World Motor Sport Debut For Mazda 6
April 10th, 2006
After a four year break from participating in the world's ultimate tarmac rally, Mazda Australia will find out whether or not their near standard 2005 model Mazda6 MPS can stack up to the 2100km-long test which kicks off from Launceston in just 15 days time.
New car buyers everywhere will be watching with interest as to how the four-wheel-drive, high-end performance sports sedan, which will be piloted by MOTOR magazine journalist Dean Evans, holds up against its contenders in the event's drivetravel.com Modern Competition.
Overseeing the car's preparation for Targa Tasmania is Mazda Motorsport Manager, Allan Horsley. Horsley has concentrated on maintaining the standard car's reliability by minimalising the car's modifications, with the major adjustments existing only in the installation of competition suspension and appropriate safety and roll-over protection.
Horsley, who masterminded Mazda's three Bathurst 12-hour wins in the 1990s, said the company would use Targa Tasmania as a test bed for further motor sport competition with the MPS and that it will undoubtedly show the strength of the Mazda product.
"The roads used for Targa Tasmania are the best in the world for this type of rally," said Horsley. "Although Dean [Evans] is a newcomer to the Targa scene, he has some very impressive results in road racing. We have a great crew and we would hope to be prominent in the final results."
While expecting a strong showing, Horsley says his main concern will be tyre wear, given that the team have no previous racing experience with the MPS.
Entered in the rally under the dual banner of MOTOR magazine and Mazda Australia, the 2.3-litre Mazda6 MPS will be competing under the event's Showroom category, with every move and mile documented by the popular motoring publication in the edition following the event.
Competitive motor sport is far from unfamiliar to the car's 33-year-old driver who has already clocked up competitive miles in events such as the Bathurst 3-Hours, rounds of the Australian Rally Championship, the 2006 Lotus Trophy Championship and more recently at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.
"I've pretty much done everything, expect for Targa Tasmania," says Evans who lives in New South Wales. "I have wanted to do Targa Tasmania for about ten years and having Mazda Australia's support during the event is even better."
Evans will have Canberra-based 38-year-old training officer Lyndall Drake as his navigator for the 2006 event. Also under the Mazda Australia banner Drake has navigated for former Australian Rally Champion Murray Coote in an MX-5 SP in 2001 and top rally professional Rick Bates in a RX-7 in 2002. The Mazda6's Targa run will be Drake's third Targa Tasmania.
"Allan [Horsley] has put so much work into delivering this car. My driving this car is like taking his first born daughter out on a date," jokes Evans. "I am happy that I will have Lyndall's brains and experience on the job."
General Manager Tasmania for Octagon, Rob McGuire, said that the entry from Mazda was further proof of Targa Tasmania's substantial growth this year in involvement by car manufacturers.
"Mazda, Porsche, MINI, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Subaru have all come on board this year, making the 15th anniversary staging of Targa Tasmania the most competitive yet."
Other high-profile drivers confirmed for Targa Tasmania 2006 include former 500cc motorcycle world championship front runner and Network Ten motor sport commentator, Daryl Beattie, two-time Bathurst champion, Tony Longhurst seven-time Bathurst and Targa Tasmania champion, Jim Richards and nine-time Bathurst winning legend Peter Brock.
The total distance of Targa Tasmania is approximately 2100km, with over 450km in 45 competitive stages, plus Temco Prologue at George Town.
An expected 250 plus competitors will assemble for the 15th anniversary staging of Targa Tasmania which officially starts from Launceston's Country Club on April 25th. After traversing almost the entire state, the event finishes at Wrest Point in Hobart five days later.
Comp No.: 987
Crew: Dean Evans, NSW - Lyndall Drake, NSW
Car: 2005 Mazda6 MPS