Targa 2009 is “GO”! We made it to the Prologue today – not without some last minute dramas. The new* car is feeling very strong, and we managed a quite respectable 5th in Early (cars built up to 1971) Classic (out of 43) at the Prologue today. Our time of 3:47 places us well on the road (running order for the week), improving by about three seconds from last year and compares very well with the Late Classic cars (1972 to 1990).
This bodes well for the performance potential of the new car, but we’re being quite reserved in our expectations given that everything on the car is new and unproven. We are keeping in mind being the amateur mechanics that we are, the first diagnosis of any problem is “what we did touch last?” when a problem occurs. Well, for this year the answer will be “…..everything!”
We’ve managed to complete Leg One without drama – an alternator wire fell off early in the day (easy fix), and there’s a small vibration under load once we get over about
170km/h.. normally something that wouldn’t worry us that much; however we seem to be spending more and more time in the 160 + km/h range this year. We’ll keep an eye on it as the week progresses and hopefully it does not get any worse. We clocked up 1,000kms on the car at the and of the day so promptly gave it a first service and oil change (we figured the new engine is probably well run in by now).
Although we’re still taking it easy, we’ve had promising results for each of the competitive stages today. The first three stages are “cleanable” (base time set high enough that a spirited drive won’t accrue any penalty time). The next five are full-on competitive, and this year the competition is very hot. We moved back in the field (amongst the faster modern entries) during the day as we did some checks after each stage to ensure all the big bits were still on the car and to investigate any new buzz, rattle, vibration or other oddity. This had us setting off into the later stages sandwiched between some rather rapid GT3 Porsches and the like – on the last stage of the day we crossed the finish line at about 180km/h door handle to door handle with a Monaro CV8 that just managed to catch us over the preceding 9kms – rather exciting stuff!
In the Early Classic competition, last year’s winner (Siddins in a Nissan 240Z) and the Battens (father and son in the red Volvo) are already setting a blinding pace, with the Ulrich’s lovely Jensen CV8 putting in another strong performance. We were pleased to place 10th on the Kayena stage, 6th on the Holwell and Moriarty stages, 5th on Merseylea, 6th on Sheffield, and finished the day with a 7th on Quamby Brook. We’ve accrued 2:51 of penalty time (2 minutes behind the leading Volvo of Mike and Paul Batten) that puts us in 6th in the Classic Comp at the end of Leg One.
Volvo: Bob, Terry, Andy and Ashley
Leg Two was another challenging day. We made it through the first two stages without drama (not taking any scalps on the Sideling as we did last year
), but a not so insignificant mechanical failure slowed us on the Ledgerwood stage. Volvo pioneered a number of safety items – collapsible steering columns being one of them, which, halfway through the stage, started collapsing resulting in a not so marginal compromise of steering control – thrilling to say the least! A $3.00 exhaust clamp purchased from a local garage secured it properly and we were on our way.
Some casualties for the day included the magnificent Torana XU-1 of Brian and Linda Dermott, rolling the car through a chicane and putting themselves out of the rally. As the day progressed, we began to tie things together well, picking up a 4th’s on the Sideling, Moorina, Pengyana, and Elephant Saddle, a 5th on Weldborough, and only getting held up on the Rossarden stage behind a Mercedes coupe blowing so much oil smoke we had trouble seeing some corners.
We had some fun on the Longford town stage, putting on a bit of a show for the kiddies (and the photographers) with Ashley driving – it is now confirmed Andy is not a good passenger or navigator (I am sure he was calling all the corners with a number or two lower (indicating sharper) than they actually were). Regardless, we were more than happy, and a little surprised, that we’d placed ourselves 5th overall at the end of the Leg, five seconds off the McClintock/Skinner BMW and one second ahead of the Kent/Kent Mustang. Overnight servicing ran to just checking the source of the vibration once again, swapping tyres front to rear in anticipation of wet weather on Leg Three, and giving the car a wash!
Today, saw us head off on a loop to the NW and SW of Launceston. The wet weather didn’t eventuate, but two of the stages in particular suited our car/driver combo well and we are starting to get a good feel for the car’s gearing and braking. The Batten/Batten Volvo and the Siddins/Ferguson Datsun were well ahead and looked set to consolidate their lead with the Ulrich/Ulrich Jensen CV8 right on their heels. However, on the Dunorlan stage the Datsun missed a corner at a railway crossing and bent a rim when they finally landed, missing two subsequent stages and effectively putting them out of contention. The day saw us battling the McClintock/Skinner BMW and the Kent/Kent BMW on most of the stages, but a solid batch of placings has gained us 3rd overall at the end of Leg Three, a few minutes back from the Jensen, and just three seconds ahead of the Mustang and eight seconds ahead of the BMW.
By no means are we getting our hopes up for a podium finish, for, as we’ve noted before, we consider this a “shakedown year” and are simply happy the car is still running and the performance potential is proven.
Tomorrow starts the run down the west coast, with an overnight at Strahan. It’s unlikely we’ll have internet access until we get to Hobart on Sunday night – ideally we’ll get there safe and sound and drive across the finish line and will update you from there.
Leg Four was the run down the West Cost to Strahan. Much more comfortable with the car, and some wet and greasy roads in the later stages saw us consolidate a Top 10 placing, if not our chance at a podium finish.
First up was Mole Creek, where, on the very first corner last year we broke our gearbox. As was becoming a pattern, the red Batten Volvo set fastest time (on handicap), with the Siddins’ Datsun setting an equal first (the Datsun though was out of contention for line honours having damaged a wheel on Leg Two). Two seconds back was the Jensen, another five to a hard charging 1971 Porsche 911 (Black/Cole). Interestingly, although our car, the Mini and the BMW all have different handicaps, we achieved equal times, each dropping only one second over the Porsche for the Stage (the Porsche actually having the same Base Time as our Volvo). Notably, placings down to 16th were all within another five seconds in penalty time.
Cethana saw the Batten Volvo and the Jensen in 1st and 2nd, with the McClintock BMW posting a solid 24 sec advantage over our car, pushing us back to fifth for the stage, with the Draper Mini only seven secs behind us on the memorable 37.48km section of road. Dampness on Gunns Plains saw the Mini put in an impressive 3rd ahead of the BMW, the Jensen and the hard charging Kents in their 1965 Mustang, posting an almost 20 second advantage over our Volvo.
The next five stages saw the Black/Cole Porsche begin to emerge as a threat together with the Kent/Kent Mustang and the BMW. Dry roads would suit each of those and we were hoping for some rain as the afternoon progressed. We held a 7th on Lowana, picked up a 4th on greasy Hellyer Gorge (the BMW getting psyched out by the wet roads), but the Mini really making a mark with a 2nd on Mt Black and a 1st on Roseberry and a 3rd on the final stage Rinadeenah, five seconds ahead of us and 25 secs ahead of the BMW. The Black/Cole Porsche crashed out on the last stage; unfortunate, but one less threat in the wet or dry!.
At the overnight stop in Strahan, this placed us at an overall 3rd, just five seconds ahead of the BMW and 1min 49 in hand over the Mini. Wet weather in Leg Five would see a further threat from the Mini. Any advantage we had over it in the dry would be overset by the significant advantage the BMW would have over us – so we weren’t sure what to hope for weather-wise the next day. We surmised the BMW would be looking at both us and the Mini as a threat in the wet, if it dried up, the BMW would likely be able to haul us in pretty significantly.
The car was running strong at the end of the day, requiring just a thorough check of suspension and brakes at the end-of-day service,allowing us a relaxed dinner at day’s end. Although we’d only just gotten to the level of performance as the old car, with still a lot of potential (in car and crew) to go, we felt ready now for a solid run to the finish, and, weather dependent, holding at least on to a Top 5 placing.
We started the day in third place in the Early Classic completion, with a very small margin over the BMW 2002 and a little over 2 minutes to the Draper/Draper Mini. Wet weather would favour the Mini over us, and us over the BMW. Dry weather would see the BMW reel us both in. The BMW team came over for a chat and noted we were a threat to him in the wet. We strategised that it would be best to run as close in running order as possible to the BMW so that we go the same road conditions (earlier we might get a wetter road, later we might get a drier road, bit would be running amongst the faster Moderns.)
Our start order number was about thirty cars ahead of the BMW, so on the transport (road speeds) to the Strahan stage we dawdled a little, stopping for fuel and checking tyre pressures, using up some of our late time only to bump into the Peter and Sari Ulrich in the Jensen who were also applying a similar strategy so as to run closer to us and also on dryer roads. Of course, this strategy would go out the window if it got wetter as the day progressed…….
Strahan, the first stage, is an exciting 33km section of road that was very wet and greasy. We had a lot of trouble getting any sort of grip, and drove in agingerly fashion, only to be caught by the Jensen at about the 10km mark just ahead of the first chicane. We managed to stay with them for a few kilometers, overtaking a Nissan Skyline GTR and an Alfa, but soon saw the advantage of a 6.9ltr 580HP V8 in a fiberglass-bodied car as the Jensen shot ahead up the road. In chatting with the Ulrichs at the end of the stage, we expressed admiration (amazement really) as to how they caught us, whereby they expressed dismay at how we stuck with them. They also said they needed to drive like that because of our handicap over them – in discussion we found they’d been miscalculating it all week and thought they need a much bigger margin to stay ahead, especially with the long stages on Legs Four and Five. Navigator and driver wandered off to take some heart pills - it was all rather exciting in the cockpit of the Jensen on the previous 35kms trying to make time on the old Volvo…… The Mini picked up 2nd as expected, the BMW just ahead of us in 5th.
Queenstown saw it also very wet and greasy, and was the undoing of the BMW. At about the 5th corner, they’d gone straight ahead into a guard rail post, fortunately not falling over a rather steep cliff; their desperation to make time on the Mini (and us) all to naught. This meant we had just the Mini to deal with (the Jensen and the red Volvo were too far ahead) and held hopes for dryer roads as the day progressed. We set fastest time on the Queenstown stage – not sure if this was from motivation of seeing the BMW out of the race, or that we relaxed a little and did everything a bit more smoothly.
Our favorite stage, Mt Arrowsmith was next. On this we placed 5th, but only dropped 3 secs to the Mini even with their 2 min 13 sec handicap, so their shot at a massive advantage was largely over. This really consolidated our third place, and chances for a champagne finish suddenly looked good. The throttle had started to stick a little (not something you want heading in to a fast downhill wet and greasy corner), but a quick adjustment at the end of the stage got it sorted. Some more fuel was added (we’d run as light as we could over the Mt Arrowsmith stage), and then the penultimate stage, Tungatinah, saw a Volvo 1/2 finish, dropping ten secs to the red Volvo and holding a one sec advantage over the Jensen (still just seven secs in real time!). We were on a roll, holding an almost two minute advantage on the Mini. “Shakedown” mode was well and truly over…..
The final stage, Risdon Brook, was wet and greasy on the way down into the valley, but reasonably dry heading up the other side and saw the Mini place fourth ahead of our 6th, picking up seven seconds but not enough to knock us out of third – we were on our way to the Podium! We’d managed a third in Early Classic, behind the red Batten/Batten Volvo, and the Ulrich/Ulrich Jensen. We were also rather surprised at our 22nd outright in the overall Classic Competition (all cars up to 1990). The Batten Volvo had placed 5th (incredible!) and the Ulrichs’ 8th – the cars that those teams beat (Carrerra Porsches and A9-X Toranas etc) a rather impressive list!.
The drinking started early, even before the Champagne shower (which by the way stings your eyes). A champagne soaked racesuit doesn’t smell too good either later in the day, but the glory (in our little sphere of the world) easily overcame the discomfort factor. We’ll be back again next year, with a well “shookdown” car, but expect the competition will also turn things up a notch or two, so will be hard work once again.
Thanks again to all our supporters, (mechanical, emotional and financial), we’ve enjoyed indulging ourselves and having you along for the ride.
Volvo 122S #222
to 2009 Project
Email: Andrew White,