After traveling over 2000 km (1242 miles) on challenging asphalt roads in Tasmania over six days, the Lotus Cars Australia Exige Cup 260 has finished 12th.
While 12th certainly isn’t first, it’s worth noting that the Exige Cup 260 was completely unmodified from showroom spec save for a roll cage. The Exige’s performance in the rally against much more modified competition is testament to the brilliance of the stock Exige.
The Lotus was piloted by Sydney motoring journalist Dean Evans with Simone Bachmann as navigator.
We took this car from the Lotus showroom two weeks ago, put a cage in it, drove it to Tasmania, finished 12th outright and drove it home again without touching a thing. That’s why the Cup 260 is so good.
The Lotus also recorded a third fastest stage time and finished as the highest placed showroom spec car in the Modern category.
And here is the the official press release from Lotus Cars Australia.
LOTUS 12TH DOES THE DOZEN AT TARGA DEBUT
Cup 260 places 12th, and highest finishing Modern showroom spec car.
The Lotus Cars Australia Exige Cup 260 has finished 12th outright at Targa Tasmania’s gruelling six day event, set a third fastest stage time and is the highest placed showroom spec car in the Modern category.
Over 2000km and 39 stages, the Cup 260 showed its potential in the wet and dry by running without a single problem in arduous conditions, with nothing more than tyre pressure changes and fuel.
In showroom specification, the Cup 260 set some times that established it as a sports car able to compete with the very best supercars in the world – with a third fastest time on the Queenstown stage the event highlight by the crew of Dean Evans and Simone Bachmann.
“We took this car from the Lotus showroom two weeks ago, put a cage in it, drove it to Tasmania, finished 12th outright and drove it home again without touching a thing. That’s why the Cup 260 is so good,” enthused drive Dean Evans after the event.
Days four and five of Targa Tasmania saw plenty of action as the 270 strong field moved down Tasmanaia’s west coast to the overnight stop in Strahan, and then on to the finish in Hobart.
But with heavy rain and just three dry stages from the 13 stages, it was ‘advantage all-wheel drive’. That didn’t stop the Lotus from excelling in wet conditions though, relying on its ABS and traction control systems to record a string of top 10 times.
Crucially, on stages where the Lotus was to excel, such as the tight and twisting Hellyer Gorge, the wet weather played its hand with slick roads and treacherous conditions. However the Lotus quickly adapted and put in 11th fastest on the wet Mt Black stage, and 10th on the incredible 33km Rinadeena stage, with wet, dark and dangerous conditions that claimed many cars on the way into Strahan.
On the flowing morning of the final day, weather conditions were improving but still wet and the Lotus ranked 12th on the 33km Strahan, but it was Queenstown’s famous 6.4km stage up the moonscape that would be the Cup 260’s definitive stage.
“We always knew Queenstown would be our strongest stage,” explained Evans. “So when we saw the ‘WET’ board, it was a little frustrating.”
Despite the slick road, the Lotus climbed the mountain road and put in a stunning time to record 3rd outright stage time, passing a Porsche 911 GT3 and showing its true performance. “While it’s easy to speculate, I do think the Exige would have had a great chance to be fastest in the dry – but we’re still ecstatic with third!”
Onto Mt Arrowsmith, the event’s longest stage at 47.2km, the Cup 260 hit back again with a 7th fastest stage time, negotiating the tricky wet conditions without drama, moving into 12th spot and taking 15 seconds off two-time Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst in 11th.
Equal 10th fastest with Longhurst on the penultimate Tungatinah stage meant the dual was locked going into the final 6.6km Risdon Brook stage, and with 12 seconds to make up, it was made tougher by Longhurst pushing hard for 10th spot which was just two seconds ahead.
But the gap was too great, and though the Lotus made up five of those seconds to get within 7 seconds of 11th and 12 seconds of 10th, it placed the Lotus in the final position of 12th outright, after six days of competition.
Mechanically the Cup 260 is ready for another Targa. The tyres are only half worn, the brake pads barely worn at all, and it used less than 300 litres of fuel for the entire event.
Evans surmised: “In the wash-up, the intercom problem on day one was the difference between 10th and 12th. Simone did a superb job throughout, and while a top 10 was our target, we’re still extremely pleased with the top dozen.”
“Throw two days of wet conditions, and to still finish 12th on debut in a showroom spec car is a fantastic result that we’re very proud of. Especially the fact we drove it home after!”