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White out at Targa High Country

Everything was white today after snow hit Mt Buller and made the run off the mountain a challenge for all, particularly if you didn't have a roof on your car. Graham Copeland survived the run off the mountain to make it through the rest of the day.
Graham Copeland and Josh Herbert. Photo credit: Angryman Photography

Dodge Viper driver Jason White and his co-driver uncle John lead the field outright after a truncated opening day to the 10th anniversary Targa High Country.

Conditions on Mount Buller saw the ceremonial start from the Mount Buller village cancelled amid increasing snow cover.

Eventually the field made a belated start at the foothills of the alps, however officials were forced to make an early call and cancel the final stage of the opening day which was set to finish on top of Mount Buller.

Continued snow falls and worsening conditions on Saturday morning meant it was safer for all the cars to be parked overnight at lower altitude and eliminate any risk of not getting off the mountain on Saturday morning.

White seemed at home in the conditions, setting the fastest time on six of the seven stages to take a 25 second lead over Paul Stokell and Kate Catford in their Lotus Exige in Outright standings at the end of the first of three days.

“It was pretty much ideal conditions for us,” Jason White reflected. “We probably had a lot more grip and outright performance than what we expected.

“In a few spots it was pretty hard to summons the courage to poke into some of the corners as we did.

The only time the Whites conceded ground was on TS 6 (Dry Creek Hill) when Stokell topped the 10.61km run which severed what would have been a run of six straight stage wins for the Viper.

“We only got caught out in one spot with some slightly lower tyre pressures that what was ideal just a misjudgement but that rest of it I’m very happy with,” White said.

“Probably the most nervous part of the day was driving at 4km/h trying to get down the hill for the first stage rather than the speed we are supposed to be doing.”

Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey sit in third outright and in GT2, one minute 20 seconds behind White, with John Ireland and Janet Binns in fourth another 13 seconds back, both in Dodge Vipers.

Peter Nunn and Keith Johnstone are showing the way in Dutton Garage Early Modern with a 13s lead in their 2001 Porsche 996 Turbo from Guy and John Lilleyman (2006 Mitsubishi Evo IX while the 1995 Nissan Skyline GTR of Liam and Larry Howarth is a further 19s back in third.

In Classic Handicap, Graham Copeland and Josh Herbert endured the snowy start in their open-topped 1941 Jimmy Special to lead Nik Prieston and Stephanie Esterbauer (1976 Fiat Abarth 131 Rallye) by 27 seconds, the pair opening up a significant buffer over third placed Philip Buggee and Paul Freame (1975 Fiat 131). Local favourites Brian and Linda Dermott sit in fourth place 53 seconds further back in their 1962 Austin Healey.

Mick Downie and Jarrod Akker have finished on top in Classic GT in their 1979 Holden Group C Commodore, 2min09s ahead of Roger Lomman and Annie Bainbridge (1971 Datsun 240Z). John Bourke and Jeremy Browne are third in their 1976 Holden Torana A9X, a further 57s back.

The Dutton Garage GT4 saw Tony Quinn team with Samantha Gray in a Nissan GT-R to open up a handy 46 second buffer from Max Williams and Bruce Bush in their Audi TTRS. Luke Anear and Alan Stephenson sit in equal third in the class along with Barrie Smith and Dale Moscatt, both a further six seconds away.

At the end of Leg 1 Anthony Grace and Craig Jones have taken their 2014 Subaru WRX STi to a 27 second advantage in GT Sports Trophy over Mitchell and Darryl Ringuet (Lotus Exige Sport 350) after a see-sawing battle across the day. The combination of Joseph Sgambellone and Adrian Cencigh (Audi TT RS) is keeping the pressure on the top two. The pair set the fastest time on the final stage to finish 36 seconds behind Grace.

In Thoroughbred Trophy Jack Waldron and Vin Gregory (1981 Mitsubishi Sigma) had a dominant day to lead the class by a massive two minutes 38 seconds over Michael and Erin Arundel (1963 Ford Cortina). Robert Greig and Steve Harris (1971 Datsun 240Z) are sitting third a further 40s back.

Peter and Tristan Taylor in their 2013 Lotus Elise S lead an intriguing battle in TSD Trophy, just one point clear of Samuel Parkinson and Benjamin Hughes in a 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.  Robert Bryden and Doc Lange copped two penalty points on the final stage of the day to finish on seven penalty points to be third.

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