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Steane Klose | Jan 31, 2008

If your partial to a bet then the new R35 GT-R has to be odds on favourite for an outright win at this years Targa Tasmania but thats no excuse for ignoring the rest of the field. Tucked away in their is Mazda’s little hottie, the Mazda3 MPS and this year they have managed to snare some serious driver talent.

Mazda Australia today confirmed famed World Rally Championship (WRC) competitor Alister McRae and Mazda resident driver Rick Bates will spearhead the company's 2008 Targa Tasmania campaign.

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McRae's motor racing pedigree is world-class having contested over 75 WRC events and being a former British Rally Champion. McRae is the third WRC competitor to test his mettle against the 17-year-old tarmac endurance rally, which this year will be held from April 15-20.

Mazda Motorsport's eighth entry into Targa Tasmania follows on from the company's promising result in 2007, when Rick Bates finished a commendable tenth outright in a near-standard Mazda3 MPS.

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McRae and Bates will pilot the 190kW and 360Nm FWD Mazda3 MPS on the Targa’s slippery roads. A handful – possibly. A seriously quick car in the right hands – absolutely. McRae and Bates will be looking to better the 10th position achieved by Rick in 2007, with McRae saying that he believes the biggest challenge will be the experienced Targa veterans.

"Having competed all over the world in rallying at all levels, it's great to have a new challenge, and doing it with Mazda will be great fun. Competing in an endurance event is completely new for me. But having driven in more than 30 tarmac events it will be a case of driving as usual and keeping in mind that it's not a flat out sprint. My strategy will be to ensure a finish, but I am competitive by nature, so I want to finish as high up the leader board as possible," says McRae.

Mazda Motorsports entries will be part of theTarga Tasmania's Showroom competition, introduced this year, which puts near-standard vehicles on an equal billing with highly-modified racing and rally cars. As well as vying for outright contention, entrants in the Targa Showroom competition will go head-to-head for a place on the Showroom podium.

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