Running on the International motor racing momentum created by Will Power during the Gold Coast's Lexmark Indy 300 Champ Car race, fellow Toowoomba driver, tarmac rally specialist Ray Vandersee, has slotted himself into third position during day one of his 2006 Dunlop Targa New Zealand campaign.
In treacherously wet conditions, Vandersee was able to progressively strengthen his charge up the leader board as he guided his self designed and manufactured Skelta G-Force sports car to within just 40 seconds of overall leader Emma Gilmour.
Perhaps his greatest achievements were saved for the last few rounds as he directed the Skelta to the top of the timesheets twice before closing with a second which enabled him to make up ground on the leading duo.
Thirty seconds is all that separates Vandersee from second placed Joe McAndrew and the full day summation from the owner/driver is that his weapon of choice, the Skelta G-Force is a much healthier proposition in 2006.
"There's no doubt everything is so much better than it was the last time we were here with the Skelta. We've been able to handle the roads with ease and push aside any difficulties that may be presented with the numerous bumps in the road," said Vandersee.
"On the roads of Targa New Zealand they've been hit with torrential rain the past few weeks and there really doesn't look like any end in sight with the weather.
"Even though I've spent very little time driving in the wet, the car is performing exceptionally well, to a point where it appears as though the Skelta handles even better in the wet.
"We may even find that we boast an advantage over the other competitors as the event continues.
"Once again we've had to drive on different tyres so early on we just weren't sure of the grip levels and coupled with my limited drive time in the car it did take a little while to dial into it.
"Our times are coming down and it's all shaping up well towards the remaining four days.
In all but two of the eight completed stages from day one, Vandersee has pushed his Skelta G-Force among the top three on the timesheets.
While more than happy with the report card from the first 147 kilometres of competitive stages, Vandersee realises there's a lot of driving to be done before this Targa campaign winds down.
"We're running as anticipated and are very pleased to be in the position we are in.
"We'll look to consolidate without losing sight of our potential to make a move on the guys out in front.
"I made an error on stage three coming into a corner a little too fast so I backed off and it probably cost us 15-20 seconds, so there's no doubt we are capable of moving up the order."
As an experienced tarmac specialist Vandersee fully realises how tough the campaign will be over the remaining days of Targa New Zealand, but maintains absolute faith his Skelta G-Force is up to the challenge.
Dunlop Targa New Zealand is being held from Sunday October 22 through to Saturday October 28, 2006 comprising 42 stages with 765 kilometres of special stages and 1590 kilometres of touring over the seven days of the event. The course will travel through the areas of Pukekohe, Waikato, South Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatu, Taihape, Tararua, Central Hawkes Bay and Hawkes Bay.
DUNLOP TARGA NEW ZEALAND TOP FIVE
Monday October 23
Maioro Prologue - 2nd fastest 17.18km
Pukekohe Prologue - 4th fastest 13.96km
Overall - 3rd
DAY ONE - Tuesday October 24
Start: Pukekohe Indian Centre
STAGE POSITION PROGRESSIVE DISTANCE
1 - Kainui Lake 6 6 7.84km
2 - Whatawhata 3 4 8.70km
3 - Turitea 7 5 15.74km
4 - Rangitoto 3 5 25.24km
5 - Waimiha/Ongarue 3 4 28.36km
6 - Mokuaiti 1 4 21.86km
7 - Aria 1 3 12.17km
8 - Tarata 2 3 27.11km