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White braces for tough challenge

Ace pair Jason and John White are bracing for their toughest challenge yet at the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland.

Photo: Angryman Photography

The Whites have become icons of tarmac rallying in Australia with an incredible seven outright wins to their credit at Targa Tasmania, one short of the all-time record set by Jim Richards and Barry Oliver.

After having two preliminary runs through the 18 stages to start constructing their pace notes, Jason White believes the supreme horsepower and torque of their Dodge Viper will be compromised on the ever-twisting stages.

At Targa Tasmania in April, the Whites had to nurse their tyres in the closing stages to prevail, however they feel they will have to think about their strategy more than ever to survive on the tight, tropical mountain roads.

“Although it is a lot shorter (than Targa Tasmania) in the amount of kays, some of the stages have got more corners per kilometre than most of the stages in Tassie,” Jason White said.

“One of the stages in particular has all the tight sections of Hellyer Gorge (iconic Targa Tasmania stage) but they are strung together for 20 kilomettres. About the longest straight in the stage is about 100m.

“There is no real time for the tyres to take a breather. For those stages, we will really have to show a bit of caution with the temperature.

“We can’t make any other considerations in terms of choosing a more suitable tyre and compound. We have to run the tyre that comes with the car. 

“It’s a very good fast tyre but we will have to think about it a lot more than ever before.”

White feels the nimble Lotus Exige of experienced former circuit racing champion Paul Stokell and Erin Kelly will be suited to the tight, narrow stages.

“The Lotus will be a lot better suited to a lot of the roads we are running up there,” White suggests.

“The other point is that at least half to three-quarters of the event, the roads are very, very narrow. 

“It’s just one lane. Some cars will have a tyre hanging over the bitumen just driving normally so they are really narrow.

“Some are quite fast and narrow so car placement is going to be critical.

“As a whole it is something that is completely different to anything we have got anywhere else around Australia.

“It looks like it is going to be an exceptional event and a completely different challenge. 

“With the Viper, we obviously would like everything nice and fast and flowing so we can make the most of power and downforce. But I don’t think those two things are going to dictate who will win the event.”

Following Targa Tasmania, the Viper had some repairs to battle scars after a hard-fought campaign.

The front chassis rails, damaged toward the end of that event, were fixed while the Viper was given an overhaul of elements susceptible to wear and tear including the suspension and ball joints.

“We’ve done a few events since we’ve had the car so it was time to give it a bit of a birthday,” White said.

The Viper crew will arrive a few days ahead of the event’s official start to touch-off final preparations for the three-day dash in the tropics.

“We’ll arrive on Tuesday and do a check of our pace notes and do our final preparations,” White said.

 “We’ve driven all the stages twice. It’s a very tricky event to do recce for because the Gillies Range and the Kuranda Range and a couple of other places are very high traffic areas. 

“Having said that we have got a pretty fair idea of where everything is heading and we’ve shot a heap of video of the stages.

“A fair bit of the recce that we do is just checking the notes against the video we have shot in the car. 

“It’s all part of the sport. You can’t expect to go out there and go fast if you haven’t done the preparation.”

Targa Great Barrier Reef will start 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.

For a copy of the spectator guide, click here.

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