Click above for a high-res gallery of the Targa Tasmania-ready Mazda3 MPS.

Mazda is heading Down Under to compete in the Targa Tasmania for its eighth campaign. The team, consisting of Rick Bates and Alister McRae, will be charging through the outback in one specially prepped Mazda3 MPS (or Mazdaspeed3 to those of us in NA). The 2WD Showroom Targa rules dictate that the vehicle has to remain somewhat stock, with the carpeting, power windows and audio equipment keeping things civil as the driving duo covers over 2,000 km during the six-day race. Naturally, the Mazda is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment, including a PCD roll cage, racing seats, five-point harnesses and a fire extinguisher, but the performance modifications are kept to a minimum. The MPS is equipped with upgraded springs and struts, brake pads, a new steering wheel, navigation equipment, cat-back exhaust (cats are still fitted), some additional ducting to cool off the brakes and a revised ECU. The race begins on the 15th of April and you can follow the teams' progress at Mazda Australia's Targa site.

Mazda's full press release is posted after the jump.

Related GalleryMazda3 MPS Targa Tasmania


PRESS RELEASE

Mazda Unveils Targa Tassie Devils

Mazda Australia today whipped the covers off its brand new Mazda3 MPS rally car ahead of its motorsport debut at next week's Targa Tasmania.

Australia's top-selling importer will unleash two Mazda3 MPS rally cars on the country's pre-eminent tarmac endurance event, held from April 15-20. Professional rally drivers Rick Bates and Alister McRae will spearhead the company's eighth Targa campaign.

Built under the watchful eye of Mazda Motorsport chief Allan Horsley, the 190kW Mazda3 MPS front-wheel-drive hot hatches will contest the event's 2WD Showroom competition, travelling 2000km over five gruelling days of competition.

The team's preparation for the rally commenced this week with Bates, McRae and co-drivers arriving in Tasmania to survey the course. Before the event starts next Tuesday both Bates and McRae will have driven all the daunting stages twice.

"Reconnaissance is the most important part of any rally," says Targa first-timer McRae. "It allows us to focus on when we will need to drive flat out and where it will be possible to conserve the car and tyres."

Team mate Rick Bates is lining up for his sixth assault on Targa. He's on a mission to better his 2007 result - an outstanding 10th outright - and says he's got the equipment and the knowledge to do it.

"The team learnt a lot from last year's event," says Bates. "With one Targa in the Mazda3 MPS under our belts we're all a lot more educated in terms of vehicle preparation and conservation during the event."

"Personally, I'm feeling more confident behind the wheel now that I've spent more time in the car. I have a better understanding of exactly how the Mazda3 MPS handles Targa's tricky and changing road conditions."

Ready the Targa Army
Targa Tasmania's racing regulations require that the Mazda3 MPS rally car remain essentially standard. That means both Mazda3 MPS race cars will compete with standard audio equipment, power windows and carpets and upholstery intact.

Suspension springs, shock absorbers, brake pads, seats, belts and the steering wheel have been replaced. A PCD roll cage, racing seats with five-point safety harnesses, fire extinguishers and navigating equipment have been added for competition.

Additional ventilation is allowed to the brake discs of the Mazda3 MPS, and mufflers and the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) may also be modified. Catalytic converters must remain standard. The engine, gearbox, differential and drivetrain are also standard.