The best fun in a car that I've ever had - with my clothes on!

I entered my XKR in the nineteenth running of Targa Tasmania, April/May 2010, and yes that's a few years back now but the memories of that event are still fresh and vibrant today.  What a fabulous experience it was!  This is an internationally renowned motor sport event almost on my doorstep and after many years of contemplating entering I finally asked a mate if he would be interested in sharing the event from the passenger seat, and once Mike said yes the entry form went in the mail.

I had run the Jag at various club track days but this was to be the first tarmac rally for both of us.  Mike occupied the navigator’s seat and another mate and his wife (Russell & Cheryl) expressed their interest when they found out what we planned and volunteered to be our support crew.  The four of us thoroughly enjoyed the event and came away with broad smiles and another item ticked off our “Bucket List”.

I entered my XKR into the “Tour” section of Targa Tasmania as I wasn’t too enthusiastic about risking my pride and joy in a flat out race and didn’t
want to heavily modify it by installing the compulsory rollcage and other safety equipment required for the full competition cars.  Another consideration was the $7,000 entry fee for the competition cars compared to $3,000 for the Tour!  The only change I made to the XKR was installing a set of competition disc pads for the Brembos, which really improved the bite of the brakes and removed any sign of fade that I had previously experienced on hard track days.  Regulations also required the carrying of 2 fire extinguishers, warning triangles, a first aid kit and a bag of “kitty litter” to mop up any oil spills.

Targa Tasmania was run over six days with day one being a Prologue in George Town to determine the starting order.  Days 2, 3 and 4 were run in different areas centred around Launceston, day five was a run to Strahan with an overnight stop there and the last day was from Strahan to the finishing point in Hobart.

We may have entered the Targa Tasmania “Tour” section but believe me it was far from a leisurely run around the beautiful Tasmanian countryside with a picnic basket and bottle of bubbly carefully balanced on the back seat.  We may not have been officially “racing”; however I have never driven so fast over such long distances on public roads!  The XKR was in its element and either the accelerator or brake pedal were constantly being abused as we chased a number of other high performance and exotic cars in the Tour including a V10 powered BMW M6, BMW M3’s, hot Nissan Z cars and high performance Porsches on some very challenging closed public roads - often in wet and slippery conditions or in torrential rain.

The XKR performed faultlessly and you better believe that a BMW M6 or M3 is no match for an angry supercharged cat on full song!  The XKR handled, braked and performed like a true supercar and we received many a compliment from impressed fellow competitors who were surprised how well it performed and sounded.  I think we converted quite a few people into Jaguar believers.

Our thirty “Tour” cars were divided into “packets” of ten with a Tour Leader at the front of each.  The Tour regulations prohibit passing but the cars were grouped together according to their potential performance and the desire of just how quick each driver wanted to go.  Gradually, during the first day, positions on the road changed as the slower cars (and drivers) moved to the rear of the field.  We then chased the Tour Leader over the closed road competition sections as he theoretically kept our speed to under the regulated 130 kph. 

Most sections were so tight and twisty that no matter how hard we tried we struggled to maintain an average speed of 80kph, but on some straight sections I had the big cat’s supercharger whining away as we howled well into the illegal section of the speedo – what a buzz!  As the roads were closed we could use both sides of the bitumen and push hard through blind corners that would normally have been impossible without great risk to us and other road users.

Each day the Tour car groups were the first away after each competition road section was closed by the Police and organisers.  Once we cleared the section the competition cars were let loose as we proceeded at legal speeds over open public roads to the next closed road where it was pedal to the metal once again. 
The 39 closed road Stages varied from 4 to 56 kilometres in length.  We covered 2,300 kilometres in total with just over 500 kilometres of closed competition roads.

For anyone interested in entering the Targa Tasmania Tour you should be aware that it’s not a cheap exercise – but oh what an experience!  The approximate cost for our entry fee, fuel, accommodation and Spirit of Tasmania fares was just over $6000.  And this is only the basic cost, plus of course you will need a suitable car and a very understanding wife who may also want to “Tour” Tasmania, but you should warn her that its’ a very quick tour!

Targa Tasmania 2010 was a fantastic experience and the best time I have ever had in a car with my clothes on!  Mike, Russell, Cheryl and I would highly recommend the Targa Tour to all motoring enthusiasts, especially Jaguar owners.

Try this link for more information on Targa Tasmania