Mazda will be fielding two Mazda3 MPS rally cars at the country's pre-eminent tarmac endurance event, held from April 15-20. Professional rally drivers Rick Bates and Alister McRae will spearhead the company's eighth Targa campaign.
Built under the watchful eye of Mazda Motorsport chief Allan Horsley, the 190kW Mazda3 MPS front-wheel-drive hatches will contest the event's 2WD Showroom competition, travelling 2,000km over five gruelling days of competition.
The team's preparation for the rally commenced this week with Bates, McRae and co-drivers arriving in Tasmania to survey the course. Both drivers plan to have driven all of the stages twice before the actual event gets underway.
"Reconnaissance is the most important part of any rally. It allows us to focus on when we will need to drive flat out and where it will be possible to conserve the car and tyres," said Targa first-timer McRae.
Targa Tasmania's racing regulations require that the Mazda3 MPS rally car remain essentially standard, so these are not stripped out specialty racers. Both Mazda3 MPS race cars will compete with standard audio equipment, power windows and with carpets and upholstery intact.
Suspension springs, shock absorbers, brake pads, seats, belts and the steering wheel have been replaced. To meet the events safety regulations, a PCD roll cage, racing seats with five-point safety harnesses, fire extinguishers and navigating equipment have been added.
Modifications are allowed to mufflers, the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and additional cooling can be provided for the brakes but the engine, gearbox, differential and the rest of the drivetrain must be factory standard and the factory catalytic converter must remain in place.
This isn?t the Mazda3 MPS?s first time at Targa either, with Rick Bates managing to bring the hot hatch in at 10th outright in 2007.
"The team learnt a lot from last year's event. With one Targa in the Mazda3 MPS under our belts we're all a lot more educated in terms of vehicle preparation and conservation during the event. Personally, I'm feeling more confident behind the wheel now that I've spent more time in the car. I have a better understanding of exactly how the Mazda3 MPS handles Targa's tricky and changing road conditions," says Bates.