Targa Australia cancels road races indefinitely after split from governing body
The iconic Targa Tasmania road rally’s future is in limbo after the event’s organisers severed ties with Motorsport Australia. The governing body had revoked Targa’s permits while it reviewed safety risks following four competitor deaths in the event’s last two runnings.
Targa Australia – the organisation responsible for running the iconic Targa Tasmania road rally – has cancelled all upcoming events and cut its ties with Australia’s peak governing body for motorsport, following the deaths of four competitors in the space of 12 months.
In April 2021, three Targa Tasmania competitors – two drivers and a co-driver/navigator – died in two separate crashes across the final two days of the event, marking the first fatalities in the race’s history.
Despite Targa Tasmania’s organisers implementing all 23 safety improvement recommendations made by Motorsport Australia (the governing body for motor racing locally) following investigations into the 2021 deaths, another driver died in last year’s running of the event – marking the fourth fatality in just 12 months.
Targa Australia had initially postponed this year’s Targa Tasmania event from mid-April to late-October – after Motorsport Australia suspended permits for the Targa tarmac rallies it sanctioned – though the road race has now been cancelled indefinitely.
Targa Australia’s event cancellations also extend to the Targa Great Barrier Reef race, which was due to take place in early September.
The cancellation of the upcoming races comes 15 months after Motorsport Australia established the ‘Targa Review Panel Report’, which handed down 94 recommendations to reduce the ‘unacceptably high’ risks of tarmac rally racing in February 2023.
Despite these recommendations, Motorsport Australia has yet to issue Targa Australia with the necessary permits to run its September and October events, leading to the racing organiser’s decision to cancel the races and cut ties with the governing body.
“Our events can only be run with the support of our loyal participants, and on the whole, they are understandably disenchanted with the current landscape, and we completely understand why,” said Targa CEO Mark Perry in a media statement.
“We have waited and been incredibly patient with the process put in place, however this process has now taken a year longer than similar reviews in the past.
“Competitors have little certainty with what the future looks like for them and are rightly holding off on entering our events. In turn, we have had to make the difficult but necessary decision to cancel our 2023 events and undertake our own review and assessment on the future viability of our iconic rallies.
“While it is another sad day for everyone involved in Targa, we must now explore every conceivable option available to us to ensure the survival of Targa and the return of the ultimate tarmac rally, Targa Tasmania in April 2024”.
Though a majority of the media focus on Targa Tasmania is centred on the competitive side of the event, the race also runs a ‘Targa Tour’ element – allowing enthusiasts to take part on the racing stages at a reduced speed – which has been an integral part of the event’s financial viability.
Despite none of the recent deaths occurring on the Targa Tour, Motorsport Australia had implemented a maximum speed limit of 110km/h for drivers in non-competitive entries for this year’s event – a decision which Targa Australia claims led to 80 per cent of its entrants pulling out.
It is not yet known if Targa Tasmania will return – as its alignment with Motorsport Australia allowed the event better access to insurance – though Targa Australia’s media statement referenced a previous alignment with the Australia Auto Sport Alliance (AASA), which provided a permit to the event between 2007 and 2011.
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