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Matt moves closer to High Country win

Victorian Matt Close has put his stamp of authority on Targa High Country, dominating the second day of the event in his 2015 Porsche GT3.
Matt Close in his new Porsche GT3
Competing in the Showroom section, Close started the day behind 15 seconds behind his arch-rival, Tony Quinn in a 2014 McLaren 650S. But the Victorian won all five of the day’s stages to take a 27 lead into the final day of the Mt Buller based rally.

Perth’s Stewart Liddle, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, has continued his domination of the 4WD Showroom competition, while Toby Gill’s similar car leads the Modern competition.

In the Outright battle between the classic cars, Tasmanian Pete Nunn has moved into a clear lead in his 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo, 19 seconds in front.

Day 2 of Targa High Country took competitors from Mt Buller into the King Valley and back, via five competitive stages covering a distance of 55.15 kilometres.

The day’s fast and flowing stages clearly favoured Matt Close in his Showroom class Porsche GT3. Right from the start of the day he was in a class of his own, turning a 15 second deficit into a handy 27 second advantage.

Quinn could do nothing to hold Close at bay, but managed to drive fast enough to stay nearly 30 seconds ahead of the 2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT of Craig Dean.

Targa legend, Jim Richards, holds down fourth place in a brand new Porsche GT4, well clear of the front-wheel drive Renault Megane of Ben Newman.

“Now that it’s dried out I feel a lot more confident in the new car, so we had a red hot go today,” Close said.

“Yesterday seemed like an easy day to have a big crash so we got through it and then pushed on today.

“The Porsche GT3 is an unbelievably quick car for a standard road car. I’m really looking forward to the longer and tighter stages tomorrow, where the car should be just as good.

“But you can never write off Quinny. He has a mountain of experience and we’ll need to be on our game.”

The top five positions in the 4WD Showroom class remained unchanged throughout the day, with Liddle’s Mitsubishi keeping its advantage over Angus Kennard’s Nissan and Ralph Norton’s Subaru.

“The car has gone absolutely faultlessly,” Liddle said. “I’d actually prefer it to be wet as the car is great in those conditions, but we’re having a great time regardless.

“We’ll attack tomorrow with gusto. We’ve put new front tyres for tomorrow to try and keep Angus (Kennard) at bay, and hopefully we can come home with the win.”

In Modern, Toby Gill has driven his Mitsubishi Lancer hard to skip ahead of the Subaru WRX of Nathan Reeves, 26 seconds his arrears. Max Williams has impressed on day two and lies third, still in the running with a long day still to come.

“The car’s going really well and with the dry stages today it was great fun,” Gill said.

“Tomorrow’s stages are tight and twisty, which should really suit our car. The long 40km stages will be hard work, but we’ll push hard for the win.”

Pete Nunn and Matthew Cardinaels have had a back and forth battle in Classic Outright. The Tasmanian trailed at the end of the day’s first stage, but pushed hard over the final four stages to build a lead of 19 seconds on stages that he admitted suited his Porsche well.

Cardinaels won’t be giving up though. His Datsun 240Z has shown its pace, and with a handy buffer over third placed Adam Kaplan, he’s well placed to make a final day charge.

“It was a good day, and despite a small oil leak on the final stage, the car has been perfect,” Nunn explained.

“There wasn’t enough competitive kilometres today to build any more of an advantage, so the plan is to push hard and have a good clean run on the first 40km stage tomorrow, and then hopefully bring it home.

“You can’t back off too much though, as the pace is really fast and we need to keep in a good rhythm.”

The handicap classes are being led by the Datsun of Jon Siddins (Early Classic) and Cardinaels’ Datsun (Late Classic), while Alan Roe has maintained his lead in Early Modern.

In other classes, Daniel Trevarthen (Holden Commodore) leads Sports Trophy, Keith Brooke (Porsche 911) Thoroughbred Trophy, and the Subaru WRX of Jordan Bridge still leads the TSD Trophy.

The final day of Targa High Country is the toughest of the three. Two massive 40 kilometre stages on the way to Eildon and back, and a competitive distance of 125 kilometres, will test drivers to their limits.

After the final run up Mt Buller on Sunday afternoon, the winners of Targa High Country will be presented with their celebratory champagne at the victory presentation.

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