|TARGA’S evolutionary move to broaden its competitor reach in the middle of last decade has proven to be a masterstroke.|
From 2015, additions to the class structure saw TSD (time, speed, distance) Trophy, GT Sports Trophy and Thoroughbred Trophy added to the competition.
These classes have been fundamental in providing a toe-in-the-water exercise for competitors wanting a platform where they can hone their skills before making the progression to the more serious competition categories should they wish.
From this crop of categories, one of the huge success stories remains GT Sports Trophy (GTST) where Lotus Cars Australia has taken a keen interest.
Numbers in GTST continue to grow with well in excess of 20 entries received for the 30th edition TARGA Tasmania. Almost a third of competitors are in Lotus machines.
At TARGA Tasmania last year, Lotus filled the podium with Matthew Gibbens and Timothy Jurd taking the spoils in their 2020-spec Lotus Exige 410.
From a commitment standpoint, Martin Duursma (2018 TT GTST winner) has been a constant in GT Sports Trophy, competing in every edition of the class since 2015.
With the exception of the first two GT Sports Trophy competitions at TARGA Tasmania which were taken out by Nissans, Lotus has won every other GTST category at the showcase Tasmanian rally.
The famous British brand’s GTST success started in 2017 when brain cancer survivor Jeff Morton and co-driver Dennis Neagle claimed the class in an Exige.
Since then Lotus can take a lot of credit for the growth in GT Sports Trophy.
“Martin Duursma has done all of the GTST events in Tasmania and he is regarded as bringing the Lotus brand to TARGA,” event chief executive Mark Perry acknowledged.
“I remember after Martin bought one, he went back to Richard Gibbs (Lotus Cars Australia boss at the time) and said you need to come down and have a look at this and it really exploded from there.
“And now we have more Lotus cars at TARGA than Porsches. It’s been an incredible success story.
“But in a broader sense GTST, and Thoroughbred Trophy for older cars for that matter, is going to be a key to the success of all of the competitions in the future because that’s where, unless you qualify for an exemption such as being a champion somewhere else, everybody will have to start in speed limited classes.”
TSD Trophy is a regularity class where the maximum top speed, like GTST and Thoroughbred Trophy, is capped at 130km/h.
The competition is based on a prescribed target time determined over stage distances where competitors must aim to cross the finish line of the stage at the exact time set by organisers. Points are deducted when competitors fail to meet time and speed requirements for stages, the crews with the least number of points at the end of the rally are determined the winners.
Queenslander Darryl Marshall has mastered this competition category in a 2002 Ford Pursuit Ute winning the last five TSD events at TT.
Darryl finished third in the first TSD Trophy in 2015 alongside Andrew Marshall who was co-driver for the first win a year later with Peter Marshall sitting in the navigator seat for the last four consecutive wins.
The 30th edition of TARGA Tasmania will take place between April 26 and May 1 this year.