Course conditions for day one: Heavy Rain and very slippery!
That’s the news I woke to at 6.00am on Wednesday morning for the official start of the 2010 Targa Tasmania, and my first time as a co-driver in a factory backed team.
Reaching speeds of up to 200km/h in wet and slippery conditions on twisty, off-camber roads isn’t exactly what I was looking forward to as a first timer in one of the most demanding tarmac rallies in the world.
Holding breakfast down in perfectly dry conditions was going to be tough enough, but these nasty conditions were going to make that job almost impossible and worse still, I couldn’t find my supply of anti-sick pills which I’d been carefully guarding in my pocket all day long. And so the drama begins.
Once strapped into my superbly crafted Velo race seat (made right here in South Australia), I realised I had another problem. My full faced circuit helmet, which due to its design, didn’t allow me allow me see the all-important pace notes, time card, road book and stop watch, all critical jobs for the co-driver. The implications of wearing the wrong helmet meant that I would need to be looking down at the notes – not good.
And as I sat in the car feeling more than a little queasy after Raz (Razvan Vlad - Hyundai factory driver) had spent the last five minutes putting some heat into the brakes by accelerating and then braking heavily, no fewer than 15 times, I was trying to work out exactly how I would get the small cylindrical sick back up to my mouth, given that it was a battle and-a-half just to place an anti-nausea tablet on my tongue, whilst wearing this helmet.
Lesson one – don’t get sick no matter what, and if you’re going to enter a rally, buy yourself a specific open faced helmet, purposed designed for the above mentioned tasks.
That said my six-point race harness was super secure, so much so, that I wasn’t going to be moving a millimeter during any of today’s 8-stages of competition required to complete Leg one of ‘Targa’.
Despite the fact that all cars are now electronically timed on the start and finish line of each stage, Raz likes the co-driver to record his times as a check against the official time. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I couldn’t locate the stopwatch as we approached the start line, with just 30 seconds to go before the green light. Later that day, I discovered that it was hiding under my butt, which I thought had been part of the harness.
My last minute instructions to the driver were: road very narrow and bumpy and there’s a 9R (translation: almost a hairpin right) before end.
The rain was now torrential, and all windows needed to be fully closed whilst the air-conditioning had to be switched off for the competitive stage. Instead, the fan was blowing warm air to keep the windscreen from fogging up, and again, these are not ideal conditions when nausea is knocking at your door.
This Targa prepped Hyundai i30 CRDi has an excellent exhaust note as Raz held the rpm’s at near enough to 4000 as he drilled it off the line and hammered forwards. Page one of my pace notes read as follows:
“START into 3R
then 2L over crest don’t cut
over railway into 4R uphill
then over crest into 1L
tightens to 2 long
then tightens to 2 again
100 2L slows into long fast 7R
100 care 1L over crest
then over brow bumpy
100 stay right over brow”
As a navigator, you need to be reading the pace notes at least one or two corners ahead of the road, which means, you need to be watching the road and reading at the same time!
As we pushed downhill into the first right hand turn, we saw the first Targa casualty; a rare Renault Alpine A110 has spun off the road to our right in what were treacherous conditions.
That said our i30 never felt better, as we blasted by a Porsche 944, which was clearly struggling with the weather and the slippery roads.
There were to be several more casualties on day one, with both a Mitsubishi EVO and Porsche 911 hitting power poles at speed and the occupents requiring hospital attention.
For a car with a small 1.6-litre diesel and the least power in the Showroom category, the i30 continued to impress with outstanding times throughout all stages of the event.
But what impressed me more than anything, apart from the outstanding brakes (these are standard rotors and calipers with race spec pads only) was the smoothness and composure of Hyundai’s driver, Razvan Vlad, and that’s always good news for the navigator.
Crossing the finish line at stage 8 of Targa Tasmania and the i30 CRDi was in 9th
position out of thirty cars it’s class (including a fleet of EVO’s and STi’s), and given our power disadvantage, that was an extraordinary result.
It’s also worth noting that Hyundai’s entry is the most fuel-efficient car in the 270 cars Targa Tasmania line up, recording an average consumption of just 7.2-litres/100kms.
Today’s Leg 4 of Targa will see the cars go from Launceston – Ulverstone – Strahan in what will be some of the longest Targa stages of the event and the only change to the i30 will be a set of new front tyres, which they will finish the event on tomorrow.
Call it a plug if you must, but the grip these Kumho V700 195/50R15 tyres afforded the i30 on Leg 1 of Targa, in what were dreadful conditions, was nothing less than extraordinary.
Good luck Raz, Ioana, Lisa and Alex (crew) and the master technician, Cameron Tweedale.