.
There were 6 stages on day 2 and after consuming some motion sickness medication, we were ready to race.
South Johnson and Mena Creek district, offered flowing stages that bisected the cane fields in the area. It was difficult to keep the Lotus under the maximum speed of 130kmh and it did serve us a lesson on the nuances of TSD.
We managed to complete one stage in exactly the time required for a perfect score, or so we thought. Thanks to the Marshall boys in their Ford Falcon Pursuit Ute, they pointed out to us that we needed and extra 0.3 of a sec to get a perfect score of 0. Marshall’s were only too willing to give tips and help 2 rookies get one perfect score of 0 on the day.
Lunch at Mission Beach and then the morning stages in reverse.
Running 5th – and feeling good about our achievements.
There were 6 stages on day 3 and started at the Kuranda range and went onto Milla Milla and Ravenshoe.
We were really into the routine of times, speeds and calling cautions out by now. The Kuranda range is 11km long and needed to be driven at an average speed of 92kph. A slow time had us penalised a hefty amount of points but still holding onto 5th place.
The challenging 28km stage on the Old Palmerstone highway, was such an adrenaline rush with the bends, narrow roads and cautions all making for a memorable stage. The Lotus was designed for these types of roads and I discovered on many corners that the car will perform at a level the mind has difficulty comprehending.
After lunch it was a return to Cairns with the reverse of a couple of the stages with us getting within 3 points of 4th place.
TGBR is an event that really needs to be viewed from both a volunteer’s and competitor’s perspective to appreciate and understand what goes into running a successful TARGA event and also to appreciate what happens behind the wheel and the work required to have a team compete.
Total fuel for three days of fun: $140
Total oil for three days of fun: $0
Thanks to Mick for calling the cautions and navigating throughout the 3 days.
The Elise is one of those cars that makes you smile when you drive it, and take a second peek when you see it. People want to ask questions about it and kids want to sit in it.
Will we be back next year – definitely.