Australian first: R5 on tarmac at Make Smoking History Targa South West

Al Blakers. Photo: CMR Photographic

Quality field to tackle Make Smoking History Targa South West

A high-quality field of thirty-six teams are set to tackle the tenth Make Smoking History Targa South West held around the picturesque south west towns of Pemberton, Manjimup and Northcliffe from 17th to 19th May 2019.

Competitors will race the clock along 22 closed-road Special Stages, 130 kilometres of flat-out competition and drive a total distance of 380 kilometres over the weekend. The stages range from 3.11 kilometres to 15.13 kilometres, taking competitors through the spectacular Southern Forests region.

It will be the first time in Australia that an R5 car, which is level below a World Rally Car, will compete in a tarmac rally. The Truck Wholesale WA Skoda Fabia R5 will be driven by reigning State gravel rally champion, John O’Dowd.

O’Dowd said that the R5 had been modified for Make Smoking History Targa South West.

“The R5 in one word: Awesome. It’s a great fun car to drive. Obviously, it’s purpose built for gravel rallying, so we’ve had to make some changes – wheels, tyres, suspension along with some other modifications to suit tarmac conditions,” said Gooseberry Hill resident O’Dowd.

“I’m not sure how we’ll go, but Targa South West is the perfect practice run for the bigger four-day Targa West in August.

“We do a lot of gravel rallying in the region and it’s a beautiful part of the world, I’m looking forward to going back.”

Calling pace notes for O’Dowd is Australia’s most experienced co-driver Glenn Macneall, who has a career spanning 26 years that includes 249 rally starts, 104 of those in the World Rally Championship, calling notes for 17 different drivers. This will be Macneall’s 250th rally and the first time he’s paired up with O’Dowd.

“Glenn must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to be sitting next to me!” quipped O’Dowd.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge and I’ll be taking advantage of that and using it as an opportunity to learn while my usual co-driver is off mountain-biking,” O’Dowd said.

Targa South West Event Director Ross Tapper said there was a strong mix of competitors.

“There’s a great mix of veterans along with some rookies, and a good field of modern and classic cars. There’s a 1965 Mustang, Porsche Cayman, Subaru WRX, Lancer Evo, Nissan GTR, a couple of Toranas from the 1970s, classic Porsche 911s, and a Tesla Roadster, an electric car,” Tapper said.

Last year’s winner in the Competition Modern category, Mark Greenham from High Wycombe, will be defending the title in his Race Torque Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 with co-driver Stephanie Esterbauer.

Dardanup’s Will White in his Store Local Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 will be looking to repeat his 2017 Targa South West win with co-driver Bernie Webb.

Fresh from competing in Targa Tasmania, Mark Cates in his Axis Hire Nissan R35 GTR with co-driver Declan Stafford started Targa Tasmania strong, leading their class for the first three days before suffering a mechanical issue on Day 4.

Cates, from Bunbury, said they missed an entire day of racing, yet managed to finish the six-day event on the ‘Apple Isle’ 13th in class. Not bad for someone whose driving career began just a year ago in Pemberton.

“That’s racing unfortunately, still, Tasmania was unbelievable, it was great experience,” Cates said.

“I’m really looking forward to Targa South West this year. I’d like to do well in front of people I know. I’ve done a lot more driving since last year, so with a bit more experience, I’m hoping to be more of a threat to the other guys.”

Local Manjimup truffle farmer Al Blakers and co-driver Wayne Deighton will be in their classic Manjimup Truffles 1977 Holden Torana.

Bayswater husband and wife team Jurgen and Helen Lunsmann will be silent yet commanding attention in their electric car, the Gemteck EVPower 2011 Tesla Roadster.

Cars will start at 30-second intervals and race against the clock with the winner being the car that is fastest over all stages. Cars are grouped into classes and there are categories for Competition, Challenge and electric vehicle category.

“The essence of motorsport is competition, but what sets rallying apart from other codes of motorsport is the camaraderie and sense of community – a group of like-minded car enthusiasts sharing a common experience – a spirited drive in some of the State’s most picturesque areas,” Tapper said.

The Make Smoking History Targa South West fraternity will bring approximately 350 people into the towns of Manjimup and Pemberton.

The event starts with a shakedown at the Pemberton Sports Club on Friday, which will give competitors an opportunity to perform any last-minute tweaks on the car and get a feel for the road.  The shakedown also incorporates a charity ride event, which gives the public an opportunity to experience the thrill of riding passenger in a rally car in exchange for a donation.

Spectators are encouraged and can watch the rally action from the designated spectator areas.

For more information on Targa South West including the event schedule and where to spectate, please visit

Organisers would like to thank Targa South West sponsors Healthway, along with the Make Smoking History message, Shannons, Cutts Transport, Manjimup Truffles, AAAC Towing and the Shire of Manjimup for their support along with series sponsors Go Gear and LF Performance.

For updates, follow the Targa West Events facebook page.

Will White. Photo: CMR Photographic