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Legends Targa  triumph never in doubt
Jim Richards and Barry Oliver fly through the Whiteman Park stage Car 18 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

We all know you can't keep a good team down and when we're talking motorsport legends Jim Richards and co-driver Barry Oliver, it would seem that saying is a perfect fit.

From the moment the pair crossed the start line on Mussel Pool Road in Whiteman Park at precisely 1.56pm last Thursday the smart money was on them to take outright honours at the eighth Quit Targa West tarmac rally. And they did, by exactly one minute.

Richards and Oliver won both 3.78km sprints around the nature reserve to take a 2sec. lead in the outright Competition-Modern category over locals Jamie Lister in a Mitsubishi Lancer and Peter Rullo's Nissan GT-R 35 - and looked the goods from there.

Earlier crews had tried out the Whiteman Park course in an introductory contest called a prologue, designed to bed-in both cars and drivers before the start of serious competition, but the occasion got the better of several drivers who left the road, thankfully with no serious consequences.

Jim Richards and Barry Oliver celebrate their win (1st outright, 1st modern competition) Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

David Heaton and David Bobowski exited in spectacular fashion on the Saturday by rolling their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 RS after the finish line on the Coondle Highlands and walked away unhurt, albeit with pride somewhat awry.

The remaining 69 entrants pushed pedal to metal on Sunday in the final 3.07km Killarnee City of Perth sprint down Riverside Drive, alongside the Swan River. But the superior skills of that dynamic duo of Richards and Oliver - coupled with the 630 horses under the lid of their light and rear-wheeled Porsche GT2 RS - had proved far too polished for even this pretty classy field.

"The car was great; we didn't even open the bonnet or change the tyres," said Richards, who now has won 21 tarmac rallies in 20 seasons with Oliver.

It was left to local heroes Jamie and Mandy Lister in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 (just one minute behind), and Franz Esterbauer and Ivan Tan in their Evo 10 to fill the minor placings.

Not that there is anything dishonourable about silver and bronze - a fact that sadly took too long to dawn upon some of our younger Olympians recently.

Rullo, one of the favourites for the major gong, must have felt lightning had struck twice when transmission dramas in his hapless hi-tech 2008 Nissan took him and co-driver Simon Iseppi out just when they were looking good again.

Similar problems robbed them last year, which should give the mechanics at Northside Nissan a conundrum to ponder in coming weeks.

With a gearbox replacement after stage five, Rullo fought on gamely. But it was just too late.

"It's disappointing, but these things happen. The guys were brilliant in putting in a new gearbox overnight and we rejoined the field, but any chance of winning was long gone," said a disappointed Rullo.

There was no margin for error in this exciting four-day adventure and even tight and tied times among the leaders resulted in see-sawing battles in every category.

A slowly dwindling field of 79 classic and modern cars covered 215km of competition over 30 closed-road special stages.

In the Competition-Classic, defending category winner Tolley Challis and co-pilot Greg Flood steered their lovely little 1974 classic Porsche 911 RS beautifully, at times defending a gap of just four seconds.

Challis managed to stave off a persistent challenge from the Porsche of 47-year-old real estate investor Paul Moltoni, who finished 73sec. behind and ahead of David and Vicki Moir's 1973 Datsun 240Z.

Brett Wilkinson and Matthew Edgar in their 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

Brett Wilkinson and Matthew Edgar powered their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 across the line just 40sec. in front of husband and wife Raz and Ioana Vlad in the Challenge-Modern section, with the all-girl crew of Sharon Payne and Helen Lunsmann third.

Father and son Bruce and Max Lake took out the Challenge- Classic category in their 1973 Datsun 240Z for the second year, from the Porsche 911s of Robert Buys and Sanja Aksamija, and Paul and Mitchell Thompson, who both crossed the line at 2:05:14.

Bruce and Max Lake in the 1973 Datsun 240 Z. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

The value of the co-driver in rallying should never be understated. What they do, and the skills and the dedication they bring to the sport, could be compared in sheer lunacy to that of the sidecar passenger (often disparagingly referred to as "the sandbag") in motorbike racing.

Targa West is an extraordinary undertaking in WA motorsport and is a credit to clerk of course Ross Tapper and event director Bob Schrader.

It takes some 500 officials - the vast majority of whom are volunteers - to staff roadblocks, spectator areas, competitor control points and rally headquarters.

But that's motorsport.

TARGA WEST RESULTS

DAY ONE (after two stages)

Competition-Modern
1 Jim Richards/Barry Oliver (Porsche GT2 RS) 04min. 23sec.
=2 Jamie Lister/Mandy Lister (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) 04:25.
=2 Peter Rullo/Simon Iseppi (Nissan GT-R) 04:25.

Competition-Classic
1 Tolley Challis/Greg Flood (Porsche 911 RS) 04:30.
2 Paul Moltoni/Ian de Boer (Porsche 911 RS) 04:31.
3 Simon Gunson/Jurgen Lunsmann (Ford Capri Perana Replica) 04:33.

Challenge-Modern
1 Brett Wilkinson/Matthew Edgar (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) 04:44.
2 Daryl Sosa/Stirling Hamersley (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10) 04:49.
3 Sharon Payne/Helen Lunsmann (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) 04:50.

Challenge-Classic
1 Bruce Lake/Max Lake (Datsun 240Z) 04:56.
2 Robert Buys/Sanja Aksamija (Porsche 911) 04:59.
3 Martin Eyer/Sharon Eyer (Triumph TR8 RS) 05:36.

DAY TWO (after 10 stages)

Competition-Modern
1 Richards/Oliver 35min. 13sec.
2 Lister/Lister 35:42.
3 Ben Searcy/James Marquet (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 35:53.

Competition-Classic
1 Challis/Flood 36:11.
2 Gunson/Lunsmann 36:32.
3 David Moir/Vicki Moir (Datsun 240Z) 37:28.

Challenge-Modern
1 Razvan Vlad/Ioana Vlad (Ford Fiesta ST) 39:37.
2 Brett Wilkinson/Matthew Edgar (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) 40:22.
=3 Keith Hawley/ Russell Hawley (Chevrolet Corvette Z06) 41:03.
=3 Sharon Payne/Helen Lunsmann (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) 41:03.

Challenge-Classic
1 Buys/Aksamija 41:11.
2 Paul Thompson/Mitchell Thompson (Porsche 911 RS) 42:46.
3 Eyer/Eyer 44:01.

DAY THREE (after 23 stages)

Competition-Modern
1 Richards/Oliver 01:17:44.
2 Lister/Lister 01:18:38.
3 Franz Esterbauer/Ivan Tan (Lancer Evo 10) 01:19:22.

Competition-Classic
1 Challis/Flood 01:19:33.
2 MoltonI/de Boer 01:20:59.
3 Moir/Moir 01:23:15.

Challenge-Modern
1 Vlad/Vlad 01:29:20.
2 Wilkinson/Edgar 01:29:47.
3 Payne/Lunsmann 01:31:06

Challenge-Classic
1 Lake/Lake 01:32:37
2 Buys/Aksamija 01:34:02
3 Thompson/Thompson 01:34:16

DAY FOUR (after 30 stages)

Competition-Modern
1 Richards/Oliver 01:46:49.
2 Lister/Lister 01:47:49.
3 Esterbauer/Tan 01:48:23.

Competition-Classic
1 Challis/Flood 01:49:15.
2 Moltoni/de Boer 01:50:28.
3 Moir/Moir 01:53:50.

Challenge-Modern
1 Wilkinson/Edgar 02:00:21.
2 Vlad/Vlad 02:01:01.
3 Payne/Lunsmann 02:02:14.

Challenge-Classic
1 Lake/Lake 02:04:33.
=2 Buys/Aksamija 02:05:14.
=2 Thompson/Thompson 02:05:14.