A resurgent Chrysler will return to Targa Newfoundland with three hot new cars and a stellar driver line-up lead by one of the company’s top executives, Targa organizers have announced.

Chrysler executive Ralph Gilles, a contender in three previous Targa events, will spearhead the assault on the 10th annual September classic and lead a team of U.S. and Canadian drivers in the largest single manufacturer team to take on Canada’s longest and toughest motorsport event.

An acclaimed automobile designer, former head of the Dodge brand and newly appointed president and chief executive of the company’s SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brand, Montreal-raised Gilles will be behind the wheel of a Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR. Gilles, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, is teamed with another experienced Targa competitor, co-driver Jen Horsey of Toronto.

The thundering Viper has been called the ultimate North American supercar. The Viper SRT10 ACR-X is a factory-prepared 640hp competition car replete with FIA-approved roll cage created by the company to compete in Dodge Viper Cup road racing events. The Viper SRT10 is a keystone element in the company’s recently announced revival of the SRT brand.

The second Chrysler entry will be a new Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 helmed by U.S. comedian and TV show host George Notaras of Los Angeles with co-driver Nick Chambers of Wenatchee, Washington, who will compete under their stage names MotoMan and Winachee. The Challenger SRT8 will take on the tough Targa course in virtually showroom stock configuration. Notaras will document the team’s experiences at Targa both in upcoming TV broadcasts as well as daily updates direct from the event.

Canadian race driver and previous Targa competitor Rob Paccione of Toronto will drive the third car, a brilliant lime green Dodge Challenger SRT8 first driven by Gilles at Targa in 2008. A fan favourite, the car went on to entertain auto and industry show audiences in the U.S. and Canada. Co-driver of the car will be Brian Maxwell of Toronto.

“Ralph has been a tremendous supporter of Targa from his very first time here in 2005,” explains rally organizer Robert Giannou. “In fact, he was the one who coined the phrase ‘The iron man of motorsports’ to describe Targa. He was quick to recognize what success at Targa can mean for manufacturers looking to make a statement about performance and durability in the real world. He’s also a fierce competitor, and very popular with the other teams and fans. It will be a grand Newfoundland reunion when he arrives.”

The company has entered a Chrysler 300C SRT8, Dodge Charger SRT8, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Dodge Caliber SRT4 and the popular Challenger in previous Targa events, and last year took a retro approach with support for a restored ’70s Dodge Dart muscle car driven by previous winners Roy Hopkins and Adrienne Hughes of Rochester, New York.

After a difficult period, Chrysler is riding a wave of sales success in both Canada and the U.S., Giannou notes, and the cars always draw adoring fans.

A strong entry is expected for the 10th running of Targa Newfoundland. Competitors have come from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Holland, England, Ireland, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, the U.S. and from across Canada for the first nine editions of the nation’s longest and toughest motorsports event.

Owned and operated by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 10th annual Targa Newfoundland will start in St. John’s on Saturday, September 10, 2011, and end back in the capital Saturday, September 17. The competition will cover more than 2,000 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of Newfoundland, including up to 450 kilometres of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages.

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