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by George Skentzos

Mazda has paired Alister McRae along with Mazda veteran Rick Bates for the company’s 2008 Targa Tasmania campaign.

Each driver will be equipped with the potent Mazda3 MPS which develops 190kW and 360Nm, with both drivers competing the Showroom category.

Introduced just this year, the Targa Tasmania’s Showroom competition puts near-standard vehicles head-to-head with highly-modified racing and rally cars along with fellow competitors in the Showroom category.

 azda pairs McRae and Bates for Targa 2008

Veteran Mazda driver Rick Bates is confident in the track capability of the Mazda3 MPS even in near standard guise, finishing tenth outright last year in a similarly modified Mazda3 MPS.

“The Mazda3 MPS is an easy car to drive; its sure-footed handling inspires confidence, especially when you’re pressing on. The car always feels strong, from the first competitive kilometre right to the last grueling day.”

Perth-based Alister McRae seems equally confident about his first Targa drive, having previously competed in over 75 WRC events and is a former British Rally Champion.

“Competing in an endurance event is completely new for me. But having driven in more than 30 tarmac events it will be a case of driving as usual and keeping in mind that it’s not a flat out sprint. My strategy will be to ensure a finish, but I am competitive by nature, so I want to finish as high up the leader board as possible.”

The 2008 Targa Tasmania comprises around 1800 kilometres, 450 of those are competitive and spread across 39 challenging closed-road stages. The prologue is on April 15, with competition starting April 16.