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Targa organisers looking to expand event across the Far North

The stunning coastal strip ­between Cairns and Port Douglas could form part of next year’s Targa Great Barrier Reef tarmac rally.

Organisers will sit down with Douglas Shire Council next month, as part of a visit to debrief with all stakeholders in the wake of the inaugural event, to discuss how “we can incorporate them into the event in year two and beyond”.

No doubt it would be a popular stage but we have to talk to all the stakeholders,” Targa Australia event director Mark Perry said.

“We’d love to encompass as many areas as we can … Cairns will always be the heart.”

Drivers are already itching to sign up for the 2019 event. Entries open this Friday.

Mr Perry said next year driver numbers would be capped at 250 making it the second biggest tarmac rally in the world after Targa Tasmania.

“I haven’t heard anybody say they’re not coming back,” he said.

“There’s always the expectation from competitors that courses are different from one year to the next and there’s nothing to suggest it won’t be the case.”

Mr Perry said choices for new roads were limited and he was unable to confirm if any new stages would include a street circuit in Cairns.

“It’s definitely on the wishlist,” he said, adding that safety was paramount.

“We would need to be 110 per cent convinced we could do it safely.”

The Copperlode Dam stage was one of the most popular with Targa GBR drivers and Mr Perry said there’s no doubt it “will quickly become an iconic part of this event”.

“Now we’ve got a bit of time we can start to think about what the future looks like and are able to explore deeper and look at more options,” Mr Perry said.

“Our initial focus was about getting an event up and ­running and delivering it.”

Mr Perry confirmed the event would be marketed ­internationally to Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan.

“They are all car markets. Particularly Japan … they have been waiting for us to run this event,” he said.

At this stage there was no talk of extending the contract beyond three years but Mr Perry said those talks would probably occur after year two.

“From our perspective … there’s no end to the event, it’ll be reliant on all the stakeholders and emergency services willing to approve the event and their part in it,” he said.

“We’re just part of the ­equation on whether it has a long-term future or not.

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