It’s two wins from two starts for Perth’s Alex Rullo, taking first place at the Auto One Targa Albany Sprint at Middleton Beach on Monday 7 March 2022.
The challenging 2.8-kilometre course was run five times starting from Middleton Beach and traversing up the hill to the Anzac Centre on Mt Adelaide offering stunning views across King George Sound, one of Western Australia’s most scenic backdrops.
Back-to-back winner Rullo said it was good to have a flawless run.
“We put a whole new computer in the car, and to be honest, we just tried to get the car here, we only got it going a few days ago,” said Rullo, a former V8 Supercar driver
“The hill climb at Middleton Beach would have to be my favourite – I love the track, love the layout, it’s very fast, and we managed to snag a win which is great, I’m really happy,” the 21-year-old said.
Rullo’s win wasn’t without a fight. Esteemed driver, Steve Jones in his 2010 Mitsubishi Evolution 10, who won WA’s premier four-day rally, Make Smoking History Targa West (held in October 2021), pushed Rullo every stage.
“At the start of the day with the rain, we weren’t sure how many dry runs we’d get, and we knew Steve Jones would be extremely quick in his car,” Rullo said.
“In the last run, I put it on the line, there was nothing left in the car – it was pretty cool to battle it out with Steve, we both got our quickest times on that last run.”
Jones won the first of the five runs at Middleton Beach and finished the others merely tenths of seconds behind Rullo in the others.
The winner is the driver with the fastest course run, and in the last run Rullo clocked 1:25.33 minutes ahead of Jones’ 1:25.69. Rounding out the top three was Mark Cates in his new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS with his fastest time 1:29.08.
“This was Porsche’s first run, it has a lot more horsepower to the old one, our only issue was traction,” said Cates of Bunbury, who is planning to compete in Targa Tasmania next month.
“The weather gods gave us enough dry roads for some fast runs – this car is a dry weather weapon.
“The course was really well designed with two days of racing without hitch, which is a credit to organisers, and thanks to Albany for having us,” said Cates.
Fourth fastest was Matt James-Wallace (1:29.67), who also took the win in the Quaranup Sprint. Completing the top five Jurgen Lunsmann in a 2019 Tesla Model 3P+ electric car (1:29.74).
The fastest local was Albany Auto One owner Ramon Panizza in his 1976 Ford Escort Mark II, who finished with a class win, placing 23rd outright with a time of 1:37.71 minutes.
“The event flowed really well and it was good to see some close competition at the pointy end,” Panizza said.
“The car was the best it’s ever been. It was slippery in the first couple of runs and we were able get some good times when the road dried out.”
One hundred classic and modern cars lined up for the Auto One Targa Albany Sprint that was held from Sunday 6 March to Monday 7 March, bringing high octane entertainment to the City of Albany streets.
There were three rally events over two days, the Auto One Targa Quaranup Rallysprint (driver and co-driver and the course goes in both directions), the Quaranup Sprint (drivers only, one direction), and the main event, Auto One Targa Albany Sprint (drivers only).
The Rallysprint course requires a co-driver and a full safety set up that includes a roll cage, five-point harness, front head restraints along with other requirements as set out in the regulations.
The fastest was Troy Wilson and co-driver Gav Russell in a 2010 Mitsubishi Evo X with a time of 1:15.92.
From the highs of a triumphant rallysprint, the lows came the following day when Wilson suffered a mechanical and was forced to retire, unable to race in the main event at Middleton Beach.
On Sunday (6/3/22), the speed-course, the Auto One Targa Quaranup Sprint saw drivers tackle the 2.55-kilometres up to the historic Camp Quaranup four times, over a total competitive distance of 10.2 kilometres.
Fastest was Matt James-Wallace in his 1993 Nissan GRT R32 with a time of 1:23.09. It’s his second title; he also won the rally in 2019.
“The car was fantastic, really good, and it was loving the cool Albany air which is good for turbo charged cars,” said Oakford resident James-Wallace.
“I really enjoy the hill climb, there’s nowhere else in WA where you can belt up a hill at speed, it’s great fun.
“I was born in Albany, so it’s good to go back and see the family and hit a home run in the home town.”
James-Wallace is currently leading the five-rally series, the Shannons Targa Rally Sprint, and with one rally remaining, he’s hoping to repeat last year’s title success and take the series win.
Auto One Targa Albany Sprint event director Ross Tapper OAM said the event was very successful.
“The competitors love racing in Albany and we cap numbers to 100 cars,” said Tapper.
“Everyone had a good time and there were no major incidents – a safe and successful event is what we strive to deliver every time, so we’re happy.”