Dean Lillie has pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent Motorsport Australia Targa Championship history with a win on debut at Targa High Country over the weekend.
Behind the wheel of a 2007 Mitsubishi Evo and with experienced co-driver Steve Glenney beside him, Lille showed plenty of composure and pace throughout the three-day event as he dominated the 61 car field with 12 of the 16 stage wins.
Finishing in second place almost two and half minutes behind was 2020 Targa Great Barrier Reef winner Tony Quinn and his 2019 outright Motorsport Australia Targa Champion co-driver Kate Catford.
While Lillie and Glenney’s biggest challengers came from RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship regular Luke Anear and Andy Sarandis on Saturday, the 2018 Mercedes GTR pilots fastest on four stages themselves, it was Quinn and Catford who would finish with a runners-up placing after a strong second half.
Rounding out the podium was Liam and Larry Howarth, who had occupied second place for much of the race courtesy of their consistency, however a tough final few stages saw the duo and their 1995 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec drop to third.
Despite all four crews showing glimpses of brilliance throughout the Victorian event, the weekend no doubt belonged to Lillie, who was proud to win his first Targa event.
“I’ve wanted to do this event since I first came to the Mt Buller Sprint back in the early days,” Lillie said.
“The car held up well and we drove the wheels off it ever since the opening day when it was wet.
“The twisty Jamieson and Eildon stages today really suited the Evo and Steve (Glenney) has done an amazing job on the other side of the car.”
Having sat beside the Victorian for the event, Glenney credited their preparation as the key to the memorable victory.
“As with everything we do, we came prepared because we always want to do the best job we can,” Glenney added.
“I suppose you could call it a bit of a giant-killing performance but we are not surprised that we have done so well.”
It was that detailed preparation which helped Lillie and Glenney get on pace from the start as they started the event with a shared stage win before taking the lead for themselves by the end of the first day.
On Saturday, they picked up the first three stage wins before Anear and Sarandis won two in a row to ever slightly close the gap on the leaders. However Lillie and Glenney managed to make up that lost time and round out the day with another two wins from the final three stages – the last of which was shared with Quinn and Catford for their first stage win of the event.
An entertaining finale seemed to be brewing as just over one minute separated Lillie and Anear ahead of the day’s first stage, only for the latter to have major issues and drop down to ninth outright.
Any hope of a late fightback from challenging crews was soon over as Lillie and Glenney won five consecutive stages on Sunday morning to all but seal the event, while Quinn and Catford managed to wrestle their way past the Howarths on the event’s penultimate stage.
Anear and Sarandis finished the rally on a high, sharing final stage honours with Anthony and Sandra Seymour, but it was too little too late as they ended up in sixth outright behind Geoffrey and Tonie Hewitt in the 2009 Nissan GTR R35 and Thomas Monaghan and Alan Stephenson, who won the Mansfield Shire GT Production Class.
The Motorsport Australia Targa Championship will now enjoy a small break before heading south for the prestigious Targa Tasmania on 19-24 April.
Targa High Country results
1 Dean Lillie/Steve Glenney
2 Tony Quinn/Kate Catford
3 Liam Howarth/Larry Howarth
4 Geoffrey Hewitt/Toni Hewitt
5 Thomas Monaghan/Alan Stephenson
Mt Buller GT Outright
1 Tony Quinn/Kate Catford
2 Thomas Monaghan/Alan Stephenson
3 Luke Anear/Andy Sarandis
1 Peter Gluskie/Samantha Winter
2 Paul Byrne/Colin Byrne
3 Philip-Jon Buggee/Paul Freame
Mansfield Shire GT Production
1 Thomas Monaghan/Alan Stephenson
2 Barrie Smith/Dale Moscatt
3 Michael Minshall/Julie Winton-Monet
1 Roger Lomman/Anne Bainbridge
2 Adam Kaplan/Aleshia Penney
3 Mark Griffith/Neil Woolley
Dutton Garage Early Modern 2
1 Adam Spence/Lee Challoner-Miles
2 Edward Merewether/Jennifer Gillott
3 David Blunden/Robert Sheppard
Dutton Garage Early Modern 4
1 Dean Lillie/Steve Glenney
2 Liam Howarth/Larry Howarth
3 Geoffrey Hewitt/Toni Hewitt
Mansfield Shire GT Sports Trophy
1 Simon Trude/Dion Morrison
2 Robert Bryden/Ian Noble
3 Steven Sher/Fergal Murphy
Mansfield Shire Thoroughbred Trophy
1 Brett Dillon/Geoffrey Corah
2 Laura Rogers/Gavin Rogers
3 Robert Greig/Stephen Harris
1 Neville Emond/Stephen Jones
2 Tracy Hoven/Garth Davies
3 Shane Navin/Glenn Evans
Photos: Wishart Media/Otherside Media