On its debut at this year's Targa Tasmania, amid a field of powerful and expensive rally exotica, the turbocharged Mazda Motorsport RX-8 SP finished an impressive 10th outright at the hands of expert racing driver and 2008 Targa Champion Steve Glenney.
Mr Glenney will again pilot the RX-8 SP at next year's event which will run from April 27 to May 2. Beside him will be long-time co-driver Bernie Webb and the experience gained from his 2009 Targa Tasmania campaign.
"We had a few problems to sort through during this year's rally which probably held us back from a top three finish," says Glenney. "But I am confident that thanks to time and lessons learned, the Mazda team has made the car stronger and faster for 2010."
Mazda Motorsport boss and the brains behind the RX-8 SP, Allan Horsley, also has high hopes for the rotary-spun rally car which he says already out-handles the world's most expensive rally-bred machines on the market.
"I'll be honest and say we had teething problems this year - but that was always going to be the case given that so little racing development had gone into it. But to finish 10th outright on debut is just incredible."Six months on and what we have now is a handling package to outperform the Porsches and Lamborghinis that dominate the pointy end of the Targa field. Now all we need to do is try and extract a little more power."
The 2010 Targa Tasmania, the world's toughest tarmac rally, is a 2,000km event comprising around 40 special closed road stages and regularly attracts more than 250 entries.