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High Country - stage by stage

Double event champ Matt Close offers a driver’s insight into what confronts competitors at the 10th anniversary Targa High Country from November 8 to 10.
Matt Close in action in 2018 at Targa High Country

Double event champ Matt Close offers a driver’s insight into what confronts competitors at the 10th anniversary Targa High Country from November 8 to 10.

Taking in a portion of the Victorian alpine region, High Country involves a diverse mix of climbs, descents, twists and turns over smooth and course bitumen.

The three-day rally is based in the resort village of Mount Buller and includes a popular street stage through Mansfield in the foothills which also hosts the TargaFest display that is always popular among hordes of fans.

There are a total of 20 stages to be run with eight each on the opening two days while four are scheduled for Sunday, which includes two marathon tests, Jamieson (48.73km) and Eildon (39.95).

Take a closer look at the stages as seen by Matt Close who has competed in all but one High Country event. Close will be debuting a brand new lizard green coloured 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS.


Targa Stage (TS) 1 Mirimbah 6.76km:

This stage is repeated on all three days so when we do it on the first day it is clean but then on the second and third time generally it is damp or wet. It is always very tricky to start with as you come down the mountain and you’ve got cold tyres and the pressures aren’t normalised. You hope you don’t bleed too much time and do something fairly respectable without taking too many risks. It’s an easy one to have a crash on first thing in the morning.


TS 2&7 Cummings Creek/Mount Terrible 8.21km:


A lot of uphill, a very aggressive surface first time around. It’s a case of dialling yourself in quickly. It suits the high horsepower cars initially. You need to get yourself on the pace notes and go as quickly as you can early because it’s easy to lose a lot of time if you are a bit slow to wake up. The stage is repeated in the afternoon with a downhill run.


TS 3&6 Warburton/Dry Creek Hill 10.55km:  


Its fast and flowing but again aggressive bitumen so you have to look after your tyres a little bit. A good fun stage overall and in the dry you can just get into it. To me it seems a bit more enjoyable going the other way because it starts fast and then gets a bit twistier. Anything that starts fast you tend to be able to get the tyres up a bit earlier.


TS 4&5 Devils River/Skyline 10.44km/10.30km: 


Apart from Mount Buller, its among my favourite High Country stages. There is a good amount of technical corners and lots of blind, cresty stuff. It really seems to test a good handling car. They are both really fun stages for me.


TS 8 Mount Buller 18.21km: T


This is my all-time favourite stage in tarmac rallying to be honest. It starts really fast and has got a bit of everything. There’s hairpins and we all know it very well because we’ve raced it so many times. We will be going pretty hard on this run as most of the front-runners do. I think Jason (White) took the record off me last year so we will be trying hard to get that back. 



TS 9 Mirrimbah 2 6.76km:

As described for TS 1

TS 10/15 Barwite/Bridge Creek 7.45km/7.41km:

These are stages that are really suitable to the Porsche. There’s lots of very smooth bitumen and lots of very visible corners.

TS 11&14 Tolmie/Powers Lookout 16.37km/16/14km:

There is a bit of everything in this run and these repeat stages have been pretty good to us in the past. It is very fast and flowing so in the notes there are lots of eights, nines and tens (fast or flat out corners) so if you have a car that is very stable at high speed you will do pretty well there. There’s only a couple of second-gear corners but there’s lots of corners that keep going and you are just waiting for the corner to finish.

TS 12&13 Whitfield/King Valley 8.12km:

These are very quick particularly going downhill and there is a section through the middle where you recce it and it seems to have a lot of corners however when you race it you wonder where those corners go. It’s very fast, like high-speed esses. There’s not too many bumps and its really quick. The whole of Leg 2 is really fast so it suits the cars with plenty of horsepower.

TS 16 MANSFIELD 3.62km:

You always try pretty hard here in front of what is always a strong crowd lining the streets of the town. It’s a matter of not touching a kerb yet still maintaining good pace. I don’t feel that it suits our GT3 that much in that it is not a point and shoot sort of a car. Corner speed is really where we make our time up. The braking ability of the Porsche is fantastic so we capitalise on late braking and getting it turned and shooting out. All the front runners will be trying pretty hard here.


TS 17 Mirrimbah 3 6.76km:

As described for TS 1

TS 18/19 Jamieson/Eildon 48.73km/39.95km:

It’s a case of; to go fast you’ve got to go slow. This is one of the few stages that if you go 10/10ths to start with you probably won’t have any tyres or brakes left at the end. We don’t struggle with brakes but tyres we can certainly send off so it’s all about tyre management. You need to give the tyres a bit of a rest through the middle where it flattens out.

It’s good to start off with a 9/10ths approach and then I know with four or five kays to go and everything is holding together I can get into it a bit. Generally most people struggle with keeping their tyres together.

You certainly don’t want to get to the point where the rubber is destroyed at the end because you need them on the way back on the repeat as well. 

Where you struggle on the way back is on the uphill section which is on new bitumen and is very aggressive course chip stuff. It just rips your tyres to shreds. The last 10km even going uphill there is a lot of understeer as well and you don’t get the weight transfer in the car under brakes. Hopefully you get to that point in the rally where you’ve sorted out where you are going to finish.

TS 20 Mount Buller 2 18.22km:

As described for TS 8.

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