Wayville night stage and Targa Expo

For 2012 Octagon decided to try something different for Targa Adelaide – a night prologue around the Wayville Showgrounds. Not only this, but they allowed extra cars to run the course on the night, and also invited a whole bunch of local car clubs to put on a display, thus creating the ‘Targa Expo’.

I was co-driving in Targa Adelaide and didn’t have the time during the event to write a post about the Targa Expo and do it justice, so I decided to hold off for a few weeks. But the reason the Expo deserves its own post is because it was brilliant evening, and I am absolutely sure it will become an annual fixture on the Adelaide motorsport calendar.

One peek at the attendance figures tells you all you need to know. It was a cold, wet and rainy Wednesday night and the Targa Expo attracted 24,000 paying spectators! Those sorts of numbers are almost unheard of in Adelaide, even on a warm weekend let alone a damp mid-week evening. Targa Expo proved without a doubt that demand is definitely there for these sorts of events.

So what did those 24,000 people come to see?

The course itself wound its way through the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, past the chicken sheds, the grandstands, the ferris wheel and the pavillions. And it was a pretty hairy ride that had it all – fast straights, narrow bumpy bitumen, trees, spoon drains, buildings and a paved brick straight leading into a paved brick corner where a spin would have seen you take out a plate glass window.

I can try and explain it, but it’s best you see it for yourself. I haven’t edited our in-car footage yet, so this clip of Andrew Burnard and Tim Margach (Evo 8MR) catching an R35 GTR does a pretty good job of telling the story.

Cars competing in the Targa Adelaide Rally ran the stage as the prologue. A prologue stage doesn’t actually count for event results, but merely sets the starting order for the first proper day of competition. The prologue is usually just a bit of fun and most competitors use it to dial themselves in for the following days serious competition and to put on a bit of a show for the spectators. The Kaplan’s in the Walkinshaw are no strangers to putting on a show, and they didn’t disappoint.

As you can see from the official Targa highlights video (above), the prologue action came thick and fast, especially the contact between the two R35’s which quickly gained worldwide notoriety on website jalopnik.com.

Outside of the Targa cars, there was also a Clubsprint event held. The basic concept was that anyone who paid their $90 would get a timed run of the prologue course. Simple concept, and it drew some amazing cars that I hadn’t seen before. Almost my favourite car was this XC coupe, which I am told has genuine Group C racing heritage. That aside, I was almost speechless with its jaw dropping good looks.

It also had two turbochargers strapped to its Windsor. It was raining reasonably heavily by the time it got a run, and it soon became almost the least effective vehicle there that night. Lots of boost, lots of torque and wet bricks are not a good combination. But hey, it looked awesome.

Andy from Autosport went with the sole intention of chucking skids in his Beams powered Sprinter. Mission accomplished.

I’ve commented before on how tastefully this Evo 6.5 TME has been prepared, but it gets better….

… Yep. That’s genuine Makinen spec Marlboro signage on the wing, the biggest possible nod to Tommi Makinen’s 2001 WRC effort, the final year of the 6.5’s dominance.

There was a huge variety of cars entered in Clubsprint. From mean looking 993’s…

… to fast MX5’s…

… to modified EH Holdens. I could be mistaken, but I believe from memory that this EH actually competed in Targa Tasmania in the early 90’s. As an 8 year old kid I’d tape the Targa highlights and watch it over and over, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever that I’d actually seen this EH in person once.

The Clubsprint hall was packed from gates open at 4pm until kick-out at 10pm.

Several car clubs were invited to put on static displays for the crowds, and the highlight for me was undoubtably the Sporting Car Club display.

The timeless elegance of a 300SL. Need I say more?

I love how the owner thought it necessary to denote that these are the keys to the White 300SL. Does that imply that there’s more than one?

Either way, you can get away with whatever you damn-well want when you’re dressed like that at a rally.

But the best thing about the Targa Expo was that you couldn’t walk 5 minutes without bumping into someone you knew. Savis thought he’d make Any Given Reason by pulling a face, although he actually made it because he’s wearing one of our team caps.

We pointed out to Michael that all 2 door rally cars have a dirty inside rear window because the roll cage makes cleaning impossible. “Challenge accepted”.

I’m not sure why the man-love between Andrew Challen and Steve Fisher. Ah well, whatever keeps them happy.

Tom Gilbert had the Adelaide Hills Toyota demo 86 entered in regularity…

… with the For Sale info in the windscreen. It was a good thing Tom didn’t win regularity, otherwise the new owner would have had to pay extra for the car’s ‘motorsport provenance’.

So I guess you’ve gotta report the good with the bad, and there were definitely some bad aspects to the Targa Expo. The first was planning. Octagon were expecting somewhere around 2 or 3,000 spectators, maybe 5,000 in their wildest dreams. They actually got 24,000 and were simply not prepared for that many people. Food stalls ran out of food early on, and there was minimal shelter from the rain.

Designated spectator spots were inadequate, and people were climbing on the roofs of buildings, poles, pavilions and anywhere they could just to get a view. I heard one report of about 30 spectators climbing on the 2 story roof of a sheep pavilion above a hairpin. The security team couldn’t remove them, and they only left when the police were called to climb up and start arresting them.

That’s pretty cool, right? I mean, when was the last time you heard about something in Australian motorsport, let alone rallying, being so popular that people were scaling 2 story buildings and risking arrest just to get a look. You only ever hear those stories coming from Europe or the 70’s.

And the other problem was the huge delay in action that made the already cold and hungry crowd even more restless. It was caused by a pretty huge oversight – the programme relied upon cars being able to be street driven to the start and from the end of the prologue, like all rally cars are. But most of the Clubsprint vehicles weren’t/couldn’t be road registered, so they had to stop the racing regularly to transport them through the stage in groups.

All up it was a pretty massive delay, and as competitors who’d been there since 2pm, we didn’t get our run until about 930pm. By the time it was all over I wasn’t in bed until past midnight, and that’s not the way you want to be starting a 4 day tarmac rally.

But you know what? None of that mattered in the end. The atmosphere was electric, and the potential this Targa Expo has is just unbelievable. I can honestly see this turning into something big, something that Adelaide becomes famous for. 1000 cars on display, drift demo’s, an expanded Clubsprint filled with supercars and the craziest modified race cars you’ve seen. Rally SA ran a gravel night stage here ten years ago around the main arena, so just think how awesome it would be if you could incorporate something like that into the Targa Expo too. Why not? It’s all possible.

There were definitely some teething issues and the way Octagon handled them was pretty poor in a lot of cases, but I can guarantee you that Octagon won’t make the same mistake twice. Now they know that the demand is there, next year will come back bigger and better and I urge everyone to be there to see it.

By Andrew Coles

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4 Comments

  1. Jeremy Browne September 17, 2012 Reply

    Another great article Andrew!

  2. Tom Gilbert September 18, 2012 Reply

    Once again Andrew, great pics and well covered. Another enjoyable blog ( if that's what you crazy kids call them these days!)

  3. Tim Possingham September 18, 2012 Reply

    Great Pics and article.

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