Isle of white

The best roads in Australia, closed, a storming V12 and all-wheel drive: we take on Tasmania's Targa Tour

by DYLAN CAMPBELL pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

THE DRIVE Targa Tasmania

The best roads in Australia, closed, a storming V12 and all-wheel drive: we take on Tasmania's Targa Tour

EEP IT TO yourself, but some of the best roads in the world are on a wild, windswept, deserted-feeling island at the bottom of the earth. The only way you can get there, by car, is by vessel, a voyage across one of the most perilous straits of all the seas, beyond the southern, roaring 40-degree latitude so many sailors fear. And when you get there, it's inhabited by inquisitive, suspicious creatures, to whom you're advised not to respond in the affirmative to any enquiries that you're from some "mainland". Unless you wish to be watched from the corner of eyes as you roam shops and eat meals.

Derr, it's Tasmania. It was once connected to the even bigger island just over its northern horizon as recently as 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last great glacial period (that's right, Tasmanian readers, we were all joined together at one point! And much more recently than Gondwanaland). But when the earth warmed and the waters rose, Tasmania was isolated again, a rocky outcrop sculpted by volcanoes that once spewed great landscape-forming magmas, now extinct.

This meant that, a geological nanosecond ago, when the white man sailed down on his ships and did unspeakable wrongs to the people already living here, but started building roads between settlements, the only way over all these great undulations was left, then right, then left again.

Fast forward 200 years to a time when you're wondering about completely abstract things like steering feel and ESP calibration, and these old roads are Nirvana.

We are in Tasmania to experience this. Everybody knows about Targa Tasmania, the annual romp around the island where man, or woman, and machine, are unleashed on public roads with no speed limit, provided they've fitted the appropriate interior scaffolding and are wearing a helmet and five seatbelts at once. But what you might not know is that you can experience Tasmania's sublime roads for yourself as part of the Targa Tour, as it's known – sans roll cage, helmet and cops. But not sans speed limit.

It works like this. You get up before the sun does, get inside your car as it rubs its eyes and spews great plumes of steam out its exhausts, drive to the stage with your group, and then cut sick on the closed roads (before the competition cars) with an official car at the front setting the pace. It cannot exceed 130km/h. In theory. And there are punishments for the official drivers if they are caught speeding. But you can imagine what 130km/h feels like in some corners, and what it feels like in others.

MOTOR is joining the Tour with Ferrari in – we're thankful to report – a new GTC4Lusso. Not just thankful for the fact it has a screaming 507kW 6.3-litre atmo V12 – revving to 8250rpm, though there is that. But thankful more for the fact that, while we'd love to be in a 488 or an F12, with the Tour taking place over K 2000km, 38 stages and six days, you're glad for some extra seat padding. And more forgiving dampers. And seat heaters.

There is also the fact the GTC4Lusso is the only Ferrari with front-wheel drive. It mixes this with reardrive, of course, and is psychologically a nice thing to have in the back pocket while traversing Tasmania and its notoriously capricious weather.

Like its FF predecessor, the GTC4Lusso has a very unique all-wheel drive system. There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles. While power is sent to the rear wheels quite conventionally through a rear-mounted, seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, and then an electronically-locking limited slip diff, power reaches the front wheels via a twospeed gearbox slung off the front of the engine. By slipping clutches, the computer is able to simulate four gears, equivalent to the first four ratios in the normal transmission, and in turn precisely matching front and rear wheel speeds – all using sensors and software.

From fifth gear and up, the GTC4Lusso is exclusively rear-wheel drive.

Though it weighs 1920kg and has a wheelbase basically as long as a Holden Statesman (19mm less), the launch control-assisted GTC4Lusso rockets to 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds – or so says Ferrari. Two hundred flashes by in 10.5 seconds on to a bahnburning top speed of 335km/h. All while using just 15.3L/100km. (If you do one hard accelerator run and then spend the remainder of the fuel tank slipstreaming a B-double.)

Ferrari has comprehensively overhauled the FF in the evolution to GTC4Lusso, where a slight rebranding is hoped to improve sales of Maranello's most familyfriendly car, one that didn't bolt off the sales floor quite like originally hoped. The new name is supposed to be a throwback to cars like the 330 GTC and its two-plustwo sister model, the 330 GT; while also giving a nod to the luxurious 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso. While the big, burly V12 now powers up to 507kW and 697Nm, the interior is completely new, as is the fitment of allwheel steering. And, of course, a new, rear-drive turbo V8 model brings the range's entry price down – and should mean you see more GTC4Lussos on the road.

For now, though, in Tasmania, there is just one GTC4Lusso, and we're sitting in it. In front of us, we're staring at the gills over the rear haunches of an F12tdf, and behind us, there's the shark-like grin of a red 458 Speciale. It's the first year Ferrari has officially brought an entourage to Targa Tasmania for the Tour, and full credit to them – and their customers – for getting the toys out and putting kilometres – and stone chips – on

“Fast forward 200 years and these old roads are Nirvana”

cars that, elsewhere in the world, are in humiditycontrolled museums.

MOTOR is joining halfway through the Tour, taking over the reins to the GTC4Lusso from ex-editor and now Fairfax honcho Andrew MacLean, who had the privilege of not just staring at the aerodynamicallysculpted rears of F12tdfs and Speciales, but also a LaFerrari. Yep, in what was somewhat of a coup, Ferrari Australasia boss Herbert Appleroth managed to convince a black LaFerrari to inch on to the Spirit of Tasmania, cross the Strait and cut loose in the Apple Isle. Although unsurprisingly, its owner, a very busy businessman, couldn't quite spare the six days out of office, and so all MOTOR saw of it was it parked outside a hotel. And all we heard of it was how the owner spun the car while drifting in a town stage, in front of locals, and heroically kept his foot in it as the car pirouetted around to keep going. Perhaps we'll next see him at Summernats.

We have that horrible feeling we don't know what we're supposed to be doing.

Rolling up to the first stage, photographer Cristian Brunelli in the passenger seat acting as navigator (so we're almost guaranteed to get lost), we turn the manettino into Sport, the transmission into manual and grab first gear. There have been so many briefings, forms, and we have received so much information and so many warnings and stern talkingsto about safety, that we're not quite sure what's about to happen. Having been wound up like a spring, it's somewhat unnerving – are we about to spectacularly ignore the 130km/h thing, or what?

The official at the start of the stage gives our group the go-ahead wave, led by the official pacecar in a MkVI Golf R, followed closely by Ferrari boss Appleroth in the battleship grey, PCOTY-competing 488 GTB, and then us. We leave a little gap, and then try to keep up. And then, on what is a shorter stage, it's over as quick as it began.

Now, anyone wondering if they should do the Targa Tour should make sure they know what they're getting themselves into (see breakout for costs, etc). Going as fast as you want on the best roads in Tasmania – closed – driving past Highway Patrol cops giving you the thumbs up? Err, maybe in the regularity running (the next level up) or, of course, the full Targa Tasmania competition. But if you want to use your road car, without bolting in a cage, or wearing a helmet, it's the Tour only. Which means 130km/h.

Now, it's fantastic to experience these roads without your licence quaking in fear in your pocket. But if you're going to do the Targa Tour, we recommend considering a car that's going to feel quite fast at 130km/h, like a Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5. At 130km/h a GTC4Lusso feels like a Joint Strike Fighter taxiing down a runway.

This is a car that continues to be dominated by its engine. You could feasibly build an engine dyno, centre stage, at the Opera House and rev the GTC4Lusso's V12 creatively – and people would buy tickets to watch and

“Tasmania is a place that absolutely rewards road knowledge”

The 308 With 280,000km

It's driven these roads before

NOVOCASTRIAN Geoff Burgess uses his Ferrari 308 GTB – a lot. In fact, the first time it traced Targa Tasmania's famous stages was in 1993, where Burgess competed in the event.

Having owned the car for 34 years, 24 years later he's back at Targa Tasmania in the same car, but at quite a different pace. He even prefers it occasionally to another Ferrari he owns, a 458 Speciale. "It's just fun.

The Speciale is awesome but it's like a race boat stuck in a swimming pool.

Driving around at 99km/h is sacrilegious where you can put a smile on your face in the 308 without doing warp speed ... It sounds good and is good for the emotions.

"And not that it matters but people know you're an enthusiast and treat you different. The older the car gets, the better the reaction ... whereas if you're in a new car, you're just another rich wanker sort of thing."

Burgess – who drives the manual, right-hand drive car despite a paralysed left arm – is our kind of Ferrari owner, having also driven his 308 across the Nullarbor.

He says it's "never let him down". "They're bulletproof, and I did most of my own maintenance," he says. "I think I don't have any trouble with it because I use it ... all the seals are expanding and contracting, they're not freezing in the one position and then leaking oil."

He says he thinks it has "about 280,000km" but doesn't know for sure – the 308's odometer only goes to 99,999km before flicking back to zero again. – DC

listen. (This is why I run a magazine, and not an opera house.) It sounds glorious – rich, sonorous, menacing, a distinctive sound you just don't get anywhere else.

It's free-revving, hungry for air, incredibly responsive and linear. And man does it have some grunt, hurtling the big GTC4Lusso down the road at incredible pace.

While its enormous, fantastic brakes arrest the GTC4Lusso effectively and without fuss; and while its incredible, potent engine gives your right foot effortless power and thrust; you always have in the back of your mind that the GTC4Lusso is a big car with a lot of mass moving very quickly. It feels it in the slower corners, too, where the all-wheel steering lends it a little more agility. But ultimately the all-wheel steering is most appreciated at car park speeds.

The GTC4Lusso puts its power down in exactly the way you want. Open the taps from standstill, in Sport mode, and the rear tyres will light up, before the front axle steps in to tidy things up and get you rocketing toward the horizon. The rear-drive personality continues as you leave corners, letting you wag that big rump on the throttle enough to require some corrective lock, but only to temporarily encourage the car back into line as the front axle pulls the car straight.

It's a fantastic feeling; and so is the big Fezza's rear getting light on the throttle over crests. And there are plenty of those in Tasmania.

If one thing distinguishes Tasmanian roads, it's the short straight, careering over a blind crest, where you'll immediately find a tightening corner and plunging escarpment. And very little sign-posting. Tasmanian taxpayers should never have to worry that they're

Stage Play

Targa's Top Three Stages

Mt Arrow- Smith Length: 51.73km

The longest, fastest and most unforgettable stage of the event. A make-or-break stage if you're gunning for the outright win.

Sideling Length: 13.7km

Treacherous when slippery, and it's almost always slippery. Very bumpy, often foggy.

One for the brave pills.

Hellyer Gorge Length: 20.46km

A stage of two halves: very fast to begin with, but then becomes super twisty. Is known amongst locals as "Hell Yeah" Gorge.

spending too much money on signs that tell you how tight a corner might be. Tasmania is a place that absolutely rewards road knowledge. And you can see how, in the main game competition, strong, accurate pacenotes and the ability to work off them effectively, is crucial to winning. In Tasmania, you never know what's around the next corner, or over the next crest. Just ask all the people it's bitten.

Two days into knocking over stages in the GTC4Lusso, we wonder how the bloke in the F12tdf is getting on.

At the base of its appreciation hill, this car is surely worth at least AUD$1m. Just 799 were built, 574kW each, 0-200km/h in a claimed 7.9 seconds – Cup tyres, and rear-wheel drive. MOTOR's international team of road testers voted it the most frightening car of 2016.

As we are belting up an early morning stage, with lots

“Open the taps, from rest, and the rears will light up”

Wanna have a crack?

How to do the Targa Tour

RIGHT, so you're not thrown off by the 130km/h limit and quite like the sound of Tasmania's best roads, closed, and getting to use every centimetre of them. Giddy up.

It will cost you $3990 to enter your car, yourself and your passenger into the Tour. That gets you six days and nigh-on 2000km of driving, 38 closed-road stages, but Targa Tasmania is quick to stress the Tour is not competitive. The driving is meant to be 'spirited', rather than balls-to-the-wire.

The price excludes fuel, food, the Spirit of Tasmania and accommodation.

You don't need to do anything to your car – other than common sense stuff like making sure it has enough tyres, etc – although it's recommended you fit a fire extinguisher and pack a first aid kit.

You – and your co-driver – need at least a noncompetitive CAMS licence (L2NS) each, which are very easy to get and cost $75.

Beware, the Targa Tour is a lot of early mornings and long days driving. If anything, it'll make you want to come back and tackle Tassie's awesome roads in your own time at your own pace. – DC

of tight, first- and second-gear corners – where you don't notice the 130km/h limit much, if at all – I can't help but imagine the owner getting out at the end of the stage, hands trembling, lighting up a cigarette and whimpering for mummy. It's an adult nappy car.

And, with the morning coffee not yet kicked in, makes me glad to have two extra driveshafts. And even then, at Queenstown, where fog reduces visibility to about 50 metres, the GTC4Lusso's rear end is yawing into its electronics a little quicker than I'd like. I absolutely cannot imagine belting up here as quick as I possibly can, like 2017 winners Jason and John White, in a car like their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme. It gives us a new respect for the competitors in the main event, particularly as Targa Tasmania is no two-day shebang.

It's almost as much a test of endurance as it is skill.

We had two reasons for coming to Tasmania to do the Tour: our first Aussie drive of the GTC4Lusso, and to rate the Tour's suitability for the average MOTOR reader. The GTC4Lusso has an incredible engine and drivetrain, a nice, now-modernised interior, is spectacularly fast, and capable. But it does feel like a major facelift of the FF rather than a whole new car.

That's not a bad thing – it's what the FF needed. The Tour? Make up your own mind based on what you've read. Would you invite your partner to ride passenger with you at a track day? Probably not – but you'd have them join you on the Tour. As part of your ongoing efforts to bring them around to the world of driving, Tasmanian roads alone will be effective. Just don't tell too many people, okay? M

“The GTC4Lusso is spectacularly fast”

The specs

Ferrari's V12 four-seater

FERRARI GTC4LUSSO

BODY 2-door, 4-seat coupe DRIVE all-wheel ENGINE 6262cc V12, DOHC, 48v BORE/STROKE 94.0 x 75.2mm COMPRESSION 13.5:1 POWER 507kW @ 8000rpm TORQUE 697Nm @ 5750rpm POWER/WEIGHT 264kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch WEIGHT 1920kg SUSPENSION (F) double wishbones, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION (R) multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4922/1980/1383mm WHEELBASE 2990mm TRACKS 1674/1668mm (f/r) STEERING hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 398mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 360mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 4-piston calipers WHEELS 20.0 x 8.5-inch (f); 20.0 x 10.5-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 245/35 ZR20 (f); 295/35 ZR20 (r) TYRE Pirelli P-Zero PRICE $698,720 (as-tested) PROS Epic powertrain; noise; rear-drive feeling CONS Not refined enough; constant tram-lining STAR RATING 11113