TARGA HAWKE’S BAY: FULL REPORT AND RESULTS
VERSATILE HOPPER ADDS NEW HAWKE’S BAY EVENT TO TWO-DAY TARGA TALLY
Aversatile Leigh Hopper and co-driver Michael Goudie (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) added victory in the new Targa Hawke’s Bay tarmac motor rally over the May 20 and 21 weekend to the Orewa driver’s impressive two-day event tally.
Last year, Hopper won his fourth two-day Targa event in Rotorua, making his win in the new Hawke’s Bay event a record fifth.
He and Goudie did in style, too, taking over the lead halfway through the first leg on Saturday when early pace-setter Jason Gill and co-driver Mark Robinson (Mitsubishi Evo IX) slid off the road and lost time.
They then withstood day-long pressure from former New Zealand rally champion Chris West and co-driver Andrew Simms (Mitsubishi Evo X) on Sunday, to arrive at the finish line in Havelock North with 42 seconds in hand.
Making the win even more noteworthy was the fact that it was achieved in an unfamiliar car — Hopper was forced to lease a production-spec Mitsubishi when it became apparent that work repairing damage to his own much-modified Subaru Impreza WRX (damaged on debut in this year’s Targa Rotorua event) would not be finished in time.
“We’ve definitely been giving it all she’s got, but at the same time, not doing anything silly,” Hopper said at the end of the first leg.
It was a strategy which, as it turned out, suited the cold, wet/dry road conditions as much as it did the change in Hopper’s circumstances.
Jason Gill and Mark Robinson showed stage- and potentially event-winning pace on Saturday morning, only to lose three minutes on Hopper and Goudie with a spin which stranded them in the middle of a stage.
The pair won the next three stages on Saturday, and two more on Sunday, to pull some time back on Hopper et al. before a tummy bug got the better of Gill in the early afternoon, and he decided that discretion was the better part of valour and reluctantly withdrew. That left Chris West and Andrew Simms in the box seat. But, despite their stage-winning (three) pace on Sunday’s drier roads, they could not seriously dent the close-to-a-minute margin Hopper and Goudie had built up in the slippery road conditions the rain had brought with it the day before.
Even five-time former Targa New Zealand event winner Tony Quinn and new co-driver Kieran Anstis, who finished third, found the conditions difficult.
In Quinn’s second event in his new Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Quinn and Anstis pipped the similar car of fellow former Targa New Zealand event winner Martin Dippie and co-driver Jona Grant for third place (by 43 seconds!) and first two-wheel-drive-car-home honours. But both Porsches ended up over three minutes down on the Mitsubishi Evo Xs of Hopper and Goudie, and West and Simms, with a third Evo X — in the hands of another Auckland pair, David Rogers and co-driver Aidan Kelly — fifth, and Palmerston North rally veteran Brian Green and co-driver Fleur Pedersen seventh in Green’s locally built Evo X– powered Mitsubishi Mirage.
Splitting the Rogers/kelly Evo X and Green/pedersen Mirage was Perth-based Kiwi expat Robert Darrington and his co-driver Dave Abetz, in the first BMW home, the pair joining the list of stage winners on Sunday after a storming run through the epic 33km long Elsthorpe stage up the Kahuranaki Valley behind Havelock North. Also impressing in a BMW, and first Hawke’s Bay pairing home, was Terry and Frank May from Havelock North in their 330Ci coupé, the pair finishing eighth overall, and half a minute ahead of
experienced Cromwell driver Grant Aitken and co-driver Caroline Cullimore in Aitken’s exotic new mid-engined 3.8-litre Porsche Cayman GT4.
Rounding out the top 10, and winning the Metalman Classic 2WD class, was Wellington pair Chris and Mark Kirk-burnnand in their E30 BMW M3. Targa event returnees Nigel Patterson and Warren Glassford, and Nelson pair Bruce Farley and Glen Warner, were quicker out of the blocks on Saturday in their more prosaic E30 models. But Farley and Warner crashed out of the class lead with a wild trip off the road in the final stage on Saturday. And the Kirk-burnnands found their mojo on Sunday, bridging the gap to the Patterson/ Glassford BMW before leap-frogging it to reclaim class honours by 11.1 seconds. As well as a class win in the Metalman Classic 2WD, the pair also scored enough points to take the lead in the Seria Campione competition (judged over the three events) from the Dippie/grant and Quinn/anstis pairings, who tied for second.
Other class winners were Hopper and Goudie (Andrewsimms.co.nz Allcomers 4WD); Subaru STI pair Ivan Knauf and Trevor Corbin, who finished 16th overall (Andrewsimms.co.nz Production 4WD); Darrington and Abetz (Global Security Allcomers 2WD); and Quinn and Anstis (Global Security Production 2WD). Well received As always there were some amazing tales of go … and woe!
Brothers Tom and Ben Grooten were again doing amazing things in Tom’s giant-killing KP61 Toyota Starlet, and were seventh overall when the (Mazda MX-5) gearbox cried enough on the third-last stage on Sunday afternoon.
Joe Kouwenhoven and preparation guru Carl Hannaford (Nissan GT-R35) were also going great guns, both in class and the overall classification, before rolling out of the event on Stage 11 on Sunday.
Over the two days of competition in the new Targa Hawke’s Bay event, finishers completed 15 closed special stages covering a total of 192.07km, linked by 309km of transport stages. The event was added to the Targa schedule to bridge the gap between a rescheduled two-day Targa Rotorua (run earlier in the year to get more daylight and better, more settled weather) and the annual six-day Targa New Zealand event, which, this year, will revert to a late October time slot, and an Auckland–wellington route.
The new event was well received by Targa event and Targa Tour regulars and locals (both authorities and individuals), as was the gala-style atmosphere in and around event HQ in Havelock North over the weekend.
As well as the two-day event, a one-day Rally of Hawke’s Bay tarmac event was run concurrently on Saturday, and also proved a popular move with all involved.
That was won by Hastings driver Nathan Tough and co-driver Greg Browne, in Tough’s Honda CRX. Christchurch pair Tony Gosling and Blair Read were second in Gosling’s MKII Ford Escort, and Karl Douglas and Jeremy Dawson were third in a Subaru WRX.
Targa New Zealand events are organized by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors Andrewsimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Ecolight, Global Security, Kids in Cars, Metalman,
New Zealand Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Racetech New Zealand, Teamtalk, Trackit, and VTNZ.
For more information, go to targa.co.nz.
Right: Tenth overall and winners of the Metalman Classic 2WD class were Mark and Chris Kirk-burnnand in their No. 293 BMW M3
Right: Inaugural Targa Hawke’s Bay event winners Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie (No. 969 Mitsubishi Evo X) celebrate at the finish line in Havelock North on Sunday evening
Top: Second overall in a car virtually identical to that of Hopper and Goudie were Chris West and Andrew Simms (No. 975 Mitsubishi Evo X) Above: Winning a stage outright was a highlight for expat Robert Darrington and co-driver Dave Abetz in their No. 746 BMW M3