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White claims historic Targa Great Barrier Reef win

Dodge Viper pair Jason and John White completed a dominant outright victory at the maiden Targa Great Barrier Reef tarmac rally in Tropical North Queensland.

Photo: Angryman Photograhy

Leading from the outset, the Whites blitzed the 16-stage, 200 kilometre event run on the challenging roads on the Atherton Tablelands outside of Cairns. The Tasmanian nephew and uncle duo finished winners by 53 seconds.

The battle for the podium placings saw Paul Stokell and Malcolm Read eventually prevail in their Lotus Exige after they traded places several times with Lotus rivals Jeff Morton and Cameron Reeves who were a further six seconds back.

The final outright podium also reflects the top three finishing order It’s Live in Queensland GT2 class.

The absorbing tussle saw Stokell walk a fine line between pushing to the limit and playing the percentages game with the four-round CAMS Australian Targa Championship weighing heavily on his mind.

Stokell is now in the box seat to claim the title, which will be decided in Victoria in November, after leaping to the lead on 206 points, 36 clear of White.

The Whites scarcely put a wheel wrong, dropping time only threes during the three-day event which drew a huge number of spectators on the stages and fans at night time activities in the Cairns CBD.

“This was a really good event to challenge ourselves as it was a real level playing field with no-one having a home advantage,” White said.

“Events like Targa Tasmania we’ve done over 20 times, so you get a bit for familiar with the roads, whereas no one was familiar the roads up here, so it was a very good equaliser and very close competition as well.

“We didn’t win any stages by a large amount – it was just one second here and two seconds there, so it was a really good close battle.”

Stokell could find no answer to reeling in the more powerful Viper on some of the tighter stages which would ordinarily see the agile little Lotus gain an advantage.

“We had a good battle with Jason (White), but we were really up against it in the horsepower stakes,” Stokell said.

“We’ve taken over the outright Championship lead so we’ve had a good weekend.”

Queensland business tycoon Tony Quinn and co-driver Kate Catford finished the last stage in fourth outright and first in the Dutton Garage Early Modern class, but a mechanical problem on the transport back to Cairns saw him penalised five minutes and forfeit his spoils. Class honours went instead to Liam and Larry Howrath in a 1995 Nissan Skyline GTR.

Victory in the Shannons Classic GT saw Michael and Daniel Bray continue their rich vein of form.

We’re really stoked and the whole event was an awesome experience for us,” Michael Bray said.

The Shannons Classic Handicap saw Ashley Yelds and Charlie Hughes hold on to victory in a hotly contested class in their 1961 Volvo 122S.

“We really thought we didn’t have a chance in this event, so we’re a little bit overwhelmed by it, to be honest,” said Yelds. “It was a challenging event and a lot of the stages were very technical.”

The outcome in the Cairns Regional Council GT4 category saw Queenslanders Mark Balcombe and Brian Foster guide their 2011 Nissan GTR R35 to victory.

Reef Hotel & Casino GT Sports Trophy was taken out by Mark and Scott Meletopoulo took their Lotus Exige S to a 38 second victory.

After some tight competition throughout the event, Thoroughbred Trophy ended with an easy victory to Tim and Kym Hall in their 1980 Holden Commodore.

TSD Trophy winners were Darryl and Peter Marshall in the 2002 Ford Falcon Pursuit Ute 250.

Competition will return for the final round of the CAMS Australian Targa Championship at Mt Buller in the Victorian High Country from November 9-11.

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From the ground, in the air and onboard, relive the drama, excitement and colour from the 27th running of the World’s Ultimate Tarmac Rally.

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