Targa Championship organisers have made several changes to the technical regulations of Australia's premier tarmac rally series from 2016.
Focused specifically on three components – safety, competition structure and cost containment – the overarching changes will come into effect from January 1, 2016 — Targa Tasmania’s 25th anniversary year.
From this point vehicles entered in the average-speed based GT Sports Trophy category will need, at minimum, a bolt-in half rollcage. This is due to the average speed of recent Trophy entrants — who need to adhere to a 130km/h top speed — being higher than anticipated.
Changes to the competition structure are designed to increase both field size and acknowledgement of those who may not be on the top three steps come rally end.
The TSD Trophy category will, for example, recognise the leading classic vehicle for the first time as part of Targa’s new ‘four-step podium’ system.
A new GT Sports Trophy class has resulted from the merging of Thoroughbred and Sports Trophy into a single group, given the low uptake of Thoroughbred entrants in recent times. As per TSD, the first classic home will also be recognised on the podium.
Moving to non-speed-limited competition vehicles, the Classic category has been overhauled, removing – contentiously, but with an eye on cost containment – Classic Outright. Instead, Early and Late classes have been merged and the trophy winner will be defined by the handicap system.
The popular Early Modern group returns to a December 31, 2002 cut-off date, with eligible vehicles from 1986-2002 granted entry. This rule will remain in place ‘into the future’. Additionally, the top end has been split to provide Categories for 4WD and 2WD vehicles, the top 2WD crew now able to stand on the podium regardless of outright finishing position.
A car built from January 1, 2003 is classed as modern, with this date remaining fixed for the foreseeable future. For the first time, a cut-off date has been introduced, being December 31, 2011. The structure is split into 2WD and 4WD categories in a similar vein to Early Modern.
Showing a shift to lower-cost, showroom-style vehicles is the introduction of new competitions, with Targa suggesting that the new categories could hold top-10 outright cars that cost less than $60,000 to buy and prepare.
The Showroom classes have been replaced by GT2 and GT4 categories, spanning two- and four-wheel drive machines respectively. And they are the only way to enter Targa in a car built from January 1, 2012.
GT2 is made for two-wheelers built from January 1, 2009 to the date of the current event (meaning cars built from 2009-2011 have the option to run GT2 or Modern). To increase performance, some freedoms above the previous Showroom scenarios have been allowed to encourage both manufacturer and privateer involvement.
The GT4 category apes GT2 for timings and modification and is intended to make the cars ‘competitive, safe and reliable with greatly reduced preparation costs’.
Taking a peak at the new regulations reveals that items such as the clutch disc are free, and a limited-slip differential can be fitted to cars without one standard, provided it’s in the same ratio as standard. Other highlights include free front brake callipers, though rears have to remain standard. Dampers are free but attachment points must remain unchanged, and there’s no in-car anti-roll bar adjustments allowed.
Naturally-aspirated vehicles can have their block-back exhaust system changed, however, turbo vehicles can only modify the exhaust from the turbo-back. ECU changes are permitted, turbocharger boost is unrestricted and air filters are free, but intercoolers must remain the same size, material and fit as standard.
Interestingly, the GT2 and GT4 categories will not allow limited editions of the base model vehicle that are designed primarily for motorsport use, and neither are the upgraded parts allowed to be retro-fitted to the base spec car.
As Targa embraces GT2 and GT4, it’s our hope that more manufacturers return to the Targa fray and become part of Australia's top-level tarmac rally scene once more.
By Adam Davis, www.carsales.com.au