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Meet Grant Denyer: Triumphant on television, track and tarmac

For well over a decade, Grant Denyer has juggled two successful careers. His 'day job' as a renowned and successful television presenter has dovetailed neatly, for the most part, with his true passion of being a race car driver.

From his early days racing karts as a teenager, through to the Australian V8 Brutes Championship, Bathurst 24-hour, Mini Challenge World Title Championship, Dunlop V8 Supercar Series, Australian GT Championship, V8 Supercars, Australian Mini Challenge, Australian GT Championship and more, his career on the track is extensive enough to fill a top-eight answer board of his popular TV show Family Feud.

Despite a horrific accident in a Monster Truck in 2008, Denyer was back behind the wheel in 2009 with Dick Johnson Racing in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series as he continued to chase his racing dreams over the next couple of years.

After two years off the track due to hectic television commitments, in 2013 Denyer competed in Targa Tasmania with co-driver Dale Moscatt in a Walkinshaw Racing Renault Megane. They won their class and finished sixth outright.

But that wasn't enough tarmac rallying action. The pair lined up again in 2015 in the same Renault Megane and finished second in the showroom class.

Now, Grant Denyer has his sights set on winning the 2017 Australian Targa Championship outright in a Lotus Exige 350 Sport. Along with co-driver Dale Moscatt, he recently competed in Targa High Country around Mount Buller in Victoria. But that's just a warm up for the big one.

We caught up with Lotus Ambassador, Grant Denyer, at MotorWorld Sydney last weekend.

You recently competed in Targa High Country... how'd you go?

It was pretty cool, it was the first time we'd ever run a Lotus in tarmac rallying in Australia so it was a really exciting debut for us. It's the perfect car for that kind of event – low, nimble, fast, light, incredible corner speeds so it's going to be a bit of a giant killer once we get our heads around it.

We finished fifth outright but we had a couple of stages where we were second and third, so it was a nice little sign of what's to come when we go to do the big event which is Targa Tasmania, which we're going to win. I've got no doubt what this thing will do.

We'll certainly be watching! Now, what is it about the Lotus brand that you love?

I think the cool thing about it is it's great heritage. You've only got to think about some of the great racing car drivers of the world that have driven a Lotus, you think about some of the best times in Formula 1, there's been a Lotus car in the field.

I kind of like that heritage, it's a nice thing to be associated with. The whole principle of the cars is just add lightness. They are a pure sports car built for the ultimate driving experience. These things are so sharp, nimble and light that you get the most involved driving experience you'll get out of any car. There's nothing that numbs the experience.

You're so connected to the ground, you're so low to the ground and connected to the car, you can feel everything.

You get that great sense of speed and it kind of makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

This thing is designed to excite and that's the cool thing about Lotus and that principle has never changed since the first day they were made. You know what you're getting and you're getting many, many decades of evolution of sheer perfection.

They certainly attract a lot of attention on the road, which I don't think you would mind...

What are you saying? Are you saying I'm a massive man with an ego that just needs to be...

Likes to stand out!

Whatever! I kind of like them because I'm not really an exotic guy, like top-end European sports cars. I think that kind of screams an element of... tool, I'll say tool. Whereas these are kind of built to be a driver's car and I'm a driver. I like driving. It suits me without kind of screaming, 'I'm a wanker'.

And you can have a whole lot of fun it it as well.

Absolutely. You know, they're sexy, there's no doubt about that. That's a timeless shape. Sort of in the same way the early Mustangs are still sexy today, the core design principles of a Lotus from way back when, are still sexy right now. It's stood the test of time and the good part about it is they now have awesome amounts of power.

You know there's a V6 in there now where there used to be only a four-cylinder. There's 3.5-litres pumping out 350HP. Put 350HP in a car that weighs this much, and you're strapped to a rocket.

I'd like to know what that feels like out on the track, so I think we should join one of these test drives and have a go.

You up for it? Let's do it. Survey says, 'this will be fun!'

As you can tell, it feels pretty low to the ground because it is. Feels like if a speed hump comes up, you're going to loose your tailbone.

Do you ever worry about anything when you're driving?

No, it's the perfect size. The lower, the better.

You're the Australian brand ambassador for Lotus. What is it that you love most?

It's small and fast like me! Look, I love racing, I love tarmac rallying, I've always wanted to win Targa Tasmania outright. I've won my class, I know I can punch at the front but I've only ever driven front-wheel drive saloon cars or hot hatches, whereas this is a Targa-winning car.

I've always wanted to drive something that could do it outright. Because the handling characteristics of the Lotus are so sublime and it's so lightweight, it's kind of the perfect vehicle to have for that kind of race. There's no doubt this thing will run at the front of the field for Targa Tasmania, without question.

So that's the next one and you're getting prepped for that. Any changes to be made to the car?

Yeah, we'll improve the suspension a little bit more. Australian roads are quite bumpy, crowny, cresty and quite dangerous so we'll make the suspension a little bit more compliant for those sort of conditions.

You'll be going along, you'll look down at the speedo, going around a corner, and you'll see 200km/h. That's around a corner on a single lane road with trees around you. You don't want a bump to come up in those conditions so we'll make it handle those a little bit better.

The natural package of a Lotus anyway, is ideal for tarmac rallying. Lotus is a cool brand. It's got amazing heritage, through some of the greatest era's of Formula 1, there was a Lotus car.

It's such a cool pedigree so it's nice to be part of a stable that has that heritage. Motor racing is a big part of my life. I've been very lucky to have a TV career, but I only ever got into television to try and find sponsors for my racing career.

You just happened to be good at it, and now you have to try and fit both your passions into your life.

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