Targa Tasmania 2007
by Nazim Erdem
Information / Peer Support Coordinator
Us quad's can be suckers for punishment every now and again. Well, Alan Stevenson and myself proved this by entering the Targa Tasmania again this year. We decided to build on our success from last year, when we were the first team with disabilities to enter and compete in the Targa Tasmania.
It all started late in 2005 when AQA member Alan Stevenson gave us a call and told us about his idea of entering a team in the Targa Tasmania. Alan wanted to put his mechanical and racing skill knowledge and experience to good use after suffering a spinal injury a few years ago.
For those of you who haven't been initiated or aren't up-to-date, the Targa Tasmania is an exciting International Classic Car Race / Rally Drive held annually in and around the picturesque roads and landscape of Tasmania. It is a tarmac rally with competitive stages on closed roads for the best touring, sports and GT cars in the world.
Targa Tasmania is conducted over six days (including a Prologue) on over 2,000 kilometers of tarmac roads during April of each year. Each and every year, the appeal of Targa Tasmania seems to grow larger and larger. Last year was a record field with over 250 cars entering the event. But 2007 topped last year by having 300 cars entered. Cars entered for the event ranged from Lamborghini's to Porsche's to Holden's and believe it not, some Ford's (just kidding you Ford supporters).
Their aim was to show the greater community that people with disability, in particular Spinal Cord Injury, could achieve just about anything they set out to achieve. They also wanted to create awareness and motivate other disabled people to follow their dreams. We were again fortunate to have Helen and Jason as our support crew. It must be said that without them, things would have been very difficult, if not impossible. Thanks guys!!!
Alan did a great job chasing and securing sponsors. Planning started months and months before the actual event.
The car not only had a new look this year, it also had a new soul. Alan thought that he'd add a supercharger to the engine to give it some mid-range torque which was lacking last year. The supercharger added a new dimension to the car and created interest from other drivers as well as the public.
I arrived in Launceston a few days before the event to familiarise myself with the car again. Because of our different driving capabilities, we had to use our own spinner knobs on the driving wheel. My comment when I took the "new" car for a drive was "wwwwoooww". The power of the supercharger was that noticeable.
After meeting Alan and I during Targa 2006, Adam Spence from the Vodafone RedBack Racing team was so impressed that he set off on a mission to raise some funds for AQA Victoria. Adam invited the guys to Baskerville raceway where he organised a 'Track Day' for his sponsors and supporters. Invited guests got to do some hot-laps in his unique Renault Spider Sport which is the only one of its kind in Australia. More than 50 guests took the opportunity to do hot-laps in 10 cars, including Alan's and Adam's cars.
Part of the day included Alan and I giving a speech about what we were trying to achieve and what we went through to get to this stage. After our speech, Adam presented a cheque to AQA Victoria for the amount of $5000.
Our first official event before the Targa was the 'Disabled Kids Drive' which Alan initiated last year. Helen was literally run off her feet in preparation for the day. People thought it was a big success last year with 5 rally cars taking about 20 kids with disability (as "navigators") around a 4 kilometre course from the Launceston Country Club. But this year 25 cars volunteered their time (interest was so overwhelming that some cars had to be knocked back) to be navigated by 50 kids with disability. The event was supported by the local media, Launceston Country Club, the local police, the Australian Maritime College and other Targa entrants.
You had to be there to see how much of a great time the kids had. They were not only navigators of race cars, they also received some gifts including showbags, drinks, personalised certificates, and other goodies. Words could not say enough of the appreciation shown on the kid's faces, they had smiles from ear to ear and you could just see that their day was made. The event was covered in newspapers, radio and the 6 o'clock news
Before the official start of the Targa program, entrants have to attend a compulsory "Tour Briefing" to go over rules, occupationa health and safety issues. There was a funny moment during the briefing at the Country Club when one of the officials stated during their speech, "… there have only been 3 incidents (accidents) in the history of the tour and those entrants concerned are here again …". The guys had a chuckle because they were actually one of those entrants.
Among the highlights during each stage was seeing the support of locals in the streets and the spectator areas cheering and waving. Some locals made a day of it, inviting friends and having BBQ's. Some of the locals could be seen sitting on their roofs with deck chairs drinking beers, waving as the cars went by (pretty funny sight).
During one of the stages Rob Shaw, a reporter from the Examiner, navigated for Alan with the intention of writing an article from a navigator's point of view in a car driven by someone with disability. The article was published the next day on a whole page in the Examiner. It was very informative and good reading.
The guys also met and had a chat with Eric Bana and his co-driver Tony Ramunno. During their chat Eric and Tony mentioned that they were making a documentary about their Targa entry and if it worked out it would include our entry as well. Racing being what it is, Eric and Tony crashed their car the next day, putting paid to the idea about the documentary.
The rest of the event went like clockwork this time around. We didn't get into any dramas and the car was fantastic. It was also not as difficult as last year purely because we knew what was ahead, with the early mornings and the long days. It's not fun getting up at 4 am in the mornings when you don't get to bed until 11 pm the night before. So, we were relieved after completing all of the stages without any incidents.
We were both approached by many people from the general public. This happened at each of the "Expo" days where all the cars were on display. Alan commented "It is so rewarding being approached by total strangers who know your name, and what you're trying to achieve". For my part, I felt we had ertainly achieved what we set out to do by showing others that having a disability is not the end. We can and do get on with our lives.
It was a great feeling, and a sense of achievement once we drove through the finish line at the Hobart Casino and received our medal's. WEY WERE SPENT … BUT HAD DONE IT AGAIN!!!
This article was first published in the AQA VIC News Link July 2007 Issue. Past issues of the News Link newsletter are also available online and include a variety of informative and inspirational stories. Topics covered include accessibility, accommodation, women's issues, health and government services information. AQA also include regular articles about Tasmania for the benefit of their members and travellers with disability.
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