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Mazda’s Star Co-drivers Complete Targa Tussle
Mar 27, 2008

Next month one half of Mazda’s Australian Rally Championship (ARC) winning duo will reunite with the company for its two-pronged attack on the 2008 Targa Tasmania.

Accomplished co-driver Iain Stewart, who won the ARC crown with expert driver Murray Coote for Mazda back in 1988, will be calling corners for Mazda Targa driver Alister McRae in the tarmac endurance event from April 15-20.

Mazda, Australia’s top-selling importer, announced its eighth attack on the 2,000km rally in late January. Rally masters Rick Bates and Alister McRae are each piloting a Mazda3 MPS, a high-performance version of the company’s best-selling model.

Mazda’s front-wheel-drive hot-hatch sports a turbocharged engine which belts out 190kW and 380Nm.

Rising rally star and Targa first-timer Rhianon Smyth will partner Mazda Targa stalwart Rick Bates. Smyth’s rally credentials are impressive; most recently she co-drove her brother Brendan Reeves to a stunning second outright in the 2007 Rallye Burnie.

Stewart: The best man for the job
Iain Stewart has a co-driving career spanning three decades and includes more than 20 World Rally Championship (WRC) starts.

Stewart is a three-time Queensland Rally Championship co-driver who has partnered some of Australia’s greatest drivers, including Murray Coote, Greg Carr, Wayne Bell and Ed Ordynski. In 2008 Alister McRae joins the list.

“Alister sits very highly in the list of drivers for whom one would wish to co-drive,” says Stewart. “He has been the opposition a few times in the past, however rallying being the sport it is, you usually end up respecting your opposition.”

Alister McRae, also a seasoned WRC competitor, and his co-driver are both first-time Targa competitors, and they’re ready for the challenge.

“For me, Targa will be very challenging and exciting,” continues Stewart. “Targa has new rules and regulations I need to understand, all the while co-driving for someone for the first time. That’s all part of the challenge.”

“My job will be to understand Alister and to keep him feeling at ease and confident. Above all else, the job of a good co-driver is to stay on course and read the pace notes perfectly, that’s all I can hope to do.”

Smyth: “Let’s go one better”
This year Rhianon Smyth will call notes for Mazda regular and five-time Targa competitor Rick Bates.

Smyth, who has navigated in more than 20 rallies in the last three years, says her strategy for her first Targa is to help build on the success already paved by her driver in last year’s event. In 2007 Bates finished a stunning 10th outright with a near-standard Mazda3 MPS.

“I think Rick is one of the best drivers in Australia and I am extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity of calling notes to him,” says Smyth, who was ranked the 5th best co-driver in last year’s hotly contested Australian Rally Championship (ARC).

“The most exciting thing about Targa is that it’s a new event for me and a new challenge. Most of my experience has been in gravel rallying and after coming second outright in Rallye Burnie last year, I am looking forward to getting back on tarmac again.”

Mazda Motorsport’s two-car attack
Mazda’s two-car team will be competing in Targa’s new Showroom competition, which is designed to put near-standard vehicles on an equal billing with highly-modified racing and rally cars.

Mazda Motorsport boss Allan Horsley says he is confident of a Showroom podium finish this year.

“Our 2008 Targa team shares more than 70 years of motorsport experience between them. With this knowledge and rally expertise on our side, Mazda has a very good chance of bringing home a showroom trophy and achieving a very competitive outright result.”

The 17th annual Targa Tasmania will be held from Tuesday April 15 until Sunday April 20. The event starts in Tasmania’s Northern city of Launceston and finishes five days later in Hobart.

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