Five-times Australian Touring Car Champion and V8 Supercars Hall of Fame member, Dick Johnson, will contest the 20th anniversary of Targa Tasmania in April.
The 65-year old last competed in Targa Tasmania in 2000, and returns to the event at the wheel of a 2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
Powered by a 7-litre V8 engine, the Corvette is owned by long-time Targa competitor, Yellow Cab’s Neill Ford, one of Dick Johnson Racing’s sponsors.
Johnson is excited to be contesting Targa Tasmania again, particularly in the event’s 20th anniversary year, and in the big V8 Corvette.
”I’ve done Targa three times previously and it is just a great event to participate in,” Johnson said.
“It’s fantastic to be able to go back again with the fantastic support of Neill Ford and his family and crew at Yellow Cabs.”
Johnson has no thoughts about finishing the event in any particular position, admitting that his number one aim is to finish.
“Other than finishing, the goal is to at least get a Targa plate, but I’m really not going there with any preconceived aspirations other than to have a lot of fun.”
While he has a brilliant touring car record, the Queenslander hasn’t enjoyed as much success in Targa Tasmania.
“The last couple of times we’ve had problems,” he remembers.
“When I drove a Maserati Barchetta – which was an open top car - I have never been so cold and wet in my entire life. The suspension was also set up for a billiard table race track, so to say the least, it was exciting!
“Last time was in an Ultima, which we ran into trouble with on day one. I’m hoping this year to get through unscathed.
“My plan is to exercise caution... but this time, thankfully I’ve got a roof!”
Johnson’s entry into Targa Tasmania will be a welcome distraction from the hustle and bustle of running one of the most successful teams in V8 Supercars.
While he’s winding his way around the twisting tarmac roads of the Apple Isle, the Jim Beam Racing team will be preparing for the V8 round in New Zealand, although he’s quick to point out that he probably won’t be missed.
“Any business is only as good as the people that are in it, and we have a great team of people who can certainly do without me for a week.”
Asked how much testing he’ll be doing in the Corvette Z06, Johnson answers in typical fashion.
“It depends how far it is from Parc Ferme to the start of the event,” he jokes, before adding that the team will be doing the pre-Targa test and sponsors day at Symmons Plains the day before the event gets underway.
Car owner, Neill Ford, is pleased to be bringing the Australian motorsport legend to Targa, knowing that his presence will bring motorsport fans out of the woodwork to watch him competing.
“When we heard there was to be a legends event, Dan, Nathalie and immediately thought of Dick, and the chance to run the three cars in the same event. I might also add there is nothing like a good lunch to seal the deal!”
Ford also sees the teaming up with Johnson as a good marketing tool for Yellow Cabs.
“Yellow Cabs is expanding rapidly with Roger Burdon and his family in Tasmania. We believe Targa Tasmania will see Yellow Cabs in Tasmania grow even further.”
As for an overall result, Ford is not too concerned where Johnson finishes the event.
“We want Dick to enjoy the event with us as Team Yellow. Our belief is you have to be there to finish and enjoy a Jim Beam with your mates on Sunday night.”
Johnson will be co-driven by Nathalie Ford, the car owner’s daughter-in-law, who is also a long-time Targa competitor.
The 20th anniversary running of Targa Tasmania starts on Tuesday, April 5.
After a 5.1 kilometre prologue stage around the streets of George Town to decide the event running order, competitors tackle 38 Targa stages over five days, ending at Wrest Point on April 10.