Targa Mus­cle

AMC sam­ples tar­mac ral­ly­ing aboard a mighty Mus­tang in the Lake Moun­tain Sprint.

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

AMC sam­ples tar­mac ral­ly­ing aboard a mighty Mus­tang – on some of the best roads, and var­ied weather, this coun­try has to of­fer – in the Lake Moun­tain Sprint. Bring your jacket though.

Imag­ine a week­end spent in and around the pic­turesque Yarra Val­ley re­gion in ru­ral south­east­ern Vic­to­ria. You are at the wheel of your cher­ished Aussie mus­cle car, with a mate or per­haps your part­ner along­side for the ride as you guide the rum­bling beast through the twists and turns of some of the best roads this coun­try has to of­fer.

Ex­cept that this is not a nor­mal week­end drive in the coun­try.

On this drive, the road has been closed es­pe­cially for you – the road is yours. It is, for this week­end only, a one-way road: you do not need to worry about any­thing com­ing the other way.

Af­ter­wards you’ll want to swap sto­ries with some of the other driv­ers who have just en­joyed the same ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that you have. Or per­haps you’ll want to chat with Phil Brock. The for­mer tour­ing car rac­ing star has just driven the same roads as you, at the wheel of his own ev­ery­day-drive, a VE Com­modore SS. Brock hap­pens to be your driv­ing men­tor for the week­end.

The week­end in ques­tion is the Lake Moun­tain Sprint at Marysville, the sec­ond round of the Aus­tralian Tar­mac Rally Cham­pi­onship. AMC took up an in­vi­ta­tion to run in the event from the pro­moter, Moun­tain Mo­tor­sport. Our ve­hi­cle was a brand new Ford Mus­tang GT sup­plied by Craig Dean of Mus­tang Mo­tor­sport.

Dean him­self was also in the event, at the wheel of, nat­u­rally, a Mus­tang. But his Pony­car was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from ours; it’s a Shelby GT500

ex­ten­sively mod­i­fied as a bona-fide Targa-style rally ma­chine.

Craig won the Aus­tralian Tar­mac Rally Cham­pi­onship in 2015. This year he faced a 29-car field in the ‘out­right’ divi­sion. The sec­tion it­self is di­vided into classes, for Mod­ern – mod­i­fied (ve­hi­cles like the Shelby), Clas­sic pre-1982 (which in­cluded ma­chines such as Mark Ham­mond’s wildly mod­i­fied Jaguar XJS and Mick Downey’s To­rana LX SL/R 5000), and show-room-spec ve­hi­cles which meet tar­mac rally spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Within these group clas­si­fi­ca­tions, clas­si­fi­ca­tions, it’s a sim­ple mat­ter of he or she who is fastest, wins.

But ATRC events like this of­fer other lev­els of driv­ing in ad­di­tion to the out­right speed classes. There is a reg­u­lar­ity sec­tion, in which en­trants at­tempt to drive each stage of the event in a spec­i­fied time at a spec­i­fied av­er­age speed. There are penalty points for both late and early ar­rivals; the crew with the least amount of penal­ties wins.

The third group is the ‘Tour­ing’ cat­e­gory. This is the en­try point to Tar­mac ral­ly­ing. All that’s re­quired here, apart from the en­try fee and $75 for a club race li­cence, is your road car and an ap­proved hel­met. There is no for­mal com­pe­ti­tion in the tour­ing sec­tion; rather, the thrill here is sim­ply the op­por­tu­nity to drive your ev­ery­day road car at higher-than-usual speeds – and, at this event, un­der the guid­ance of Phil Brock.

Like ‘con­ven­tional’ (off-road) ral­lies, the com­pe­ti­tion sec­tions re­quire a co-driver. In the speed sec­tions the co-driv­ers call the route with rally-style pace notes.

In the Reg­u­lar­ity and Tour­ing sec­tions it was a more leisurely af­fair, with the co-driver be­ing able to pro­vide an in­di­ca­tion of what was to come cor­ner-wise by fol­low­ing the route charts (but even this was nei­ther nec­es­sary nor manda­tory in the Tour­ing sec­tion – you can, if you wish, run as a solo driver).

Our Mus­tang was one of 18 en­trants in Tour­ing. This sec­tion had ev­ery­thing from Ge­off and Priscilla Rogers’ Audi TT RS to David Lynch’s VF Club­sport wagon, com­plete with baby seats in the rear (as well as 320kW at the rear wheels

from this spe­cially warmed-over HSV).

This was the ninth run­ning of the event. Marysville, at the foot of the Yarra Ranges, is the base for the rally, which runs on roads within the Yarra Ranges Na­tional Park. The route took in 16 closed road stages, run­ning along the road from Marysville up to (and back from) the re­sort at the top of Lake Moun­tain, as well as ad­di­tional stages to and from nearby Arnold’s Gap.

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the Yarra Ranges area, this is a breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful part of Aus­tralia. But what’s even bet­ter is the qual­ity of the roads. It’s hard to imag­ine a place more suited to this kind of thing: the Lake Moun­tain Road road sur­face is smooth, and it snakes its way up and down the moun­tain in a seem­ingly end­less se­ries of long sweeps and fast and slow corners. To take such a road as this, with noth­ing com­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, is sheer mo­tor­ing joy.

That sense of joy was (lit­er­ally) damp­ened, though, by down­pours on Fri­day night and Satur­day morn­ing. Rain is prob­a­bly the last thing you want on an event like this – apart from snow, which was some­thing that looked alarm­ingly likely on a chilly morn­ing start to the rally.

It did snow up the top at the Lake Moun­tain Re­sort, although the ugly phe­nom­e­non of black ice never re­ally reared its head. None­the­less, the nearly-icy con­di­tions forced

the down­grad­ing of sev­eral of the

Satur­day stages. Thank­fully the weather cleared for Sun­day’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

There was the odd mishap, how­ever, par­tic­u­larly on day one. The slip­pery roads were cer­tainly a cause for cau­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Adam Ka­plan, a Targa rally vet­eran with V8 Su­per­car and For­mula Holden race ex­pe­ri­ence, this event posed the most chal­leng­ing road con­di­tions he’d ever seen.

Even so, Ka­plan and co-driver Mary Hughes man­aged well enough to claim the over­all vic­tory, which was a pretty good ef­fort in their Al­lan Mof­fat pseudo-replica Mazda RX7 given these were con­di­tions tai­lor-made for their all-wheel-drive Audi, Lancer EVO and WRX op­po­si­tion.

Craig Dean and co-driver Jenny Cole ended up sixth, next best of the non-AWD cars. The slip­pery roads did not ex­actly make for the sort of en­vi­ron­ment in which the big, pow­er­ful Ford could do its best work, and Jenny ad­mit­ted to force­fully com­mu­ni­cat­ing a few choice swear words to her driver at dif­fer­ent times when it looked like the big blue Shelby might be headed for an un­in­tended en­gage­ment with the Yarra Ranges scenery.

Still, sixth place for the Mus­tang in such ad­verse con­di­tions was a com­mend­able re­sult, es­pe­cially given that they’d re­sorted to Craig’s ‘old’ Shelby for this event, on ac­count of the newer Mus­tang Mo­tor­sport Targa Mus­tang still not hav­ing been re­paired from its Targa Tas­ma­nia shunt ear­lier in the year. Craig’s spec­tac­u­lar in-car footage of the crash can be seen on­line at youtube.com

As for the ‘sis­ter’ Mus­tang Mo­tor­sport en­try, your AMC cor­re­spon­dent and pho­tog­ra­pher im­por­tantly were able to bring the shiny new yel­low ma­chine home in one piece.

We made that our num­ber one goal, which meant leav­ing a wide mar­gin for er­ror pretty much the whole way. Yet even when one de­cides that dis­cre­tion is the bet­ter part of val­our, it doesn’t mean that one can’t have a ball – be­cause we cer­tainly did. And the dry­ing roads on Sun­day af­ter­noon capped it off bril­liantly – pro­vid­ing not only a glimpse of just how much fun an en­tire week­end of this kind of thing can be, but also just what a su­perbly bal­anced ma­chine the new mag­nif­i­cent new Mus­tang is.

And that’s the thing: you’ll only ever find out just how good your mus­cle car re­ally is on an event like this.

After Lake Moun­tain, the Tar­mac Rally sea­son went into ‘hi­ber­na­tion’ for the win­ter. It re­turns in late Septem­ber for the Snowy River Sprint, and it’s back to Marysville in De­cem­ber for the fi­nal round, the Great Tar­mac Rally.

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A week­end away in the pic­turesque Yarra Val­ley, driv­ing on some of the best roads in the coun­try – there’s a lot to like about the Lake Moun­tain Sprint.

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