Golf pro Stuart Appleby sure can drive
By STEVE SPINKS
IT was on the final day of the Targa Tasmania Rally. That's when Billinudgel farmer Peter Burrey knew that golfer Stuart Appleby was a fair driver.
And it wasn't on the golf course.
Appleby was driving a 500-horsepower $400,000 Lamborghini Gallardo sports car with Burrey as navigator in the five-day 2000km rally.
"On day five we encountered the worst conditions," Burrey said.
"We got rain and snow on Mt Arrowsmith, one of the longest stages.
"He (Appleby) was absolutely blitzing it on Mt Arrowsmith and I remember glancing over and seeing the speed.
"We were going 240 clicks (km/h) in the rain and he was handling it really well. It was quite exhilarating."
Exhilarating? That could be one word for it!
Appleby and Burrey exceeded their expectations by finishing 10th in the event, which was won by Jason White, from Greg Garwood and touring car legend Jim Richards.
It was a remarkable achievement for Appleby and Burrey to finish in the top 10, considering Appleby was contesting his first rally.
After qualifying, the pair started in 50th position but they rapidly climbed positions during each stage as the professional golfer became more familiar with the car.
To show the strength of the field, former touring car champion Tony Longhurst only just beat the duo home into ninth.
For Burrey, it was a great personal achievement.
The palm tree farmer has been involved in 12 previous Targa Tasmania rallies, with his best finish a 14th placing in 2004.
Burrey linked with Team Lamborghini after the No1 driver on the team, Paul Stokell, recommended the Billinudgel local as the man to guide Appleby in his rally debut.
And to say the 55-year-old was impressed by the professional golfer is an understatement.
"He's just a terrific fella," Burrey said.
"He comes from a dairy farm in Victoria and the big lights of the PGA Tour have not gone to his head at all."
Ironically, the No2 car piloted by Appleby and Burrey ended up as the leading Lamborghini when Stokell crashed out of the rally while leading on the third day.
With Appleby on board, media covering the event regularly focused on the exploits of the duo.
"It was huge," he said.
"Every time we'd stop for lunch there would be fans and media waiting."
According to Burrey, Appleby is now hooked on rallying and is keen to do the Targa again next year with Burrey as his co-driver.
After a year's worth of training, Appleby's driving should be even more advanced.