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Stokell set for title defence in upgraded Lotus

Former Tasmanian Paul Stokell will use Targa North West this weekend as a live test in his beefed-up Lotus Exige.

During the off-season Stokell fitted an upgraded supercharger intercooler to the 2014 Exige which is expected to help the lightweight two-seater pack more punch as the tarmac rally season kicks off in his old home state.

Stokell defied the odds to beat the more powerful GT2 machines and win the inaugural CAMS Australian Targa Championship last year through sheer consistency without experiencing a win in overall Modern Outright.

“We’ve upgraded to the latest spec Exige. It’s now the same spec as Jeff Morton ran last year,” Stokell confirmed.

“We are allowed a factory upgraded which has now been done.

“But I haven’t driven it yet so I wouldn’t have a clue how good it is.

“It’s basically the hot climate kit. Because of the heat they run a large capacity supercharger rather than try to spin it faster.”

It is hoped the change will drag the Lotus closer to the mighty Dodge Viper and the quick GT2 Porsches, while the new package puts Stokell’s machine on an even keel with Jeff Morton’s 2017 Lotus Exige.

“I really don’t know how competitive we are going to be. We still have a car that hasn’t got DSG (electronically controlled direct shift sequential gearbox),” Stokell added.

“It is still the standard Toyota gearbox and is quite slow in its gear change.

“It doesn’t have traction control and we are still a bit behind the eight ball but at least we’ve got a bit more power to play with now.”

Stokell will be joined by accomplished co-driver Kate Catford for the first time.

The change has come after Kiwi Malcolm Read, who called the notes for Stokell at the last two events last year, will be unavailable for Targa Tasmania in late April due to a clashing Asia Pacific Rally Championship event in New Zealand.

“Targa Tasmania is what I’m aiming to get to and when Malcolm couldn’t do that and had a rethink I realised that Kate was available.”

Stokell is looking forward to a solid start to the defence of his CAMS Australian Targa Championship campaign in the revised Lotus at Targa North West.

“Because the Viper didn’t finish last year at North West we won GT2 and finished second outright,” Stokell said.

“It will be interesting now to see what the changes give us in terms of performance and how close we can get to the Viper and top Porsches.

“My ultimate goal is Targa Tas and I’m treating this as a shakedown for that really.”

The two-day Targa North West event is based out of Burnie starting on Saturday.

It features six stages on Day 1 as it kicks off with the short 3.79km Montumana blast with the lunch stop at Stanley.

Day 2 on Sunday will close with the fourth repeated run through the time-honoured Hellyer Gorge pass that stretches just over 20.60km.

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