|Rolling green hills, 20 degrees of sunny spring weather and wildflowers everywhere set a stunning scene for Day 3 of the 17th Make Smoking History Targa West, the longest and toughest day of the four-day rally.
The competition took place around Toodyay, Chittering and Bullsbrook with 14 stages, a total of 128.85 competitive kilometres, including the two 19.67-kilometre marathon stages, Maryville Downs 1 and 2. In a massive 12-hour day covering a total of 475.64 kilometres, today was the day where competitors had to get serious and set themselves up for a strong finish tomorrow.
Make Smoking History Targa West’s third day saw leads increase, some fights, a new stage winner, battles for places, retirements, and penalties.
Make Smoking History Targa West is Perth’s premier tarmac rally and the only event in Perth that uses closed public roads for racing, which will take place in Malaga tomorrow morning and the finale tomorrow afternoon in the CBD along Riverside Drive.
Peter Rullo and co-driver Jimmy Marquet in their 2020 SSC Lotus Exige GT weren’t resting on their laurels today after their experience in 2020 where they were leading but forced to retire early on Day 3. Fully aware that to finish first, first you have to finish, Rullo was focussed on getting through the day and getting the job done.
Rullo / Marquet started the day with a 45-second lead ahead of Steve Jones and co-driver Caleb Ash in their 2008 Nissan R35 GTR; and by the end of the day, increased their lead to 1:01 minutes. They won the first eight stages of the day, had a further win in Bullsbrook and finished the rest of the stages second fastest – that’s 14 stages finishing either first or second.
“The stages today were awesome, I love them all and it’s pity I didn’t get to experience them last year,” said Rullo.
“The stages today are for high horsepower cars, like the GTR and Porsche, but they don’t drive themselves, drivers have to push them which is good, and I know that because I had a GTR for seven years.
“It was awesome competition and good to be in a battle with Steve (Jones) and Dave (Heaton), trading stage wins. Big congrats to Dave, it was his first stage win in Targa, good on him.
“A lead is always good, but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” said Rullo.
Steve Jones was playing things down in the midday service.
“There’s no point trying to chase down the Lotus – they are lighter than us, faster than us, more powerful and running softer tyres. We’ve still got a sliding issue and the traction light for snow is coming on,” he said.
At the day’s end having notched up five stage wins, Jones said he finally discovered what was going on with his car.
“I’d chosen tyres that I’d never run on before and I was pushing the car to do things that it didn’t want to do. So we took two rear tyres off my road car, a different brand, and put them on the rear of the GTR, and now the car is fast,” Jones said.
“These are the tyres I won Targa SW on – they are used but they are making a huge difference, straight away.
“The whole rally I’ve been battling the car, which has made me work. I haven’t had a car under me I’ve been able to do what I want it to do, and now I have, but it’s too late.
“Still, we’re having fun and we had a really good time in Maryville Downs, there were spectators everywhere, people hanging over their fences, it’s such a great atmosphere,” said Jones.
Sitting in third place overall is David Heaton and Steve Glenney in Heaton’s new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS.
Besides calling pace notes, Steve Glenney is also doing some driver training with Heaton which is reaping results.
This is Heaton’s 12th time competing in Targa West and the first time he’s won a stage, winning SS30, the 11.41-kilometre Bullsbrook Long 2, 3 seconds ahead of Rullo / Marquet.
“We’ve had a great day, a very strong, beautiful, smooth flowing day – Bullsbrook was a highlight, my first stage win at Targa West and I’m happy that we’re able to mix it with Rullo and Jones,” said Heaton.
“The communication inside the cabin with Steven is great, the car is a beautiful thing, it was the perfect Targa West day.”
Moving up a place on the overall leader board, jumping from fifth yesterday to fourth today, is Mark Cates in his 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS with Tasmanian co-driver Anthony Carr.
“Today was fantastic, the long stages are the ones I really enjoy. The last two stages were in the dark and I can’t see for shit, it was a bit scary so we backed off so we didn’t crash,” said Cates.
“Our goal today was not to bin the car and to catch the BMW, and I tell you, Brett (Morse) drives that thing like a scalded cat, so I’m happy where we’re at,” said Cates from Bunbury.
Cates / Carr are 26 seconds ahead of fifth outright Brett Morse and Rodney Ng in their 2019 BMW M2 Competition, and 4:00 minutes behind the rally leader.