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Mazda Australia today confirmed famed World Rally Championship (WRC) competitor Alister McRae and Mazda resident driver Rick Bates will spearhead the company’s 2008 Targa Tasmania campaign.
McRae’s motor racing pedigree is world-class: he has contested over 75 WRC events and is a former British Rally Champion. McRae is the third WRC competitor to test his mettle against the 17-year-old tarmac endurance rally, which this year will be held from April 15-20.
McRae and Bates will each be equipped with the latest performance car from Mazda, the Mazda3 MPS. This performance hot hatch is based on Mazda’s best-selling model in Australia and comes with a turbocharged engine which belts out 190kW and 380Nm.
Mazda Motorsport’s eighth entry into Targa Tasmania follows on from the company’s stunning result in 2007 in which Rick Bates finished a brilliant tenth outright in a near-standard Mazda3 MPS.
Mazda’s two-car team will be competing in the event’s new Showroom competition, which is designed to put near-standard vehicles on an equal billing with highly-modified racing and rally cars.
McRae: I’m ready for the challenge
The Perth-based Scotsman is charged about his first Targa drive, and is under no illusion of the challenge that lies ahead.
“Having competed all over the world in rallying at all levels, it’s great to have a new challenge, and doing it with Mazda will be great fun,” says McRae.
“Competing in an endurance event is completely new for me. But having driven in more than 30 tarmac events it will be a case of driving as usual and keeping in mind that it’s not a flat out sprint. My strategy will be to ensure a finish, but I am competitive by nature, so I want to finish as high up the leader board as possible.
McRae believes his biggest challenge will come from seasoned Targa competitors with numerous events under their belts.
One such Mazda regular is team-mate is Rick Bates who has five Targas to his name. Bates says he’s looking forward to some spirited competition with McRae.
“We got a great result last year, but to go one better is the aim. Having Alister on the team will make for some good, healthy competition and I am sure we’ll egg each other on.”
A professional rally driver, Bates’ motorsport portfolio is loaded with circuit and rally accolades, including a win at the Panama-to-Alaska marathon rally, third at the London-to-Sydney and two top-ten finishes at the Bathurst 1000.
Mazda3 MPS: The ideal Targa weapon
Bates thinks the Mazda3 MPS is the ideal machine for Targa’s notoriously tricky roads and unpredictable weather.
“The Mazda3 MPS is an easy car to drive; its sure-footed handling inspires confidence, especially when you’re pressing on. The car always feels strong, from the first competitive kilometre right to the last grueling day.”
Mazda: We’ll win the Showroom competition and finish in the top ten
Mazda Motorsport chief Allan Horsley believes this year’s Targa has the potential to be Mazda’s best ever.
“I could not be more pleased with our driver line-up; we really do have two top-class drivers. Last year’s tenth outright is the goal I think we can beat, and I am also confident that both Rick and Alister will earn themselves a place on the Showroom podium.”
The 2008 Targa Tasmania comprises around 1800 kilometres, 450 of those are competitive and spread across 39 challenging closed-road stages. The prologue is on April 15, with competition starting April 16.
Targa Tasmania’s Showroom competition, introduced this year, puts near-standard vehicles on an equal billing with highly-modified racing and rally cars. As well as vying for outright contention, entrants in the Targa Showroom competition will go head-to-head for a place on the Showroom podium.
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