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What to expect - stage by stage

Targa has asked the event’s inaugural modern champion, Jason White (2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme) to give a competitor’s description of the stages.

Photo: Angryman Photography

Targa Great Barrier Reef stage-by-stage

The second running of Targa Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland features a breathtaking course take embraces some of the world’s most evocative scenic routes.

Based in Queensland’s most northern city, Cairns, the tarmac rally takes in a sweeping variety of Atherton Tablelands roads from the ever-turning, twisty and narrow to the sweeping high-speed bends of Kuranda’s famous range.

There have been some tweaks to the route in 2019 with the town of Mareeba hosting a couple of short and dynamic stages as well as doubling as the lunch stop for Leg 2 on Saturday, August 31.

Targa has asked the event’s inaugural modern champion, Jason White (2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme) to give a competitor’s description of the stages.


Targa Stage (TS) 1 Greenhill 6.01km:

Cutting through the cane fields south of Cairns this gives us a chance to focus on the task in front of us. It is a relatively tame section of road where we can basically ease into our work ahead of the more challenging runs.

TS 2&3 Gillies Range/Little Mulgrave 19.47km: 

This is 19km of intense cornering and is a very low top-speed run. You seem to be in first and second gear for much of it which was really interesting trying to get the Viper through there last year. The amount of power it has – you don’t get to use too much of it here. We seemed to be fighting wheel spin the whole way through being so low down in the gears.

But it’s a heap of fun trying not to boil the tyres at the same time.

Coming back down Little Mulgrave is slightly more of a challenge on brakes and tyres. For us it was more enjoyable coming down the hill because we weren’t trying to fight horsepower.


TS 4&5 Lake Morris/Copperlode 11.53km: 

These runs were even tighter than what the Gillies Range was but it is technically enjoyable. It’s quite nerve-wracking though because there are so many gutters popping out of the middle of nowhere and rocks and stuff. You spend an inordinate amount of time in first gear. I think we slotted it into third gear once for a fleeting moment. Both up and down you get a sweat up by the time you get to the end. But they are really good, fun stages to drive.



TS 6 Springmount 6.15km: 

We have not recced this stage as yet. It is a completely new route for this year and while it is short, I’m sure it will be no less challenging.

TS 7 Mareeba 7.33km:

Like Springmount, Mareeba is completely new and we have no first-hand experience with the stage as yet. We are really looking forward to the rally going to a whole new area up on the Tablelands.

TS 8 Upper Barron 6.14km:

Similar to Lake Morris this is very tight and car placement is critical. While the distance is quite short, you still have to be really on your game to keep the car out of trouble.

TS 9 North Johnstone 8.46km: 

Again not a super long stage but there are some sections that really have you on your toes. It is ‘cresty’ in some areas and this is enough for you to leave the ground briefly. It is quite technical and you cannot afford to make any errors through here.


TS 10 Yungaburra 6.57km: 

This is tight and narrow which typifies a lot of the roads on top of the escarpment. You have to have the car in exactly the right position on the road otherwise you will fire off into the weeds in a flash. You can’t afford to flirt with the verge of the road too much here and risk tyre damage or a potential rally-ending mistake.



TS 11 Kuranda 11.31km: 

This is real Viper territory for us, nice and wide. It’s one of those stages where we got to the end last year and thought we could have gone quite a bit faster. It’s hard when you go across a stage for the first time to get the most out of it. Kuranda is fast and flowing and a nice surface. There is so much road you can use. You can drive it into a corner tight and a bit too hard and then still have a lot of road to play with on the outside. It’s a vast difference to the other stages I’ve described on the Tablelands.

TS 12 Malanda 13.50km:

This is a typically tight Tablelands section. Like a lot of the stages up there, it is tight and demanding. It is quite a test and is another one that requires so much concentration.

TS 13&16 Moregatta 14.55km:

One of the longer stages and it offers some more high-speed stuff where the Viper can stretch its legs. There is a lot of decent top speed opportunities but again you need to find a balance as the road is quite narrow so there is no room to get out of trouble. Again it is reasonably ‘cresty’ in parts and tricky. If someone really knew these repeat runs they would be able to make up a heap of time.

TS 14&15 Millaa Millaa/Palmerstone 28.81km:

Just about all the stages up here have tricky crests that are quite hard to read and this is no exception. These are awesome stages and are run on the old highway. It is a hell of a challenge because there are about three or four different surface changes. Although it is quite narrow all the way through, it feels like four shorter stages all joined together. 

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