Almost 20 years to the day since he won his first Bathurst 1000, Australia touring car great Tony Longhurst has won his first tarmac rally in a Castrol sponsored 2006 Subaru Impreza STi.
Following his recent retirement from touring cars, the Queenslander has been keeping his racing eye sharp in a number of tarmac rallies, including last weekend’s Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge, aka Rally Burnie, in Tasmania’s north-west.
Over the two day event, Longhurst and navigator Jahmeil Taylor finished second in heat one and first in heat two in the trying wet conditions, resulting in a tie for first place with local Tasmanian driver Jamie Vandenberg.
Longhurst has seen a number of podiums at different tarmac events over the previous years but this is the first time he’s stood atop the podium, and the gap between significant victories made it even more special.
Longhurst tells: “I was standing on the podium and thinking it was a little odd that I’d win my first tarmac rally today, because it’s been 20 years since I was on the podium when I won my first Bathurst.”
Though the 2008 Bathurst 1000 is on this weekend, in 1988 it was held one week earlier.
He added: “To win my first tarmac rally is a really special feeling – it’s been a long time coming. We probably should have been on the podium at Targa Tasmania this year, except I put the car off the road, but to finally get the win is great.
“I tried a lot harder today and was really committed to the pacenotes. It’s been an incredible tussle with Jamie (Vandenberg).
“Yesterday was my first time on Dunlop tyres, and with more confidence in them today, I was a lot more comfortable to push harder.”
Longhurst won the 1988 Bathurst 1000 with Tomas Mezera in his Benson & Hedges sponsored Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500. Longhurst also won the 2001 Bathurst 1000 with Mark Skaife in a Holden Commodore.
The Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge was held in conjunction with round five of the Australian Rally Championship. It was a rare crossover event that occurred when the ARC (normally held of gravel surfaces) introduced its first all-tarmac round.
While Longhurst and Vandenberg shared the victory spoils, Toyota Corolla driver Neal Bates and Coral Taylor used their tarmac rally and race driving experience to win both heats of the ARC section, extending his lead in the 2008 championship with one round to go in Coffs Harbour on Nov 15-16.