Targa High Country 2019
Well the final round of the Australian Targa Championships has been run and won at Mt Buller.
Story and photos by Tony Seymour.
A huge contingent (24 in total) of both tour and competition cars gathered at Mike Moore’s house aka Lotus HQ on Thursday morning.
At stake once again was the possibility of multiple Lotus podiums and of course more importantly 3 National Championships were up for grabs. The Stokell/Catford Exige were favourites in the open class as were the Taylors in TSD in their Elise. In my class a single point separated us from father son Mitch and Darryl Ringuet and although we were certainly 2nd favourites we nonetheless helped lift the standard at the pointy end in GT Sports.
Friday morning we woke to heavy snow with -4o temps and watching the bushfires on TV wondered how this was possible. The snow ploughs (having retired for the summer) were recommissioned and started clearing. From our window a small 4WD slid sideways down the main road a sight not pleasing anyone. Nonetheless with helmets on (and in Darryl’s case his game face as well) we gingerly proceeded down the mountain at 5kmh avoiding the brakes at all costs.
Day 1 saw mostly wet stages with Paul Stokell being the only one comfortable with conditions (that karting from age 2 I think). By days end the Stokell/Catford Exige was in second place 25 sec in arrears to the Dodge Viper with the father son Meletopoulo’s in a very credible 14th outright. The Gulf Oil Exige with Justin Fengels and Lucas Mertens were understandably a little further back with parts of the navigator’s dinner being presented at various stages throughput the day. In TSD the Taylors held a 4-point lead over Rob Bryden and his very competitive navigator Doc I think they call him who was substituting for Ian Noble. In GT Sports the Subaru 4WD led with the Ringuet’s in second holding a 39 second lead over the Seymour’s (that was painful to write). First timers Chuadee and Pratt performed well finishing the day 5th as did the father son Trude’s in a magnificent looking Exige 410 in 11th place. The green Cup 430 finished 7th with current Champs Martin and Richard once again playing the long game.
Day 2 and with the forecast for -6 and further snow Targa rather prudently decided on parking the cars half way up the mountain and then bussing us the rest of the way. The morning saw heavy snow but thankfully some dry stages later in the day culminating in the Mansfield town stage and Targafest. In the open class the Stokell/Catford V6 held on to second place behind the Viper with the Gulf Oil Exige improving to 19th with the help of some strong drugs pre-race. The Meletopoulo’s unfortunately exited the event after lunch but being lots of fun to have around we all hope they’ll be back for Targa Tassie. In TSD the Taylors continued to lead and in GT Sports the Ringuet’s closed to be 22 seconds behind the Subaru with yours truly 49 seconds back.
Day 3 and yay finally a completely dry day in Mansfield for the 2 long Jamieson/Eildon Stages. The tour by all accounts had a fabulous run chasing tour leader Mark O’ Connor in the Exige 410 and it was reported late on Sunday night that the Jamieson stage may have been done in under 30 minutes.
By days end the weather had turned and with heavy fog on Mt Buller the run up was “unpleasant?” We tried a few different techniques like following the yellow line but having seen the drop off from the height of the bus the previous night it was caution, caution, caution. We eventually finished 28 seconds behind the Ringuet’s with pushing on the last stage not an option.
The final results saw Lotus secure 5 podiums for the event and 3 National Championships. Paul and Kate finished second in the event giving them their second consecutive Targa Championship. In TSD Peter and Tristan were unbelievable winning the event and finally winning their Targa Championship and also being the first ever to record a zero day. Now you’ve done it guys time to move to GT Sports! Rob and Doc finished second in TSD and with a possible move for the Taylor’s I’m backing the Cup 380 in TSD next year. And so, to GT Sports. Mitch and Darryl were crowned champions and worthy champions at that with Mitch being consistently quicker than me all year. Known as Hollywood for his fly in fly out drives, we are all of the opinion that he should tow and buy his own car next year lol. Our rivalry will continue at Morgan Park don’t be late.
This was the most successful year for Lotus at Targa and a huge thanks must go to Lee, SSC, the support staff, Mike Moore and all the tour and competition entrants throughout the year. The people make it and the cars make it and for all those thinking about it you’re halfway there already.
|GT2 and Outright 2nd Stokell/Catford|
|GT Sports Trophy|