History beckons for TARGA greats

Jason and John White are shining examples of how grit, determination and talent have enabled them to keep pace with the evolution of TARGA Tasmania.

Over the years, the Devonport nephew and uncle have risen to the challenge of various rule changes by conquering the great tarmac rally in machinery ranging from Nissans, Lamborghinis and Dodge Vipers.

The Whites are at the precipice of a record-equalling eighth Outright triumph at the iconic Tasmanian event when the 30th anniversary tarmac rally starts from April 26 to May 1. 

On the surface, matching the benchmark set by Jim Richards and Barry Oliver will be remarkable.

However, it is how the Whites have overcome adversity and significant technical rule changes that makes their story all the more compelling.

Their maiden TARGA Tasmania win arrived in 2005 when all-wheel-drive cars could fight for Outright honours as they guided their troublesome Nissan R34 GT-R home first.

They then switched machinery when an opportunity arose to buy a wrecked Lamborghini Gallardo which they ultimately steered to TARGA Tasmania wins in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

But when the rules meant that all-wheel-drive powertrains could no longer fight for Outright honours, the Whites took the plunge to campaign a powerful rear-wheel-drive Dodge Viper which has supplied them with TARGA Tasmania wins in 2017 and 2018.

Switching from the flamboyant Italian supercar to American muscle also meant huge challenges for their headquarters in Tasmania’s north as machinery and development had to undergo a considerable change.

Co-driver John White is the owner of the globally acclaimed company Delta Hydraulics which manufactures hydraulic cylinders from its base in Devonport and which also has a factory in Thailand.

White says it is part of the family make-up to rise to challenges.

“You are given a challenge you rise to the occasion,” John White said.

“The rules have changed over the years and it’s just part of the challenge.

“It is what it’s going to be and you just have to adapt to stay within the rules and find improvement in other areas.

“The effort you put into developing a car and finally get it to a position where it’s reliable is huge.”

Ahead of their first TARGA Tasmania win in the Nissan, the Whites were flummoxed by the Skyline’s trait of blowing engines until they found the root cause of the problem.

“We blew four or five engines in the Nissan until we discovered there was a problem with the wall thickness of cylinder No 6 where it was 8mm on one side and 3mm on the other side. 

“Under stress it was going out of round and it was cracking in the 3mm section.

“The effort we put into getting that vehicle to a spot where it was reliable and would finish an event was massive.

“Then it had passed its due date by then and consequently we knew that we had to move on.” 

Enter the Lamborghini Gallardo, a V10-powered pocket rocket, which fed its considerable grunt to all four wheels.

“Circumstances allowed us to switch to the Lambo that (Paul) Stokell drove in the event we won (2005),” White explained.

“It became available and we got that at a discount price after Stokell crashed the car which allowed us to enter a very expensive vehicle into a TARGA event.”

“We had a little bit of a problem with fire with that vehicle for some reason. But we managed to rebuild it after the fire during TARGA Wrest Point in 2014 and we managed to win again.

“But then the rules changed again and the four-wheel-drive cars became also-rans.

“So if you wanted to win TARGA you had to be in a two-wheel-drive and that’s when we put the Lambo up on the shelf and purchased the Viper.”

While the success of the Viper in such a demanding test like TARGA Tasmania with its technically challenging mix of tight, twisty and flowing roads has astounded some, White is less surprised.

“We haven’t been surprised at the success we have had in the Viper. 

“A lot of the electronics have progressed dramatically over the last 10 years.

“The stability we have now with traction control is far, far superior to what it was in the past and hand-in-hand is ABS (anti-lock braking).

“The ability to extract maximum performance from a two-wheel-drive car has been enhanced by the evolution of electronics.

“We have certainly been able to match it with everything else that has been brought out at the moment such as the Mercedes (AMG GT R) and the Porsches etc.

“I think there is still a couple of years left in the Viper.”

The combination of Jason White behind the wheel with John calling the notes has worked well for nearly two decades.

“We have been in an era in the last 15 to 20 years where there are a lot of competitive cars and I really believe Jason has done an incredible job to drive as well as he has under tremendous pressure.”

John White has been vital in keeping the family at the forefront of TARGA’s evolutionary phase.

“It (the TARGA campaign) wouldn’t be happening without the help of Delta Hydraulics.

“I’m in the fortunate position that I’ve got a successful operation here that manages to come up with the funding each year to be able to do it.

“TARGA Tasmania is an incredible event on a world scale and we can’t wait to compete again.”

TARGA Tasmania is part of the Motorsport Australia TARGA Championship that includes TARGA Great Barrier Reef and TARGA High Country.

For more information including spectator and road closures head to targa.com.au