Auto Corsa Group Co-director and former Targa Tasmania Event Director, Stuart Benson, will return to the Tasmanian tarmac rally from 27 April-2 May – this time as a competitor.
Stuart attended Targa Tasmania as a spectator in 1992 – the year of its inception. “My brother in law and I braved the cold to check out the inaugural event at the Hobart Domain stage and from that moment on - seeing those amazing sports cars whiz past on that sunny Saturday Hobart morning - I always knew it would be something awesome to be part of,” he says.
Stuart then got involved with Targa Tasmania volunteering in the media centre in 1998. “I did that for two years and in 2000 was employed within the business in a sales and customer service role,” he says. He worked his way up through the ranks to become Clerk of the Course in 2009 and Event Director in 2013.
Up until now, Stuart’s never been able to experience the event as a participant. “I was involved in shaping so many elements of the event; so to be able to experience the intended design as a competitor is actually very exciting,” he says.
Stuart will sit alongside Hobart’s David Ayers, who is a long-time Targa Tasmania competitor. David and Stuart first met in 2000 discussing David’s then Targa car, a Lucalia Clubman. “It was a pretty exciting sports car and quite quick,” says Stuart. “We started talking about his car at a photoshoot and started a friendship that has lasted ever since.”
For this year’s event David will be driver and Stuart co-driver of a late-model Nissan GT-R entered by Team GT-R Just Jap Racing. “It’s a particularly well-developed car having undergone various performance upgrades,” says Stuart. “Just Jap Racing, who owns the car, is the principal supplier of components to all the other Nissan GT-Rs in the field, so it’s nice to validate their products in their own car.
“The category that we’re competing in is the outright competition – so we’re up against the fastest, most well-prepared teams in the field and some of the most exotic cars.”
Just Jap Racing has entered two Nissan GT-Rs in the event with a team made up of just over twenty people including a team doctor and Japanese Nissan GT-R tuning guru Autech Tsukada.
In addition to previous tarmac rally participation, competing at Targa Tasmania also provides Stuart with insights into what participants want from tarmac rally events.
These insights will be particularly useful in shaping Stuart’s current project, the Hotham Auto Corsa Alpine Tarmac Rally, an 11-stage event comprising 250 competitive kilometres to be held in the Victorian Alps from 14-15 November 2015.
“Hotham Auto Corsa is very much focused on providing the maximum experience to the individuals in the competition cars,” shares Stuart. “Of course that has positive by-products; because tarmac rallying is an exciting activity, it’s got lots of colour and sound and excitement surrounding it. People that are connected with team entries, such as sponsors, service crew and family and even spectators can’t help but pick up the infectious vibe of the event.”
As for his goals for participating in Targa Tasmania, Stuart says, “Consistency and vehicle reliability are at the forefront of our strategy and there are a number of teams that we anticipate will be in front of us, so we’ll be paying careful attention to attrition - perhaps inheriting the odd place from those potentially faster than us.”