Mazda's decision to enter the 190kw 6 MPS-powered 3 MPS into the Targa Tasmania is proving to have been a good one, with drivers Rick Bates and Alister McCrae shutting the gate on the competition today. As is always the case with my horrible RWD bias, I was anticipating a catastrophic end to the FWD 3 MPS's chances, but I've once again been proven wrong as Bates put a host of legendary cars to shame.
Press Release below the cut. You can also check out Mazda's Targa-dedicated site right here.
Mazda's Targa Attack off to a Flying Start
Day 1 - Launceston - Sheffield - Launceston (9 stages over 61km)
It was a cracking day one of Targa Tasmania for Mazda with both Mazda3 MPS hot hatches charging up the field to finish in the top 30.
Mazda drivers Rick Bates and Alister McRae maintained their first and second positions, respectively, in the 2WD Showroom Competition, and managed to take a number of more fancied scalps in the overall standings.
Bates amassed a 69 second penalty time over the day's nine competitive stages, leaving twin-brother Neal Bates in a highly-modified Toyota TRD Aurion and a bunch of Lancer Evos, Porsches and Subaru WRXs in his wake.
In Modern outright standings, Bates finished the day in 24th, equal with the brand-new Nissan GTR of Targa regular Tony Alford.
"First and second in Showroom, we are pretty happy with that," said Bates. "It's always challenging to slide behind the wheel of a rally car that you haven't driven for a year. That said the Mazda3 MPS is so forgiving and so easy to drive on the limit.
"Today was a great start to the event and gives us a solid platform to build on during the next four days."
Rick's team mate Alister McRae, who finished the day with a penalty time of 78 seconds in 27th outright, used today's stages as an opportunity to get to know the abilities of his Mazda3 MPS rally car.
"Today went well, really well," said McRae. "This is a new event for me so I am just trying to work out the car, how it works and how to preserve tyres for the five days. I must say I am extremely happy with how we are placed."
Multiple Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans is also contesting the 2WD Showroom Competition in a Toyota TRD Aurion and sits third, 43 seconds adrift of McRae.
Day two of Targa is made up of 402km, including eight competitive stages over 72km. The field starts and finishes in Launceston and visits the east coast town of St Helens.