Alister set for rallying ‘at home’ on Targa West
Aug 18, 2008

Former works FIA World Rally Championship driver Alister McRae is getting set to rally in his adopted home state of Western Australia next month, when he contests the Targa West. The all-asphalt event runs for three days on roads in and around the city of Perth, formerly home of the nation’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship and sees an entry field of almost 90 cars in several categories compete.

The event follows essentially the same format as a modern WRC rally but over sealed roads, as opposed to gravel tracks more common for rallying in Australia. Alister is already familiar with the type of roads making up the 31 stages of the event but feels that they bear little or no resemblance to those on tarmac WRC rallies. “The roads around Perth tend to be fairly wide, smooth and straight, so there is little comparison with the tarmac events I’m used to, like Catalunya or Corsica. Having said that, I think they will be great roads for the event.

“We’ve already recce’d the stages twice, as it’s free recce on the event and although I don’t actually know the roads that form the stages, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Bill [Hayes, co-driver] is away for a week now so we’ll have one more run over the stages just before the start to refresh the notes but I think that will be plenty.”

Alister will be partnered by Bill Hayes on the event. Bill has considerable experience in the co-driver’s seat, having competed with, among others, Australian legend Dean Herridge in both the Australian and Asia-Pacific series.

The event itself is open to several categories of cars, including historics, classics and modern cars and McRae will be driving a 1974 Porsche 911 RS on the event, running in the Classic class. The regulations allow engine size to be increased from original and Alister’s RS will have an engine almost 3500cc – plenty for the fast tarmac roads. However, it won’t be a case of maximum attack everywhere, as limitations on tyre quantities mean a more tactical approach will be needed.

“We’re only allowed one set of road tyres plus two spares for the entire event,” explains Alister, “and they also have to be road legal. They can be as high a specification as possible but certainly not full slicks. Therefore, the grip and hence, the speed will be lower than with full slicks but we’ll also have to make sure that they last the full distance, which could make things interesting.”

Hopefully, this shouldn’t prove too difficult because, even though the event contains two prologues and 31 actual stages, the longest is almost 20Km while the shortest runs to less than 3Km. Therefore, the stresses imposed on the tyres should be within the capabilities for most of the event.

While the overall feel of the event is relaxed, Alister is still approaching it with his trademark determination. “I’d like to think that, with a car like the Porsche, we should certainly have the pace to be successful in the classic category. I also think that hopefully, we should be able to do well overall; I’d like to be in the top six by the end.

“This type of event, just like the Targa Tasmania I did earlier this year, is a very relaxed and informal form of motorsport. For example, we still have central servicing but we’re allowed to use management cars, the free recce and so on. It’s all about enjoyment and using some fantastic cars the way they’re supposed to be used. The Australians certainly know how to make their motorsport fun and I’m really looking forward to this event.”

The Targa West begins with a pair of prologue stages on the afternoon of Thursday 4 September. The action proper starts on Friday though, with nine stages based around Perth. Saturday is the longest day of the event, with no less than 12 stages with the final ten on Sunday. The first crews are expected to reach the finish ramp at 16.30 local-time. Western Australia is GMT+8 hours.


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