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One of Targa’s toughest tests

The fourth day of Targa Tasmania is renowned for producing drama, a reminder that the event is a test of endurance as much as speed. In 2014, ‘Super Saturday’ was one of the more dramatic in the event’s 23-year history.

Jamie Vandenberg is suddenly the modern leader
Overnight modern leader, Steve Glenney, was the first to go, a failed gearbox meaning his Nissan GT-R did not even make it to the start line in Strahan. 

Defending champion Jason White suddenly found himself comfortably out in front in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, but he too fell short, crashing out on the Riana stage when a famous victory looked certain.

Brutal conditions from heavy rain meant it was a difficult day, even for the reigning champion.

“It is really gutting,” said White. “We had a two and a half minute lead and we were lining ourselves up for a good finish.

“I tried to brake but just couldn’t do anything. It was just like ice.”

With the top two gone, Jamie Vandenberg leapt into the lead, having charged ahead of Matt Closes’ Audi TT RS across the opening four stages of the day.

Vandenberg, driving a Nissan GT-R, finished the day 16 -seconds clear of Close, and with the third placed Tony Quinn a further five minutes in arrears, it looks set for a two-car tussle all the way to the finish line in Hobart on Sunday.

Classic Outright was a little more sedate, overnight leader Craig Haysman keeping his 1981 Triumph TR7 out of trouble, extending his lead to more than three minutes over the 1974 Porsche Carrera RS of South Australian Roger Patterson.

In Showroom action, Targa great Jim Richards hit a fence on Riana and damaged the radiator on his Porsche Camyan S, handing the Showroom Sports lead to Michael Minshall in an Audi TT RS.

In Showroom 4WD, Clinton Arentz, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, finally cleared out on Ben Newman’s Subaru WRX STI who had boost problems.

With chaos all around him, Vandenberg managed to stay out of trouble.

“There’s been plenty of dramas today and luckily we managed to stay out of them,” said Vandenberg.

“We’ve been making up time on Matt (Close) all day, but we stopped to help Whitey (Jason White) when he crashed, so we got a derived time for the stage.

“There’s still a long way to go, but we’ve been rotating our tyres to maximise grip and wear every day, so we didn’t really have any tyre problems today.

“We’ve still got two good sets of tyres, so it shouldn’t be an issue tomorrow either.”

Close will still like his chances on the run to Hobart after taking a cautious approach on the penultimate day.

“We’ve got a real battle on our hands now.”

“We’ve been fairly conservative today as it was absolutely treacherous out there and we had a couple of moments early so we pulled our horns in a bit,” Close said.

“We thought we’d made the wrong tyre choice, but the conditions were the problem today, not the tyres.”

Haysman’s conservative approach also paid off.

“We had to pull back a bit today as the roads were so wet and greasy,” Haysman said.

“The last five kilometres of Riana were horrendous – we saw at least six or seven cars off, and we couldn’t get grip, so we backed off. Luckily we had enough of a buffer to maintain the lead.”

Barry Faux had a day he’d rather forget, but still leads Late Classics while the Early Classic has a new leader in Andrew White, driving a 1961 Volvo 1225.

Ben Manion had dominated Early Modern for three days, but alternator issues handed the class lead to another 1990 Skyline driven by Liam Howarth.

Andrew Bollom (Renault Megane 250) has a stanglehold on Showroom, as does Craig Dean in Modern Muscle Cars.

Sunday sees a final six stages across 100 competitive kilometres, with the field looking forward to crossing the finish line at Hobart’s Wrest Point after surviving a brutal five-day motorsport test.

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