WOO HOO!!! We've just been told Team Just Jap have taken out first placed team award at Targa Tasmania 2012!!! We're all celebrating hard now at the *other* presentation dinner :)





Only a quick Day Four update as most of the team is already tucked up in bed after a long day of racing with another long day ahead tomorrow.


We've earned the tiredness- today saw us travel more than 450km in transport stages and race nearly 160 competitive kays.


This included the longest stage of the day Riana (36km) which had two restricted speed zones, just to keep us on our toes! Roadworks on the roads used for the stage meant there was gravel & uneven surfaces so at two set points we had to drop our speed to 60 or face a penalty.


It was a good warm up for tomorrow where we meet the longest stage of the event, Arrowsmith. At just over 58km it will certainly require a lot of concentration to read and drive at race pace to notes for the full distance.To give some perspective it's the equivalent of racing from the Sydney CBD to the southern outskirts of Sydney and the National Park!


You can see why we need our sleep tonight!


A quick check of results- David and Max are steadily making up time in the Modern competition and are holding 9th place.


Steve and I are still in 6th in Early Modern and keenly watching the weather. Some of the guys around us have been running on soft tyres which are great for fast times but not so good on grip in the dry.


Please keep everything crossed with us for a sunny run down the West coast then across and into Hobart tomorrow!




Day three of Targa Tasmania and it would be fair to say we've had a cracker!


David and Max have cracked the top ten in the Modern competition and Steve and I have had a cracker of a run to finish the day 6th in Early Modern (and are waiting to hear on getting some time back- more on that later).


We left a very gloomy day in Launceston behind and travelled up the coast for our first stage at Mole Creek where both cars enjoyed smooth runs and good times.


The day then got a little more interesting for Steve and I. A few kays into Cethana, the first long stage of the event, we experienced major issues with our intercom. Cethana is one of my favourite stages, and one we've set some good times over in the past, so it was disappointing to be not on the pace as we frantically unplugged and replugged attachments, while trying to keep an eye on the road and the notes.


We're lucky enough to have an amazing service crew consisting of local Tassie guys and two ring-ins from Sydney (including Gary, Just Jap's guru on everything GTR. The guys manage to place themselves at the end of every stage (no mean feat when you consider the distances we travel each day with many of the surrounding roads closed).


We were more than thankful to see them at the end of that stage for some quick roadside repairs.


It was then onto Castra stage and our second interesting moment of the day. Coming downhill from a quick section into a hard left turn, we found ourselves staring straight at a car as we went to turn in.


They were off, but on the racing line through the corner. With no triangles out, we had no warning they were there so Steve backed out of the turn and ran us straight ahead under the road closure bunting.


As we looked over to check the guys were okay the sorted themselves out and took off up the hill! The exercise cost us a little bit of time so we're chatting to the competitor relations officer tonight to see if we can get some back.


The rest of the day went a lot better for us (though the intercom gremlins reared their head in the last stage of the day, another long one and we did have an interesting moment trying to pass an Evo X we caught on that stage).


We even managed an equal Early Modern stage win on Plimsoll, the second last stage of the day!


David and Max just keep getting more and more comfortable in the 35 and are now really starting to take time out of some of the competition. Their day was much less incident packed than hours thankfully!


The cars are now tucked up in the overnight service park in Strahn, and we're all tucked up in bed preparing for a big day four.


Many seasoned competitors say the racing at Targa Tasmania doesn't start until day four. We shall see tomorrow I guess!






A decent Targa day two was had by all in the Just Jap Racing team. As we made our way along the East Coast of Tassie the clouds rolled in, the rain soon followed, and the 4WDs got down to business.


Lining up to run the Paloona stage behind Jim Richards :)


The first stage, Rossarden, was declared wet, and the stages through to the early afternoon followed suit. At the risk of putting everyone to sleep, the racing was pretty good, but pretty straightforward again today! David and Max had a moment first up before racing had even started,  when a warning on the R35 dash showed that a tyre was flat. Thankfully it was just deflating because of the valve not being correctly positioned after a pressure read, saving them from a precious tyre change.


It's not every day you have rally champs Simon & Sue Evans in your mirrors! Thankfully we got them on a transport stage, not a racing one!


The conditions gave both crews a sense of how the cars, and brains, are handling in the wet- something that will be handy with rain being forecast. Steve and I's trip over the second stage, Elephant Pass, delivered a surprise, having to squeeze past an old Mustang that looked as though is had rolled a few times before coming to rest three quarters across the road. Thankfully the crew were ok. The rest of the day's competition was at times challenging with the weather, but good fun.



Both drivers backed off a little at the top of the Sideling stage, with fog making it near impossible to see some of the fast, open corners at the end of long straights. Our arrival in Longford for the final run of the day- a town stage- gave us some glimpses of sunshine, and a chance for Steve to show off a bit for the crowds, with some tail out, arm out action in the 32.



David and Max made up some good time in the Modern, competition, jumping four spots to 12th with the results of Elephant Pass still being considered. Steve and I are sitting happily in 8th spot in Early Modern.



Tomorrow we head up North, ending up in Strahn on the far north-west coast for two nights.






And we're off and racing - sorry, you should be learning by now that I'm the queen of misused quotes. Targa Tasmania 2012 is now officially (and finally!) underway! For the official start we were taken up the road to the Country Club for a 3-2-1-GO. It was then straight out to Lilydale, just outside of Launceston,  for some racing.



The purpose of today, Day 0, is to determine the  running order for the event. This year the format sees a big change with a short stage added to the traditional Prologue- a race around the town at Georgetown. Town stages are considered less quick (lots of drive 150 meters, turn right type of stuff) so the idea of including one of the more flowing, typical stages for seeding is to give a better indication of people's speed, as well as giving the brains and the cars a chance to warm up.



Our strategy going into Prologue is simple - don't muck it up! We always aim to go well enough to get a bit of a sleep in each morning, but not so well that we ended up running the back of the field with the super quick guys! It seemed to work today, with us sitting in the top 10 Early Modern times for both stages.



Lilydale was a good challenge to have early up. Some consider it quite a technical stage.  It also has a number of rough railroad crossings to master. Our notes flowed well and the car had good grip and stability through the corners, making for a smiling driver and navigator at the end of the stage.


Then it was straight on and into Georgetown. The  stage always attracts good crowds and we try to give a few waves, thumbs up and beeps of the horn as we make our way around. Hopefully we didn't disappoint this year. We were pretty happy with our time, with some improvement from last year's.



David and Max are also quickly getting to grips with the R35 - a VERY different drive from their R400. They too managed a top 10 time in the Georgetown stage, no mean feat given the very tough competition they're facing this week.


This includes the event favourites Jason and John White who set quickest time at Georgetown in their Lamborghini. Having to change an engine over night after having major issues at Symmons Plains yesterday obviously didn't faze them!


The cars are now heading back down to the Silverdome in Launceston to go on display for the night.


If you're local, stop by and say hi!



Today saw the Just Jap Racing Team at Symmons Plains Raceway for the Targa Tasmania Media Day. The day is an opportunity to thank the sponsors of the event by sticking them in the navigator's seat and scaring them silly with a few quick laps around the track. It's also the location for the pre-event media conference with the blokes tipped to win the event being asked all the tricky, pointy questions.


We're the ones there for the sponsor rides obviously ;)


We shared the track with some pretty amazing machines and drivers, including Targa legends Jim Richards and co-driver Barry Oliver who have won a record eight outright Targa Tasmania titles together (a record many expect will never be broken).


I still have to pinch myself when I find I'm sharing the pits, track or even a bowl of breakfast cornflakes (as was the case in a hotel restaurant up in Burnie a few years back) with my all time favourite driver Jim.


However my real highlight today (well apart from getting to drive the Just Jap Racing road R35 to the track) was finally getting to meet the Targa Tasmania Nissan Fan Club in person. In every Targa I've competed in (and many more before that) Scott, Jie and Marcin can be found at the side of the road - rain, hail or shine - waving their giant Nissan flag and cheering everyone on.


These guys are Tassie locals, and they take the whole week off to follow the event. To meet these guys was a real privilege, as was seeing how much they enjoyed a couple of hot laps snuck in the two cars.


The day was also a good chance for David and Max to jump into their car for a bit of a shake down. The R35 has been built to V-spec, and it was certainly looking and sounding good out on the track. It has some pretty impressive options including Volks wheels, 400mm Just Jap Racing rotors and the Just Jap Racing full titanium exhaust from the turbos back.


Tonight we sort of start getting down to business with the driver's briefing. Then the action officially gets underway with the prologue out at Georgetown tomorrow.





Reconnaissance (noun)- a military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment. The act of reconnoitering. While some of our competitors are certainly scary (and some of the locals even scarier including the bloke who used to dump oil and ball bearings on the road before Targa cars would come through), the rally version of reconnaissance is meant to be a little less confrontational!


This morning, after getting the cars through scruitineering, we set off in the Just Jap 'Homy' - an old V6 Nissan for a spot of 'reconnoitering’ (recce for short). The old girl is another Targa veteran - this is her 13th year servicing for the Just Jap crew - but she still manages to turn heads.



I have to admit that Steve and I are pretty casual when it comes to our recce for this event. Most teams spend days looking at stages, some writing their notes from scratch and then checking them as much as they can before racing gets underway (to ensure we don't stretch the friendship with the locals, the number of times you can pass over a stage is restricted). The focus is on adding as much information to the notes as possible, things like how to set up your entry to a corner, where you can and can't run wide on an exit, and instructions on where you should be braking.


In most of the rallying I do it is pretty much the norm for us to fly in early and spend days preparing for racing with exhaustive recce. However Steve spends a lot of time in Japan working hard (or so he tells me) in the lead up to Targa, so being limited on time we buy our notes for the event from Tassie-based Rallynotes and run through a few days of stages in the time we have. Being in a two car team also helps - David and Max reccied up a storm over the Easter long weekend, so we sit down and crib note it up with them, getting tips on the stages we haven't had a chance to look at. Steve and I treat our recce as more of a chance to get our eye in and get comfortable with the notes again. Stuff like reacquainting ourselves with the difference between a six and a seven corner.


A lot of people are surprised by our approach but it's worked for us in the past. It may also help that we're competing in a car that has done the event so many times it could probably drive itself through most of stages/ Today, we've looked at Leg Two of the event, which takes up the beautiful East Coast of Tassie. The Targa organisers are mixing things up a little this year, reversing some of the stages we normally run.



Today we've made a few passes over one such stage, The Sideling. The Sideling is considered the first 'tricky' stage of the event. It's a 15.44km mountain drive through spectacular rainforest to an amazing peak looking over a valley (not that I ever get much chance to look!) before you make a quick dash down the side of the mountain into that valley. The road is sharp and twisty, prone to lots of slipperiness in corners, making a spirited run through it a challenge.


I refer fondly to it as 'the bum cramp stage' as in it takes my arse cheeks a good ten minutes to unclench after we've crossed the flying finish! I expect the fun (and bum!) to be no different this year. A quick search of YouTube is the easiest way to see what I mean. Here's one or two I prepared earlier. Though we'll be running the stage in reverse of what these clips show, we expect some of those corners will still catch a few people out.








We've taken a detour this morning and stopped in to see our mates at Confidyne Motorsport in Ulverstone. http://www.confidyne.com.au/



One of the amazing things about rallying is the way virtually everyone involved will go out of their way to help a competitor out. I first met the Confidyne crew about 5 years ago when I was navigating for Tony Alford in the Just Jap prepped Donut King R35 at Rally Tasmania. We had some major problems with brakes, and the Confidyne guys jumped in, pretty much without having to be asked, to help get it sorted.



Today they're playing good samaritans again, opening up their workshop to help out Western Australian competitors Peter Rullo and Simon Iseppi, who landed on the boat with us this morning with their R35 GTR. Peter and Simon's car only came together about two weeks ago and they reckon they still have a solid day of prepping ahead. Now thankfully, they're doing it with a hoist, Confidyne's state-of-the-art workshop and a bunch of blokes keen to crawl over another R35, at their disposal!



Meanwhile, the combined Just Jap and Confidyne brains trust are drinking coffee, checking out You Tube videos and talking important car stuff, while I get myself reacquainted with that strange language Navigatese.



Welcome to rally! I'm conscious of keeping this blog G-rated, so I can't relay some of the after hours rally laughs I've experienced courtesy of the Confidyne crew. But if you have a performance car, I can guarantee a visit to Confidyne's workshop in northern Tassie, or a look at their website if you're not so local, will be just as entertaining!






The Targa gods were kind and the Just Jap Racing crew and cars enjoyed a completely uneventful crossing of Bass Straight last night (though there was almost a moment when we nabbed the best table in the ship's restaurant from under the noses of the Mazda crew ;)



With not much on the agenda today, apart from cruising down to Launceston and setting up our base for the next week, I thought a quick Targa Tasmania 101 could be in order! For those familiar with Targa & the Tarmac rally concept, you might just want to let the eyes glaze over for this update. For those not familiar with Targa, please, read on!



The easiest way to explain Targa Tasmania if you haven't caught one in person or on the telly, or seen Eric Bana's 'Love The Beast' is as follows - Every April, the very good people of Tasmania let me and about 500 of my friends close their roads and tear around their island at race pace for the best part of a week. Ok, not quite. But close!


Good old Google will tell you that rallies are a form of motorsport involving point-to-point racing. They are generally based on pure speed (that is, who can get from the start of a stage to the finish the quickest) with drivers achieving this pure speed by relying on a navigator to tell them where to go (nicely of course) using pace notes.



Targa Tasmania is Australia's most well known and well attended Tarmac rally, running annually since 1992. In 2012, we'll be competing with 240 cars and traveling more than 2000kms in six days. At least  600 of those kilometres is timed point-to-point, running at race pace. The event attracts cars of all eras and types- from the modern,exotic super quick super cars to the older classics, such as minis (sorry to my mates racing minis).


The field is divided into categories based on age and modifications. Look out for David & Max in Modern, Steve and I in Early Modern. If you're in need of something more than this quick intro to targa 101, check out the event website: http://www.targatasmania.com.au/


Time to unglaze the eyes! I promise something more exciting (kind of) later today when the action (sort of) starts with recce!


- Kel





"To misquote an often used racing phrase, 'to finish first, first you must get there!' And so begins our first transport stage to Targa Tasmania 2012. Just Jap Racing is fielding two cars in this year's event, both of Nissan pedigree in the form of an R35 GTR and an ATTKD Select R SP."


This is what 5:00am looks like at Just Jap Racing headquarters - Kel


"It's the first outing for the R35, which will be piloted by the Tasmanian crew of David Ayers and Max Griffiths. While it's his first stint in Nissan's newish supercar, David is no stranger to the marque or Tarmac Rallying, having successfully competed for many years in a 400R and achieving numerous Early Modern podium finishes. Learning the car with relatively new Navigator Max by his side will ensure this is an interesting event for David!"


It's the first Targa Tasmania event for the Just Jap Racing R35 GT-R - Kel


"By comparison, it's lucky event number 13 for the R32 and driver Stephen Thatcher, the owner and director of Just Jap. The R32 underwent a transformation three years ago, upgrading to a ATTKD Select R SP thanks to renowned Japanese tuner, Mr Tsukada.



"I'm navigating for Steve again in what will be our fifth event together. Steve has a reputation for being the quiet achiever at Targa, consistently placing in the top ten outright for the Early Modern competition. The Just Jap Racing outfit are also known for taking their fun just as seriously as their racing, and this year is no different."


The Just Jap 'Shitbox Rally' highway patrol car is our escort to the event's starting point - Kel


"The trek south to Melbourne and the boat to Tassie is headed up by a Just Jap-sponsored Shitbox Rally 2012 competitor in police livery! Gary and Jason start their seven day rally to Cairns tomorrow to raise funds for the Cancer council, driving  an old Commodore, decked out CHIPS style. Today however, they're turning heads and causing feet to be put quickly to brakes all the way down the Hume.


"If only all days the office were like this!


"If this has whetted your appetite for more, check in tomorrow for a Targa Tasmania 101 lesson and an update on our team's 2012 adventure!


- Kel"