A consistent drive from Evans and his co-driving wife Sue saw the couple dominate the hotly contested showroom field straight off the line and finish the two day, 217 kilometre rally an impressive three minutes and seven seconds ahead of their closest rival.
This is a result made even more impressive given it was the couple’s debut outing in the potent, yet ever-reliable Mazda3 MPS.
“We just couldn’t be happier,” said Simon Evans. “The Mazda3 MPS handles like an absolute dream. It’s really stable on the road, which makes it easy to drive quickly, and by the end of the event we felt really at home in the car.
“Towards the end our tyres were looking pretty shabby but the Mazda3 MPS let us keep pushing until we made it back up the mountain.
“We’re very proud to stand on the podium for Mazda and to have been given the opportunity to drive the awesome Mazda3 MPS.”
The second running of Targa High Country presented many challenges for the event’s 150 plus competitors who were faced with unseasonably hot weather and road surfaces on the eight stages and 90 competitive kilometres making up day one.
But the four-time Australian Rally Champion duo were not to be deterred, rising to the challenge of Victoria’s open and flowing alpine roads spanning Mt Buller to King Valley – finishing day one with a lead of one minute and 19 seconds.
Day two played into the hands of the nimble Mazda3 MPS with the hot hatch best suited to the day’s eight tight and twisting stages totaling 129 kilometres.
Taking competitors from Mt Buller to Eildon return, the technical course saw the Evans’ further consolidate their showroom domination and literally finish on a high atop of Mt Buller.
Meanwhile, the RX-8 SP of Tasmanian rally champions Jamie and Simon Vandenberg finished an incredible 13th in the event’s Modern Competition under what were testing circumstances for the brothers and their turbo rotary coupe.
Despite the best efforts of the Mazda Motorsport service crew, the RX-8 SP’s high country campaign was marred by a glitch in its turbocharger on day one and tyre wear caused by the blistering hot road surfaces on day two.
The vulnerability of the RX-8 SP’s 18-inch race tyres forced the Vandenbergs to ease up on the road and get the car home safely.
“We’ve had a pretty tough run this event,” said Jamie Vandenberg. “It just seemed nothing went our way. The hot weather and the soft tarmac generated a lot of gravel on the road, which unfortunately really chewed up our rubber.
“That said, we’re ecstatic to have finished 13th, which really does show that when its running at its optimum the RX-SP is truly a competitive car.”
Mazda Motorsport Manager Allan Horsley was happy to see his Mazda3 MPS up front once again and remains philosophical about the RX-8 SP’s performance.
“Simon and Sue did a fantastic job in the Mazda3 MPS, despite being one of the many teams experiencing tyre problems, but for four-time ARC champions I would expect nothing less.
“Jamie and Simon had a rough trot this event but they handled everything the car threw at them like the absolute professionals they are.
“Time and time again the RX-8 SP has proven itself to be a top performing car, but unfortunately these small glitches happen in motorsport so all we can do is just roll with the punches and work towards improving our strategy for next time.”