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Lotus 12th Cracks the Dozen at Targa Debut

May 8th, 2009
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The Lotus Cars Australia Exige Cup 260 has finished 12th outright at Targa Tasmania’s gruelling six day event, set a third fastest stage time and finished as the highest placed showroom spec car in the Modern category.

Over 2000km and 39 stages, the Cup 260 showed its potential by running in arduous conditions, with nothing more than refilling with fuel.

In showroom specification, the Cup 260 set some times that established it as a sports car able to compete with the very best supercars in the world – with a third fastest time on the Queenstown stage by the crew of Sydney motoring journalist Dean Evans and Melbourne IT specialist Simone Bachmann.

“We took this car from the Lotus showroom two weeks ago, put a cage in it, drove it to Tasmania, finished 12th outright and drove it home again without touching a thing. That’s the strength of the Cup 260, it’s so quick out of the box,” enthused Evans after the event.

Placing 17th from 270 cars in the prologue, the only hiccup in the program was a brand new intercom that failed on day one, which meant communication between navigator and driver was extremely hampered.

But days two and three were much better, allowing the crew to push the Cup 260 and move into 15th place, and well positioned for a top 10 finish.

Days four and five of Targa Tasmania brought heavy rain. Crucially, on stages where the Lotus was expected to excel, such as the tight and twisting Hellyer Gorge, the wet weather played a part with slick roads and treacherous conditions. Despite this, the Cup 260 put its ABS and adjustable traction control systems to work to record times as high as 10th in the wet 33km stages of Rinadeena and Strahan, along with half a dozen top ten times including seventh fastest on the event’s longest stage, the 47km Mt Arrowsmith.

But it was Queenstown’s famous 6.4km stage up the mining moonscape that would be the Cup 260’s defining moment. “We always knew Queenstown would be our strongest stage,” explained Evans. “So when we saw the ‘WET’ board, it was a little frustrating. But that wasn’t going to dampen our determination.”

Despite the slick road, the Lotus climbed the steep mountain road and put in a stunning time to record 3rd outright stage time, passing a Porsche 911 GT3 and showing its true performance. Evans added: “While it’s easy to speculate, I do think the Exige would have had a great chance to be fastest in the dry – but we’re still ecstatic with third!”

Even with the weather playing against it, the Lotus moved up to 12th outright, behind two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst and 2008 Targa champion Steve Glenney. Though the gap closed on the final stage, the difference to 10th ended at just 12 seconds, with the Cup 260 sitting in 12th after 2000km and six days of competition.

“Mechanically the Cup 260 is ready for another Targa,” added Evans. “The tyres are only half worn, the brake pads barely worn at all, and it used less than 300 litres of fuel for the entire event.

“In the wash-up, the intercom problem on day one was the difference between 10th and 12th but we were happy to showcase its top 10 potential. Simone did a superb job throughout, and we’re still extremely pleased with the top dozen.”

“Throw in two days of wet conditions, and to finish that high on debut in a showroom spec car is a fantastic result that we’re very proud of. Especially the fact we drove it home after the event!”

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