Mercedes AMG GT R set for tropical TARGA tilt

The highly anticipated TARGA debut of the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R is set to ignite the sharp end of the field at the Cairns-based leg of the Championship from September 4 to 6.

Following sweeping changes to TARGA’S technical regulations for 2020, the hero of the AMG GT range will contest the GTO (outright) class for the first time in the high profile national tarmac rally competition.

Driver Luke Anear has taken the plunge in swapping the 2015 Subaru WRX, which he piloted to the 2019 Motorsport Australia GT4 Championship, for the technically advanced Mercedes.

Sourced by Launceston Mercedes dealer Buckby Motors, the GT R has been specifically redesigned and prepared for TARGA competition on challenging Australian roads.

Tasmanian Jason White, driver of TARGA’S most rapid weapon of recent seasons – the Dodge Viper, has constructed the rollcage for the Mercedes while Peter Nunn Motorsport has poured hundreds of hours of painstaking preparation into Anear’s new ride.

The GT R’s undercarriage has been completely replaced with acclaimed Dutch company Reiger’s suspension and dampers. 

“We sent over the original GT R suspension to Reiger in The Netherlands where they designed a whole new suspension and shock set-up,” Anear explained.

“This is the first time that Reiger has designed a suspension for an AMG GT R.

“I haven’t driven it with the new set-up yet so we will find out how it performs at TARGA Great Barrier Reef. The Reiger suspension will allow us to hit the bumps and jumps at speed.

“Peter Nunn Motorsport has done all the prep work on the car, spending hundreds of hours and Jason White took the roof off and built the roll cage.

“It was a big job by Whitey involving about 450 hours work to build a cage that fits right into the chassis of the car.”

Anear’s only handling of the car was a few runs at Tasmania’s Poatina Hillclimb event in early March when the GT R was sprung with its factory AMG-tuned suspension.

Regular co-driver Alan Stephenson is unable to make the journey from Sydney to North Queensland due to border restrictions with Anear confirming top Adelaide co-driver Andy Sarandis as his replacement.

The Anear/Stephenson combination won GT4 at TARGA Great Barrier Reef in 2019 and were classified in fourth outright behind Jason and John White (Viper) in outright standings.

Anear maintains he is committed to pushing the new machine to its limits.

“We don’t want to sit back and use this as a practice run.

“We will be going as quick as we can and see if we can put some good times in.

“It’s important we use this time to get as much data on the car and understand how it performs with tyre wear throughout the weekend.

“Whitey’s Viper has been the car to beat the last couple of years and he had a lot of speed and we know what his times are from this event last year.”

While the Viper has not been able to make the trip from Tasmania for TARGA Great Barrier Reef, the GTO list includes perennial TARGA competitor Tony Quinn and co-driver Brian Foster in a 2018 Nissan GT-R R35 and Queenslanders Tony and Sandra Seymour in a 2013 Lotus Exige.