The 30th Targa Tasmania Motor Rally has kicked off in northern Tasmania, with a ceremonial start to the event before competitors take to the Hillwood and George Town stages.
- Motorsports Australia investigated the deaths of three competitors last year and issued 23 recommendations
- Event director Mark Perry said 21 of the recommendations, including limiting speeds, had been adopted to “make the event safer”.
- Around 500 cars take part in this year’s event – a record to mark the race’s 30th anniversary
It is the first time the event has taken place since three competitors died in the space of two days last year.
Sweeping safety changes have been introduced for this year’s event, including speed limits.
Competitor Shane Navin died when his car crashed on a wet road at Mount Arrowsmith near Strahan in April.
The following day, Leigh Mundy and her co-driver Dennis Neagle were killed when their car plunged into the road and crashed into trees in Cygnet, southern Tasmania.
Motorsports Australia investigated the fatalities and made 23 recommendations, including changes to racing routes, reducing speed on certain sections of the course and reviewing telecommunications capacity.
Event director Mark Perry said 21 of the recommendations were adopted to “make the event safer”.
Two other recommendations are the responsibility of Motorsport Australia, not the organizers of Targa Tasmania.
The event will no longer run at unlimited speed, but an effective speed limit of 200 kilometers per hour has been introduced.
Targa Tasmania’s fastest competitors have already been clocked at speeds of up to 250km/h on Tasmanian public roads.
The speed limit changes have already been tested at other Targa events in Queensland and Victoria.
Organizers have also made changes to the course so drivers aren’t complacent, reducing speed limits in some areas and ensuring drivers can inspect the track before the race.
More speed limit zones introduced
Mr Perry said they had also reduced speeds on crests, jumps and dips which could cause cars to take off.
“Anywhere a car can take off, and the other big one for us, which didn’t play into those fatalities but which we recognized in the review, are dips in the road, because that can also send them into the tunes,” he said. .
“The reality is that they are all now covered in areas that slow cars to less than 80 kilometers per hour on those sections.”
As a sailor, Barry Oliver of Launceston has competed in Targa Tasmania 26 times and won a record eight titles.
He said organizers had identified some particularly quick steps.
“Basically that means they travel at a maximum of 60 kilometers per hour and if you step out of that 400 meter zone before you complete the time that has been designated, you are penalised.
“These are on stages where they are considered too fast and very dangerous and there will be 34 of these zones, so effectively it will be impossible for these cars to reach 200 kilometres. [per hour] anyway.”
Last year, the course only had 12 speed-limiting zones.
The first two stages will take place north of Launceston
Around 500 cars are taking part in this year’s event – a record to mark the race’s 30th anniversary.
Targa Tasmania driver Casey Price said she was looking forward to the six-day tarmac rally.
Price is a member of one of only two women’s teams.
She told ABC Radio Hobart that the first two stages will be held north of Launceston.
“The first one is Hillwood and it’s designed to be a warm up so all the teams can take a look and warm up the vehicles before going to the super stage, and that will be George Town.”
The six-day asphalt rally ends Sunday in Hobart.