Targa Tasmania 2017


Eight left, 400. As the call was made signifying a sufficient straight after the upcoming corner to properly stretch the legs of the lusty inline six and allow those triple Weber’s to properly sing, I briefly glanced up from the pace notes to catch a sliver of something ahead. As we rounded the bend and Guy selected fourth and then fifth gears, it was becoming readily apparent that we were catching another car, our second for the long Paloona stage.

By the end of the straight a lovely baby-blue coloured Alfa Romeo GT Junior was firmly within our sights, and after just a few corners we had caught it. It was tempting to take in the moment; sitting belted into one classic Alfa rally car following another at high speed through the Tasmanian forest is something to truly savour. But we had a job to do, so I shut down the romantic side of my brain and tried my best to focus solely on calling the notes ahead and not loosing my place. Around a very long opening radius seven left the GT Junior hesitates marginally and pulls to the left, giving us space to take it around the outside at what must have been around a hundred and thirty. You couldn’t dream of a better Targa moment if you tried.

Of course, these were the exact Targa moments I was dreaming of in 2016 when we were stranded at the Silverdome 12 hours before the event start with a blown head gasket, when it was becoming plainly obvious that we wouldn’t have a car to compete in. In 2016 we loaded Guy’s beautiful 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint onto a trailer and spent the week spectating, and 2017 was our return.

The 2600 had been driven only a handful of kilometres when we embarked on our Tasmanian adventure in 2016, whereas this year the car had several thousand kilometres under its belt including road driving, a few track days and a successful run for Guy and I in the Classic Adelaide Rally. The car was ready.

Guy and I would once again be joined by our gregarious and knowledgeable service crew comprised of crew chief James Wiltshire, Luke Jaksa, my father Mike Coles, and Guy’s father Graham Standen. Guy’s son Tom would also join us for a couple of the days. Having a bunch of guys around who know the car is one thing, but almost more important is having a bunch of mates around to share the experience with. Sure, I was the butt of many jokes. But I’d have them with us again any day.

We’d booked the Friday night sailing out of Melbourne, and it’s here on the docks of Port Melbourne that Targa week first hits. Since leaving Adelaide that morning we’d been on the road for eight hours, then we’re driving on a highway full of Melbourne traffic, and the next moment we’re in a line of rally cars waiting to get on the ship. It’s like a switch, the instant that Targa week begins.

One of the great experiences of Targa week is loading up onto the ship and then going to the uppermost observation deck with a beer. To your right is the nighttime skyline of Melbourne; to your left and below waits a long line of boarding rally cars. Not even the bitter cold and intermittent rain could keep us inside.

We had several beers on the deck, a hearty dinner, and then continued the night catching up with other friends and competitors in the various lounges of the boat. And then James capped the night off by shouting a round of VB’s – what a guy!

The nine hour ferry from Melbourne to Devonport is almost always smooth while you’re in Port Phillip Bay, but as soon as you cross the heads between Sorrento and Queenscliff it swells up nicely. James and I were hoping for a proper rough crossing but Luke wasn’t taking any chances.

We docked in Devonport to discover that we hadn’t left the rain in Melbourne; it had followed us, and if anything it was quite a bit heavier. We dashed around rally cars in the rain to a nearby cafe and ate exactly the kind of breakfast you’d expect to find at 530am outside the gates of a ferry terminal, and then piled into the car for the two hour journey to Launceston and our base for the next four nights.

Once at our accomodation in Launceston we unloaded the car, washed it and gave it a quick check-over. The final job was to fit the camera system and then we were ready for scruitineering the next morning. This time last year we were vainly tipping bottles of chemi-weld into the poor engine and hoping it would hold. A stark contrast to this year; while Guy and I went and finished the last of the recce, the boys went to find a hipster burger place for lunch. Happy Guy was happy.

Scruitineering didn’t go quite to plan but thankfully it was an easy fix. The scrutineers were particularly stringent and they found a few small holes between cabin and boot space that were not completely blocked; it needs to be completely sealed as the fuel pumps and filters are mounted in the boot. It had not been noticed at five previous events and we were unaware ourselves, but it was nothing a strategic application of expanding foam wouldn’t fix. And since the rain had now joined us in Launceston and we were not permitted to work on the car inside the warm and dry Silverdome, it gave the boys a chance to set up a proper rally service area for the first time.

With modifications successfully made and scruitineering passed we dried the car off and parked it inside The Silverdome, its overnight home for the next couple of nights.

Launceston Country Club Rap Squat 2k17 ft. RSQ-001 Service Rig. From there it was the drivers briefing and welcome party at the Country Club on Sunday evening before an early night to bed. Monday would be a huge day.

At six days in duration Targa Tasmania is the longest annual rally in Australia. Day One is usually relatively short to ease competitors into the event, and typically starts with one or two straightforward stages and then a blast around the streets of George Town in the state’s north. Due to unavoidable scheduling clashes in 2017, Day Two would fall on Anzac Day, making it a PR nightmare and also quite disrespectful to close public roads when locals are trying to get to dawn services. As a result Day One was massive with a long loop out to the East Coast of the state and back. There would be no easing into things this year, and we crossed the start line of the Launceston Country Club somewhat apprehensive. It was wet and we had some of the trickiest stages of the event to cover before lunch.

At around 75km the transport to TS1 Kayena was long which gave us time to take stock. Amongst the nervousness of the rain, of the stages that lay ahead, of us not really knowing how much fuel the 2600 would use in real world competition and how it would handle in the wet, we did take time to enjoy the moment. We had started Targa Tasmania! Now we just needed to finish.

To ensure we were properly ready the first stage of the event had a minimum time; go faster and you would incur a penalty. Truth be told we spent more time focusing on the stopwatch than anything else, but we didn’t break the time and the car was running like a dream so we were off penalty free to the second stage of the event – The Sideling.

The Sideling is notorious at the best of times, and in the wet and cold it can be downright diabolical. The road winds up a mountain, runs into a flat out kilometre-long straight across a ridgeline and then drops and twists its way back down the face on the other side. Get it right and it can be a drivers’ paradise, but get it wrong and there is zero margin for error along most of its length. A cliff face runs on the drivers side and an embankment drop waits on the co-driver’s, parts of the road are in constant shade and can be mossy and the road camber changes unexpectedly. We can’t get any heat into the Advan A050 tyres and the road is greasy so we tippy-toe through the stage and drop a heap of time, but at least we emerge without a scratch. The same can’t be said for several other competitors.

Our friends Mike Lowe and Phillip Sutton in the Abarth Assetto Corse Rallye had unfortunately endured a minor understeer moment into a bank on The Sideling. The damage wouldn’t have been too bad except the rock had contacted the tow hook, pushing it back into the subframe and moving the front right wheel back by about 50mm. Never mind – it was nothing that a local farmer couldn’t fix with two of his tractors and the little Abarth rejoined later that day. Mike assures us that it will be properly straightened before their next event.

With the monkey off our back we settle into a nice rhythm and tick the Moorina, Weldborough Pass and Pyengana stages off before the lunch stop in the picturesque seaside fishing town of St Helens. After a meet up with the crew and a quick check of the car while Guy and I inhale some lunch, we have a cracker of a run up Elephant Pass which is only fractionally dampened by my first pace note error of the event. In the midst of a group of repeat seven and eight left/right’s I get a couple of corners ahead of myself, and call ‘over flying finish’ as I look up to see no flying finish ahead of us. Luckily Guy was switched on and knew exactly where we were, and kindly insisted that the error cost us no time.

The final stage of the day began in the rural outpost of Rossarden, a tiny little town set in the midst of the Tasmanian wilderness. There’s only one road in, and one road out.

A delay to the stage allowed enough time for a quick walk up and down the line and a chat with other competitors. The David Gilliver/Nigel Shellshear Ferrari 308 GTB was arguably my favourite car of the event and they were in a tight tussle for second place of our class with some other friends, Woody and Nadg in the Monaro. I’m a huge fan of 308’s and it was a joy to see one being driven hard, just as Maranello intended.

Rossarden is a standout stage. It runs brutally fast and flowing for the first two-thirds of its length and then drops down the face of a mountain with a narrow and tricky descent. There’s one particular corner in the descent that we had marked as ‘Danger Four Right’ – if you missed it and went straight on there is nothing to catch you, only the valley floor that lies several hundred meters below. In the first section we ran the 2600 flat out in fifth for what felt like an eternity as we swung through an endless stream of gentle nines and tens, and on the descent we caught and passed the Datsun 1600 of John Loth and Brian Ponting. It felt brilliant.

We finished the day on a high and made our way back to Launceston through a lashing rainstorm for service before the night’s Targafest street party. We were sitting 15th out of 25 cars in Classic Handicap, which wasn’t blinding pace but it was comfortable and safe and we were having fun. There were a few minor issues with the car that we wanted to look at, and with the rain setting in the hunt was on to find somewhere dry to service.

CFMEU to the rescue! The sticker of a cobra on the door may have put us off, but they were clearly closed for the day and their large breezeway was ideal so we set the car up and got to work. We wanted to give it a clean so I went searching with a bucket for a tap. I found one in the carpark of a nearby medical centre, and the look on this poor lady’s face when she walked out to see a sweaty guy wearing a race suit, standing in the garden in the rain, filling a large bucket was priceless. She just looked away and walked to her car.

With the park brake adjusted, vitals checked and car cleaned we put the wheels back on headed across town to Targafest and dinner at an Italian restaurant. The rain had largely gone but it left a biting cold in its wake, yet despite this the turnout from the public was huge. A highlight of the evening was the drive back to the overnight security hold at The Silverdome – it was three lanes wide through the middle of the city, with Targa cars as far as the eye could see.

With only one stage to be run, Day Two got underway in the late morning with an hour-long transport out to George Town. We got to The Silverdome early to grab a coffee and have a look at the rest of the field.

Once we departed for the day the boys tucked in behind us in the service rig and followed us out to George Town. When the road opened up it became the perfect opportunity for Luke to get some fantastic rolling shots of the 2600 at speed.

There was a couple of hours until we would need to complete the stage which provided the ideal opportunity to relax and catch up with friends. It would still be better to have a full day’s competition, but the chance to re-charge after Day One and mentally prepare for the rest of the event to come was welcome.

Guy propped the bonnet and the 2600 was quickly swamped by people eager to have a look at that beautiful big straight six. It was undeniably satisfying to see the level of interest after all the heartache that’s gone into getting this thing to run reliably.

I couldn’t escape the thought either, especially poignant on Anzac Day, that we are incredibly lucky to live in a country where we are free to pursue our passions at ease. It is a privilege not afforded to everyone in this world.

Unless you’re here for outright victory you never properly commit to a town stage because over such a short distance the opportunity is just not there to make up huge amounts of time. Added is that the consequences of an error are amplified, as one missed braking point and a moment of under or oversteer into a kerb will break something vital and put you out of contention anyway.

At our end of the field it’s better to take it for what it is and enjoy it. Even with our conservative approach we were still topping 130 down narrow suburban streets and there’s something slightly perverse about that. A little unsettling, but a whole lot of fun. We finished the day unchanged in 15th position in Shannons Classic Handicap.

Even despite the short distance of the day we figured it would be prudent to give the 2600 a complete inspection and clean, so with the sun now firmly shining we returned to our accomodation for service.

I know it sounds like a cliche, but we couldn’t do an event like this without the crew and their contribution is truly invaluable. It’s a big commitment to come to Tasmania for Targa and to make the most of it you need to do everything in your power to ensure the car is running perfectly, especially with an older car like the 2600. With the event running for six days fatigue becomes an issue, and lack of mechanical expertise aside, it just wouldn’t be possible for Guy and I to maintain the car to that level during the event ourselves.

Day Three would see us depart Launceston for the final time to tackle seven stages along the North coast, before heading to the overnight stop at Burnie for another Targafest event. We were starting to get into the meat of the event now, with legendary stages such as the 38km Cethana and 36km Riana ahead in the pacenote book. It would be a long and challenging day, but we felt ready and couldn’t wait to get started.

Moriarty went like clockwork; the highlights of Paloona were described in the opening paragraphs of this story. Slowly by slowly we clawed time back and began to creep our way up the timesheets. We were running 13th in Shannons Classic Handicap by the time we reached the lunch stop at Railton.

There were no serious issues with the car, but on some really high speed compressions we noted that the rears were rubbing slightly. We had fitted slightly wider tyres before the event and this is the first time the car had been driven with such vigour, and with some more bumpy stages in the afternoon we were a little concerned. We had 45 minutes – while Guy and I found some lunch, the boys set about raising the rear ride height just slightly. Of course the second spring perch refused to budge, but after some persuasion from James it was adjusted and we were good to go in the nick of time. We had elected to refuel roadside just before the next stage, Sheffield, so the boys followed us out of town.

On that transport from lunch we noted that the speedo had began to flicker. We thought nothing of it and put it down as something to investigate at evening service, but in hindsight it was a sign of trouble ahead. We stopped just before the stage to refuel, and when we went to restart the engine we were greeted with that awful clicking sound. The battery was dead. The silver lining, at least, is that it somehow failed at a rare moment when we were not alone.

 James and Luke carried out some diagnostic tests and confirmed that the alternator was no longer charging. They searched for the cause but we were fast running out of our allocated late time limit, meaning we would incur a time penalty if we arrived at the Sheffield stage much later. With no time for a repair, the decision was made to turn around and head back to the nearby town of Sheffield to try and buy another battery. The boys jump started us and we limped to the town service station, fast running out of volts. The ignition system had all but given up as we coughed onto the forecourt.

Miraculously the service station had the right battery so we bought two of them; one to fit in the Alfa now, and another to swap in later that afternoon. We phoned through to our fathers, in a second service car, and asked them to purchase a third battery and to meet us after the next stage. We still had a lot of distance to cover that day and with no more time work on the car, we had to do it purely on battery alone. We rushed back to the start of the Sheffield stage just within our late time allowance, and feeling like complete dickhead’s we skipped 30 cars and pushed in right at the stage start. Thanks to those who let us in, and apologies to everyone we que-jumped, but we simply didn’t have the spare volts to continually restart the engine in a half-hour line.

With a fresh battery the Alfa was running well so we did our best to forget about the issue and focus as we took the start. About halfway through the stage, in a moment not too dissimilar to a slapstick comedy routine, Guy went to select fifth gear and the lever came completely loose in his hand. If we weren’t stuck in fifth in the middle of a Targa stage I might have laughed, instead I put the notes down and was able to reassemble the mechanism and hold it together, moving my hand in time while Guy selected gears. It was a good piece of teamwork, and we probably didn’t loose a huge amount of time.

Thankfully the pivot pin had only wiggled loose and hadn’t fallen out, so at the start of the next stage I was able to McGuyver a replacement split pin from a cable tie and half a roll of race tape. It was pointed out that the split pin was only modified the previous night because I’d complained of it buzzing at exactly 108km/h on transport stages, and maybe it wouldn’t have broken if we didn’t touch it. Harsh. You’ll also note in this screen grab that our alternator issues were still present as the electronic speedo and tacho are stuck at the exact point at which they dropped out during the stage.

 We lined up for the 38km Cethana stage and Guy drove the 2600 as hard as he ever has, and for some reason the alternator started charging the battery again. We’ve still got no idea how this is even possible, but mid stage Guy looked to the voltmeter and it was showing a solid 14 and stayed there. And as icing on the cake we got fifth in Classic Handicap across Cethana, and despite the issues we’d moved up to 11th in class. Things were starting to look up.

Until they weren’t. What this picture doesn’t show are the grinding noises of sheer terror emanating from the gearbox as we passed the photographer, halfway through the Castra stage. For anyone with a shred of mechanical sympathy it was torture, but we continued on to the end of the stage with the aim of loosing as little time as possible. We lost drive within sight of the finish and coasted across the line and into the stop point with a cacophony of metallic sounding clunks coming from deep within. In the hunt for class results every stage finished is a harsh penalty avoided, and with only two stages remaining that afternoon I had a shred of hope that we could overcome this without completely ruining our event.

The field passed us and then the stage crew began to pack up. Guy and I had a few hours’ on the side of the road until the boys would arrived with a trailer, so we started the hunt for a replacement gearbox in Tasmania. It wasn’t as futile as it may seem; Guy’s 2600 runs a gearbox from the more common Alfa 105 series because the ratios are better for racing. After an hour on the phone speaking to everyone from an engineer in Melbourne to a dry cleaner in Hobart, we were put on to a lovely Alfa guy named John. He was located in Westbury, about an hour and a half away, and he had three 105 gearboxes to pick from.

We had arranged to use a family friend of Guy and Graham’s workshop just outside Howth on the north coast to service that evening anyway, so we split up. James, Luke and Mike loaded the car onto a hastily borrowed trailer to go and start pulling the gearbox out. Guy, Graham and myself headed south to collect the new box.

We went our seperate ways as the sun set, everyone well aware of the late night that lay ahead.

We arrived at John’s in the dark, unshowered and still wearing our race suits. We found him to be lovely and warm, with a great deal of knowledge and an enviable collection of Alfa’s stored off-site. John was unsure of the gearbox but thought it had been rebuilt and loaned it to us on a handshake that we would return it in good shape at some point in the future. We would have to strip it down to fit the Alfa 2600 specific input shaft anyway, which would give us a chance to inspect it before installation.

Other than John’s generosity we couldn’t catch a single break that afternoon. We arrived at the workshop to see that James, Luke and Mike were just about to get the box out, in the dark. There was a localised power outage affecting just one area of houses. The boys were told by the provider that the power was due back on at 730pm, so they had began the job in twilight. We’d arrived after 830pm and the place was still in darkness.

With the box out the drain plug was removed with a gear tooth stuck to it; other teeth were plugging the hole and stopping the oil from properly draining. We cracked the case open with great anticipation as to what damage we would find.

With the case split we discovered that our worst case scenario had been realised. The gearset was largely fine, but it was the input shaft that was completely stripped and ruined. The input shaft is the only part unique to the 2600, and the input shaft in John’s 105 gearbox was several inches too short. There was zero chance of finding an Alfa 2600 input shaft in rural Tasmania at 9pm on a Wednesday night, so we retired back to our accomodation for a quiet drink and a robust discussion as to our next move.

Guy had a spare input shaft in Adelaide, and we reckoned we could get it flown in to Hobart the next afternoon. With Hobart and Howth situated on opposite ends of the island, the debate surrounded how to get the input shaft to the car, and where to rejoin the rally. Whilst it would have been theoretically possible for us to rejoin at the start of Day Five in Strahan if nothing went wrong in a complex plan, it would have been an epic and strenuous undertaking. Given the chances of an event result were long since dashed, the only reward would have been the challenge itself.

The next morning we sat on the deck overlooking Penguin beach with a coffee and put our plan in to place. My girlfriend Chantelle would be flying in from Adelaide for some spectating later that day anyway, so Mick at Eurosport in Adelaide stripped Guy’s spare 2600 gearbox down to retrieve the input shaft. Chantelle would collect it later that morning and put it in her bag to Hobart.

We desperately wanted to make the start of Day Five, but the logistics of not receiving the new input shaft to Howth until 6pm on Day Four and then having a three hour drive to Strahan after we fixed the car would make it almost impossible. Whereas Graham lives in Hobart and we had access to his shed, so instead we decided it would be a lot easier to take the car disassembled down to Hobart, meet Chantelle with the new input shaft there, refit the box in the comfort of Graham’s workshop and rejoin the rally at the Friday afternoon lunch stop in New Norfolk, about an hour out of Hobart. That would give us time for another morning coffee, James some respite to make the local cafe’s couch his own…

… and enough time to note that The Advocate had published the wrong car on the front page of their paper. True, “The Coast’s own Jason and John White” do drive a white and black car, but theirs is a Dodge Viper ACR, not a Lotus Exige. Whoops.

The workshop we’d been using was quite unlike anything I’d seen before. Col, the owner, has run automotive based businesses in the area for the last sixty years and has built up one of the most amazing collections of car stuff I’ve ever encountered.

We loaded (most of) the various parts into the 2600, loaded it onto our trailer and began the journey south.

As arguably the most useless person once we arrived in Hobart, I did most of the driving and allowed the boys to rest up.

We did leave James trapped on his own talking to this guy at the refuel stop, though. We could have jumped in and helped him like good mates would, but listening in was far more entertaining so we let the conversation run its course.

It was dark by the time we arrived to Graham’s in Hobart. A pizza was ordered, the car was unloaded and we got straight in to work.

The new input shaft had arrived with Chantelle and it had the requisite number of teeth. Excellent!

With both gearboxes stripped James used the best parts from each and the new input shaft to built one complete box. James and Luke, with us assisting where we could, put it back into the car…

… and at just after midnight we tentatively pushed it down the street and around the corner before starting it up for a road test.

With Guy, Graham, Mike, Luke and myself standing around anxiously James disappeared off into the Lindisfarne darkness…

… and thankfully returned a few minutes later. And the news – the 2600 was driving better than ever! Luke ran a time-lapse video during the various stages of the gearbox swap, which can be seen below.

We woke late, ate a good breakfast and casually made our way across to the New Norfolk lunch stop. Friday would be the biggest morning of the event with crews making a dawn start to tackle the world famous Strahan and Queenstown stages, followed by the epic 52km Mt Arrowsmith and finally the more sedate Tarraleah stage to round out the morning. We arrived early and watched the field roll in. The looks of satisfaction and achievement on the faces of the crews spoke volumes – they had made it to New Norfolk, and the end was in sight! We had feelings of satisfaction and achievement for entirely different reasons, and there were more than a few who were happy and surprised to see the car back in the rally. “How on earth did you find a 2600 gearbox in Tasmania” was a question asked of us many times that afternoon.

We were of course extremely suspicious, but the alternator issue did appear as if it had resolved itself. We’d been watching the meter like hawks and it hadn’t budged from 14 volts all day. The alternator will be stripped down back in Adelaide, but for the time being we hoped for the best and left it alone.

With race suits and helmets on we strapped back in and filtered into the rally field to complete the final two short stages of the afternoon, Molesworth and Grasstree Hill. It ended up being a great deal of fun – with the pressure off and the knowledge that we were firmly there for nothing more than enjoyment, we were able to take a step back and really enjoy the experience. The car was back to running faultlessly – in our classic handicap class we scored 7th out of 24 cars on both stages.

The battle for the podium of our class was still fiercely raging. The Ulrich/Ulrich Jensen CV8 had leapt ahead days ago in first place and looked certain to take the win unless anything unexpected happened, but the Gilliver/Shellshear 308 GTB and Woodward/Gibson Monaro had been trading second and third places on the podium all week, with only seconds between them after hundreds of competitive kilometres. The Ferrari finished Day Five on top, but held on to that place by just eight seconds going into the final day.

Hobart’s Salamanca place is one of my favourite spots in Tasmania, which makes it twice as lucky that the rally is based from its heart for its final two nights. After a quick service back at Graham’s to make sure that everything was in order, with a tinge of hollowness we filed through the central business district and into Princes Wharf 1 to park the car up for that night’s Targafest event.

As the cars filed in we caught up with their crews to find out how their event had gone over the past couple of days.

Mike Lowe had an unfortunate meeting with a guard rail, and in the process became the first person to damage an Any Given Reason sticker!

The hall was littered with battle scars and everyone had a story to tell.

With the Targa Bar open we took a seat and enjoyed a beer in the presence of some of the fastest tarmac rally cars in the country.

With the doors to Targafest open and Princes Wharf 1 quickly filling with hundreds of people, we left and found a nice restaurant in Salamanca for dinner.

The CSIRO’s Antarctic research ship Auroa Australis made a dramatic backdrop as we filed out of Princes Wharf to begin the final days stages, all based within an easy radius of Hobart and the nearby Huon Valley.

The leg would be comprised of six stages, with the 15km Cygnet stage the longest, and would be finished by lunchtime. It would be easy to think of the day as a relaxed jaunt to the line, not too dissimilar to the final stage of the Tour de France, but this is not the case. The stages are some of the most difficult of the event; narrow and extremely bumpy, they are technical and the unexpected compressions, bumps and hundreds of blind corners across crests provide ample opportunity to cause serious damage and ruin a weeks worth of work.

With Luke and James on hand for a refuel but thankfully not needing to do anything more than that, we finished inside the top ten in Classic Handicap across most stages. With the new gearbox in, the car was running better and felt smoother than ever and we surmised that the failed input shaft must have been imperfect or damaged from day one, even though it looked perfect to the eye.

With these components now 55 years old, one can only guess what kind of abuse it may have been subjected to over that time and what kind of maintenance it received. This car was pulled as a rusting wreck out of a shed in country South Australia and had lived a hard life, my guess is that its previous driver might not have gone to the trouble of researching the exact grade of gearbox oil to use and then religiously checked its level. Years of overheating may have weakened it, and then we try and use it for tarmac rallying. Such are the joys of old cars.

We started the event with the goals of finishing, earning a Targa Plate and having fun. Whilst we missed too many stages to technically finish the event and the timesheets show us about four hours’ behind the winning Jensen, which means we didn’t qualify for a plate either, we did have fun.

 After the challenge of removing a gearbox in the north of the state in the dark, packing everything up and towing the car disassembled to the very south of the state, having the part flown in and delivered, rebuilding the gearbox and installing it back into the car and having everything work as it should, we felt a very strong sense of achievement crossing the finish line nonetheless.

The casting on the participation medals we received across the line may not be technically correct, but I don’t really care.

As far as I’m concerned we made it to Hobart, and regardless of what happens competing at Targa Tasmania is a rare privilege and I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to be involved. It is also an incredible challenge. Just building a classic car that can cover that distance at speed is no easy task, to then worry about competition and fighting for a result is something else entirely.

Many beers were had that afternoon/evening/night…

… and many stories were told of what was and what could have been. As I mentioned at the start of this story, it’s having a crew of mates around that really makes the event what it is. It’s a team effort, and more than just the competition.

We got the whole crew together and went for dinner that night at an informal rally function organised by a fellow competitor. And it wasn’t as if Guy and I walked away empty handed – we won a special award for finishing dead last and got a big cheer from the crowd! We stayed out quite late that night, the timestamp on the last photo on my phone showed 4.43am, confident that we’d done our utmost to see out Targa Tasmania 2017 in style.

We probably won’t be back in 2018, but we most definitely have unfinished business in Tasmania and will certainly return at some point in the future. The challenge and adventure contained in this brilliant event cannot be underestimated, and long may it continue.

Words by Andrew Coles

Photos by Luke Jaksa, Andrew Coles and Angryman Photography.


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About the author

Andrew Coles:


  1. Steve Schmidt May 30, 2017 Reply

    Great read Andrew, thanks for posting.
    It's an event that will be long remembered I'm sure.
    Best regards.

    • Andrew Coles May 31, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Steve, I hope you've been well? Truly a memorable event.

  2. Jim stratmann May 30, 2017 Reply

    Congratulations to all involved, it made for an excellent story, full of drama, pathos and success against all the odds. The dedication and enthusiasm of everyone involved is most impressive. It never fails to amaze me what dedicated fools we all are who get hooked on motor sport. A pecial congratulation to Andrew for telling the story so well. Regards, Jim.

    • Andrew Coles May 31, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Jim. Because how boring would the story have been if everything went well...

  3. Neil Gibson May 30, 2017 Reply

    Excellent write up Andrew, sums up what Targa Tasmania is perfectly. As you mention without the service crew guys half the field wouldn't make it to the end, we all owe them so much. Did you notice how at the start of the event they all look so keen and eager stood on the side of the road, by the end they SO look like they have had enough of it :D It was so good to see you guys rejoining at New Norfolk, truly a great team effort all round - well done and congratulations on making it to Hobart. Hopefully I will see you there again one day! (I had mentioned to Woody I might retire - but decided that is not happening)

    PS:- wish I'd had a shave that morning having seen that pic lol!

  4. Jon Williams May 30, 2017 Reply

    Andrew you are so right. It is one thing having a dream to run a classic in an event like Targa, it something altogether different actually getting to the start line and a universe away to complete the event in full. Those blokes that run moderns have it easy! Loved your article and bought back memories - mostly of the irreverent humour, the combined kitchen efforts of our team and service crews and the bonds that are unique from our Targa Tasmania experience of 2016. At the moment we have 9 cars planned for 2019 and figure if we get it right should have at least 1 in every category. Would love to see you guys back for 2019.

    • Andrew Coles May 31, 2017 Reply

      It really put it in perspective when we got back to Adelaide, and I somewhat nervously took my Fiat to Mother's Day lunch in Hahndorf. Here I was nervous about driving it for around 100km, and Tassie is 6 solid days! 9 cars in 2019.... wow! That will be something special to see.

  5. Tom Gilbert May 31, 2017 Reply

    Andrew, another amazing story up to your usual, exceptional standard. The superb writing and beautiful pictures are the next best thing to being there. Congratulations on compete the event, ,many competitors did not. And that car, wow. I'm sure it was a crowd favourite, the presentation looked flawless and to hear that lusty six at full noise was intoxicating. I have no doubt you and Guy will be back. Thanks for sharing. Well done..

    • Andrew Coles May 31, 2017 Reply

      Thanks very much, Tom. Trust me, it sounds even better in real life than what is portrayed on the video!

  6. Ian Button June 1, 2017 Reply

    That was a great yarn Andrew, a thoroughly enjoyable read. We admired the Alfa many times during the event and remember seeing the old girl on the trailer... we wondered what happened. A credit to you and the whole team, there is certainly a lot more commitment in Targaing a classic, than than our first amazing experience on the Tour. We had no more issues than a cracked windscreen and way too many stone chips to count... also had an absolute ball ! The bug has certainly bitten and we will return, 2018 may be too soon, next time might be the Rookie Rally, or at least a Tour repeat, we'll see. You certainly have inspired me to tell of our 10,000 k's in 3 weeks driving from Cairns to Targa and return, you do have to get out and drive !

    A great quote from the very clever Anh Do: 'There are only two times. Now and too late.' Cheers...

    • Andrew Coles June 22, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Ian, I'm glad to hear you had a great time without too many hassles. And what a superhuman effort to drive down from Cairns - bravo! That rookie rally is certainly a good idea and a great way to get new competitors into competition - I've got a few friends back in Adelaide who are looking at it very seriously, too.

  7. Jen Gillott June 4, 2017 Reply

    Thanks Andrew - great storytelling and photos. The in car footage from Molesworth was fab. A tantalising taste of the highs and lows of the Targa Tasmania experience.

  8. Steve Crowe June 9, 2017 Reply

    Hi Andrew,

    Great story, you've captured the essence of Targa beautifully, both words and pictures

    • Andrew Coles June 22, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Steve, there's just so much to this event to capture though!

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