The Australian Endurance Championship is a big operation for Targa Racing, and the 2015 Valvoline Wakefield 300 was no exception.
Of the 63 cars that contested the event, five were from the Targa Racing stable, prepared and maintained by Chris Gough and Zane Al-Said.
Due to the massive numbers, two races had to be held, and Targa Racing was well represented in both.
After practice and qualifying, officials decided that the outright race would be contested by Divisions 1, 2 and 3, with the B-Main to be contested by those in Divisions 4 through 7.
The B-Main was held on Sunday Morning, over 127 Laps (279.4km), before the main Wakefield 300 was held in the afternoon over 137 laps (301.4km).
Three Targa cars would compete in the B-Main, headlined by the racing debut of Adam Dodd’s Mazda 6 turbo-diesel.
The only other time we’d seen this car in race mode, was in the Australian Grand Prix Celebrity Races a few years ago.
Dodd would share that car with Tony Bonnano, and would contest the race in division 7.
Also running in the B-Main, the defending Modern Sports Cars Series Champions, David and Rob Viner, running in Division 4 in their Mazda MX5.
Meanwhile, Paul Shacklady and Anthony Carter would run in Division 5, in the same MX5 that Dodd won the B-Main with Terry Nightingale in, in 2014.
As expected, the Viner duo were the best placed Targa combination on the grid for Sunday Morning’s B-Main, but their race didn’t go to plan.
The start of the race was frantic and intense, and David Viner worked his way through from fourth, to take the lead from eventual race winners, Tony Ross and Paul Chapman once the race moved into the compulsory pit-stop sequence.
David Viner was leading comfortably, cruising along, and he was very enthusiastic, so focused and intent on maintaining that lead after he handed the car over to son Rob, that he inadvertently brought about his undoing, with a mistake that resulted in a mechanical failure, just prior to when he was due to make the scheduled pit-stop, and the 110 was parked at the top of the Wakefield Park Circuit, with a rare DNF next to it in the results sheet..
The quiet achievers of the B-Main were Paul Shacklady and Anthony Carter.
The duo had a clean, uneventful, unaffected run through the 127 laps, and managed to finish second in Division five, behind the experienced combination of Robin and Peter Lacey, who snared third outright as well.
Further back in the field, Dodd and Bonnano soldiered on in the turbo diesel, and come out as division winners, after a fascinating battle with Andrew Walker and David Lo-lacono, in which the Targa car only got to the front in the dying stages.
The race was won by Paul Chapman and Tony Ross, ahead of Russell and Andy Harris, with the Lacey duo complete a clean sweep of the podium for the reliable Mazda Mx5.
The remaining two cars in the Targa stable would contest the A-Main.
The defending champions, Justin Ruggier and Mark Mackay returned to the stable for the first time since the Queensland 300 in May, while Brian Anderson was back, but with a new co-driver, as Michael Cruse joined him in the #25.
It was a difficult build-up for the Ruggier/Mackay entry.
After running the all-new left-hand drive Mazda MX5 on the Saturday, mechanical issues forced that car to be put on the trailer on Saturday night.
After qualifying, it was looking like Mackay and Ruggier would be contesting the B-Main, but the change of car, the knowledge that the right-hand drive was more reliable and faster, and some discretion from the Officials would see them moved up into Division 3, and starting at the rear of the field in the A-Main.
They started slowly, but made their way forward, with thanks to a high-attrition rate, and some very sensible driving from Mackay.
When he handed the car over to Justin Ruggier, the youngster drove the wheels off the Mazda MX5, taking advantage of a Safety Car period, and more attrition, to move the car up into 2nd position in Division 3, and 14th outright by the time the chequered flag fell on the Wakefield 300!
As for Brian Anderson… His BMW E46 M3 ran beautifully at Wakefield Park in the 2014 Wakefield 300, when he teamed up with Gerry Murphy to finish 4th, but they did lead late in the race, until an incident forced an unscheduled pit-stop.
For 2015, Anderson was back, but with a new driver in Michael Cruse. The Victorian driver was making his Wakefield 300 debut.
In an ultra competitive field, Anderson and Cruse managed to qualify in 18th position. Anderson said after qualifying that he was “Happy with the pace of the car. The only problem is, they (the rest of the field) have all got quicker.”
Anderson had issues with this car at the Modern Sports Car round at Wakefield Park in January, but some hard work, and a shakedown at Bathurst, meant that the car was back to its reliable self, and ready for the 300km test.
They started well, with Michael Cruse in the car. Only one pit-stop was necessary, for Brian Anderson to jump in for the run home, and, in a tough and very fast race, where lap traffic was a constant factor, they managed to finish 8th outright, after a smooth, untroubled run, in a race won by the Lotus of Steve and Jake Shelly.
Second outright went to Gerry Murphy and Michael Caine, with Nathan Jess and Matthew Thompson taking 3rd.
Jake Shelly became the first driver to win the 300 three times, and did this one in a race record.
Justin Ruggier and Mark Mackay came away with the Aussie Hire Hard Charger Award, for making up the most positions of any car in the main race… they moved up 22 positions in the 137-lap journey.
Wakefield 300 | February 28-March 1 | Wakefield Park, Goulburn
Outright Podium + Division Winners
Supershock Suspension Pole Award | Nick Cancian/Malcolm Cancian (Mazda MX5)
Aussie Hire Hard Charger Award | Justin Ruggier/Mark Mackay (Targa Racing Mazda MX5) [36th to 14th]
1st | Jake Shelly/Steve Shelly (Lotus HPE) [1st in Division 2]
2nd | Gerry Murphy/Michael Caine (Maxda RX7)
3rd | Nathan Jess/Matthew Thompson (Future Busa)
9th | Grant Sherrin/Iain Sherrin (BMW 135i) [1st in Division 1]
11th | Henry Draper/Linda Devlin (JCW Cooper S) [1st in Division 3]
8th | Brian Anderson/Michael Cruse (Targa Racing BMW E46 M3) [8th in Division 2]
14th | Justin Ruggier/Mark Mackay (Targa Racing Mazda MX5) [2nd in Division 3]
1st | Tony Ross/Paul Chapman (Mazda Mx5) [1st in Division 4]
2nd | Andy Harris/Russell Harris (Mazda Mx5)
3rd | Peter Lacey/Robin Lacey (Mazda Mx5) [1st in Division 5]
10th | David Bailey/Matt Shylan (Toyota 86) [1st in Division 6]
13th | Adam Dodd/Tony Bonnano (Targa Racing Mazda 6 Diesel)
6th | Paul Shacklady/Anthony Carter (Targa Racing Mazda MX5) [2nd in Division 5)
DNF | David Viner/Rob Viner (Targa Racing Mazda MX5)
So, the Wakefield 300 has been run and won for another year. All in all, a positive weekend for Targa Racing, with the only unfortunate result coming for the Viner entry, but that’s motor racing for you.
The next round of the Australian Endurance Championship will be held on May 2nd and 3rd, at Queensland Raceway.
The next outing for Targa Racing will be the Bathurst Motor Festival over the Easter weekend, with two cars running in the NSW Production Touring Car Championship field.
Full coverage of the 2015 Valvoline Wakefield 300 B-Main.
Commentary from Lachlan Mansell and Zak Caban.
Pit Interviews by Andrew Rawls and Lachlan Mansell
Full Results from the B-Main HERE.
You catch view highlights of the A-Main on the Speedweek Website, just by clicking HERE!
Full Results from the A-Main HERE.
Championship Points after Round 1 of 3 in the 2015 Australian Endurance Championship can be found HERE.