IT claimed a five-time Australian Touring Car Champion and a three-time winner of the Bathurst 1000 but the 2012 Targa Tasmania couldn’t stop Orange rally driver Mark Hammond.
Hammond drove his 1980 XJS V12 Jaguar to 25th overall, good enough to see him win the Classic Competition class, all the while Australian racing royalty Dick Johnson was a forced onlooker after crashing out of the international event.
A whopping 230 competitors started the 2012 event, only 170 finished.
It was Hammond’s best result in three starts at the tarmac rally, with his debut in 2010 ending in mechanical failure and last year’s efforts earning him 53rd overall.
“There’s some big ticket teams down there and we’ve gone down there and given it to them a bit,” Hammond said.
“Dick Johnson parked his in the tree this year on day two and wrote the car off so [the course] also commands a little bit of respect. The main aim is to be well prepared and my main aim is to finish.
“It’s a bit of an achievement and a reflection of how well you do your preparation.”
Targa Tasmania covers over 2500 kilometres over six days of rallying in April.
Attracting in excess of 200,000 spectators, it starts in the north east of Tasmania then winds down to the west coast near Strahan, then across the bottom of the state to the finish in Hobart.
Stages vary from six kilometres to 90km long.
Hammond said at different stages the course allowed speeds of 250km/h.
Only 20 per cent of the field finished within the set base times for the 2012 rally and Hammond and Gibbins were part of that 20 per cent
Having done all of the modifications on his Jaguar at home, Hammond said taking out class honours, along side navigator Mick Gibbins, in the largest tarmac rally in the world was a feather in his cap.
“It’s all been done on a lower budget,” he said.
“The guys down there that won in a Lamborghini, their budget to do that one rally was $800,000. We’re nowhere near that type of budget but it’s a fair achievement we finished.”
And he already has his eye on the Tasmanian event again.
Hammond will compete in the Mount Bulla Rally in Victoria in November, using the rally as a hit-out before Tasmania in April next year.
“Our goal is to better that 25th position and finish in the top 20,” he said.
“But a class win is a class win, I don’t think we’re going to knock off the top teams because there’s too much money involved, and time, some of them have been doing the event for 15, 16 years.
“I think we’ll just aim to get a bit better and keep enjoying it.”