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Crews accelerate preparations

Competitors are touching off intricate reconnaissance runs in the lead up to Targa Great Barrier Reef from August 31-September 2.

Ashley Yelds in his magnificently presented 1961 Volvo 122S

Competitors are touching off intricate reconnaissance runs in the lead up to Targa Great Barrier Reef from August 31-September 2.

The tarmac rally based at Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north is the penultimate event in the four-round CAMS sanctioned Australian Targa Championship.

A field of more than 200 across eight competitive categories and four touring groups will take on the challenging roads around the Atherton Tableland.

Experienced Targa campaigner Ashley Yelds is leaving no stone unturned in preparation for the northern swing of the Targa Championship.

Yelds and his co-driver Charlie Hughes have recently spent time driving over the stages of the three-leg event with a view to fine-tuning their pace notes in the days before the Tropical North Queensland rally commences.

The crew guided their 1961 Volvo 122S to second place behind the 1941 Jimmy Special of Graham Copeland and Josh Herbert at the iconic Targa Tasmania in April in the Shannons Classic section.

Yelds, from Hornsby in New South Wales, said competitors will face unique challenges at the new event.

 “We’ve had a good drive of all the stages,” Yelds said.

“The Gillies Range road is going to be quite the drive. It’s around 20km long and is going to be a real workout especially in an old car without power steering and anti-lock brakes.

“There’s elements of the Queenstown (Targa Tasmania stage) in it in that the bends keep on coming and coming and coming.”

Based on his initial impression of the route, Yelds said TGBR is going to be a difficult three-day ‘sprint’.

“Running up and down the Atherton Tableland escarpment intensely, there’s an equal challenge there in keeping your act together,” he added.

“Tasmania has the endurance element being six days, circumnavigating the island, there are character changes as you go around.

“Targa Great Barrier Reef is going to be hard not to look at it as a three-day sprint and with comes all sorts of peril.

“The smoothness of the road surface on Gillies Range road is great but there is going to be a danger of overheating your tyres on the way up or running out of brakes on the way down.

“I think competitors who have done Tassie a few times will find it a different type of challenge. There’s a set of challenges there that will be quite unique.”

Yelds, who won his class at the 2017 Targa North West event in his first assignment as driver after co-driving in the Volvo since 2009, said he has adopted pace notes to suit the 1800cc 122S, which runs disc brakes with carbon/kevlar pads and has fully adjustable suspension architecture.

“Over the years I’ve adopted pace notes that suit the car then you modify the driver’s style,” Yelds said.

“So when we do the recce, our notes are all about how much speed we carry through these corners.

“Because the car is not high powered we’ve got to make the most of every corner and carry our corner speed as much as we can.

“As this is a new event we don’t have a base to refine from so it needs two gos (recces). 

“So Charlie (Hughes) will spend the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and probably a bit of Wednesday getting it as right as we in the week before the event.”

The official start is from the Cairns Reef Hotel Casino on August 31 before the field makes its way to the first of 18 stages at Green Hill.

Locals will also be able to get up close to the cars at Targafest, to be held on The Esplanade in Cairns on Saturday September 1 from 4pm to 9pm.

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