The drama continued right to the very end of Day 5 which eventually saw long-time campaigner Jamie Vandenberg (Nissan GT-R) claim his first Targa Tasmania victory.
Vandenberg inherited the lead on Day 4 following the demise of Steve Glenney (Nissan GT-R) and Jason White (Mitisubishi Lancer Evo IX). Despite holding a lead of under 20 seconds from Matt Close (Audi TT RS), Vandenberg looked to be relatively safe after the 58km Mount Arrowsmith stage mid-way through the final day.
However, on the short Tarraleah stage which followed the engine in his GT-R showed signs of imminent expiry as smoke began to bellow from its exhaust. The team thought their day was over and put 3 litres of oil into the engine and hoped for the best, expecting they’d not make it through the remaining two stages.
In more ways than one Vandenberg was fortunate to win the rally. Matt Close looked set to take the lead, possibly on the final stage of the event. But this drama fuelled Targa Tasmania was not done with yet and Close crashed out while passing another competitor on the second-last stage of the rally.
It was a desprately cruel blow for Close who would have been an equally worthy first-time winner. Alas for him he will have to wait and fight another day.
To the victor the spoils and, somehow, Vandenberg managed to limp his GT-R across the ceremonial finish line at Wrest Point Casino to put an end to one of the most dramatic Targa Tasmania rallies ever staged.
Thankfully, the MINI John Cooper Works GP I was assisting had a trouble-free run all rally and driver Andrew Robinson and navigator Tom Browell were thrilled to stand on the podium and collect their trophies for finishing in second place in the Showroom category. After a few of our own final day mishaps in recent times it was a nice relief to head into the Targa Bar with a huge smile on our faces.