TARGA 2017


New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Ross Mackay Photos: Fast Com­pany / Gra­ham Hughes / Proshotz

The pair, Inkster from Pa­tuma­hoe near Pukekohe, and Winn from How­ick in south-east Auck­land, did it in some style this year too, win­ning the lion’s share of the 28 closed special stages while also, over the last two days of the Tues­day to Satur­day Oc­to­ber 24–28 event, suc­cess­fully man­ag­ing a turbo man­i­fold is­sue, which twice threat­ened to see them parked at the side of the road.

The pair still have one more win to match cir­cuit-ow­ing en­tre­pre­neur Quinn’s to­tal — five — but their dom­i­nance this year sug­gests that not even that bench­mark will be safe for much longer.

As much as the story of the 23rd an­nual Targa New Zealand event was about the wickedly quick and to­tally com­mit­ted way Inkster and Winn went about lead­ing from the front, there was just as fas­ci­nat­ing a story about what was hap­pen­ing be­hind them.

Though the early demise of fel­low Targa stal­warts Leigh Hop­per and co-driver Michael Goudie, thanks to over­heat­ing is­sues with Hop­per’s lat­est high-power Subaru Im­preza WRX, robbed the event of one of the com­bi­na­tions ca­pa­ble of tak­ing the bat­tle to Inkster and Winn, it didn’t take long for other pair­ings to step up to the plate. Bat­tle for sec­ond From the start of the sec­ond day, with its stages through­out the Waikato, for­mer NZ (gravel) Rally Cham­pion Chris West and co-driver Chris Cob­ham (Mit­subishi Evo X), fought a hand-to-hand bat­tle for

sec­ond place with fel­low Mit­subishi Evo (IX) pair Ja­son Gill and Mark Robin­son, and the Subaru Im­preza WRX of Nic De Waal and Shane Reynolds.

Over some of the shorter of the day’s 10 stages the dif­fer­ence be­tween any two of the com­bi­na­tions was down to un­der five sec­onds. At day’s end back in Hamil­ton, West and Cob­ham were safe in sec­ond, with just over a minute on De Waal and Reynolds, then Gill and Robin­son 13.1 sec­onds back, in fourth.

West and Cob­ham were then in the box seat, tak­ing a stage win off Inkster and Winn on the third day be­tween Hamil­ton and New Ply­mouth, when a blown turbo man­i­fold first slowed the lead­ing pair.

But any hope West and Cob­ham had of tak­ing their turn in the lead was dashed when they had car prob­lems of their own, that day and the next, which saw them drop down the order and leave the fight for sec­ond place to ex­pat South African race and rally ace De Waal and co-driver Reynolds, and Gill and his co-driver Robin­son, who on the fi­nal-day dash from Palmer­ston North to Welling­ton, via the Wairarapa, were rarely more than 30 sec­onds apart. Fi­nal mar­gin Gill and Robin­son grabbed the ini­tia­tive by fin­ish­ing sec­ond to Inkster and Winn in the fi­nal day’s first stage — the 34km romp through Drey­ers Rock north-east of Master­ton — but De Waal and Reynolds were quicker than Gill and Robin­son through the next one, the aptly named Car­swell.

Both were beaten through the 39km Car­swell by Inkster and Winn, and the Porsche 911 GT3 RS of 2013 Targa NZ win­ners, Martin Dip­pie and Jona Grant. Dip­pie and Grant then went on to win the 13.1km Long­bush stage (by 1.2 sec­onds) from Inkster and Winn, Gill and Robin­son and De Waal and Reynolds.

No mat­ter what he tried, how­ever, Gill could not bridge the gap on De Waal — over­all, or in the An­drewsimms.co.nz All­com­ers 4WD class — with the fi­nal mar­gin be­tween sec­ond and third place just 30.8 sec­onds.

An in­cred­i­ble fourth over­all, mean­while, were Steven Kirk-burn­nand and co-driver Mike Hay (BMW 318ti Com­pact), who with­stood a con­fi­dent last-minute charge from 2013 Targa NZ win­ners, Martin Dip­pie and co-driver Jona Grant, in Dip­pie’s cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Porsche 911 GT3 RS, to claim hon­ours in the An­drewsimms.co.nz All­com­ers 2WD class and as first two-wheeldrive car home. In­no­cent-look­ing Con­so­la­tion for Dip­pie and Grant came in their own class win — in Global Se­cu­rity

Pro­duc­tion 2WD (GT2) — but they were still over a minute be­hind Kirk-burn­nand and Hay in fifth. Sixth — af­ter a great come­back drive af­ter an in­ci­dent on Fri­day — was the first of the late-model Mit­subishi Evo Xs, this one driven by Auck­land pair David Rogers and co­driver Ai­dan Kelly, with sev­enth be­ing the ir­re­press­ible Grooten broth­ers, Tom and Ben, in Tom’s gi­ant-killing Toy­ota Star­let.

The in­no­cent-look­ing but 2.0-litre turbo-pow­ered Star­let was con­sis­tently one of the quick­est two-wheel-drive cars in the event, and the broth­ers — their fa­ther is event stal­wart Ed­die Grooten — thor­oughly de­served their place in the top 10.

As did vet­eran New Zealand rally scene bene­fac­tor Brian Green who — with long-time co-driver Fleur Ped­er­sen — fin­ished eighth over­all, while first-up An­drewsimms.co.nz Pro­duc­tion 4WD (GT4) class win­ner Ivan Knauf and co­driver Trevor Corbin fol­lowed them home in ninth place over­all.

Clos­est fin­ish

Mean­while, in Me­tal­man Clas­sic 2WD, long-time class and event front-run­ners Mark and Chris Kirk-burn­nand (BMW M3) some­how man­aged to hang on, af­ter a driv­e­line is­sue saw them slow dra­mat­i­cally and bleed time in one of the later stages to beat the Toy­ota Corolla AE86 coupé of event-long ri­vals Rob Ryan and Paul Bur­bor­ough home by 0.3 of a sec­ond.

Af­ter swap­ping the class lead back and forth on Fri­day, it looked as if the KirkBurn­nands — Mark be­hind the wheel and his fa­ther, Chris, in the co-driver’s seat — had the goods on the morn­ing. But an out-of-bal­ance drive­shaft is­sue saw them plum­met down the leader­board

in the Long­bush stage, and they lost what had been an al­most three-minute ad­van­tage over Ryan and Bur­bor­ough.

How­ever, the lat­ter pair had a prob­lem of their own, a leak­ing main seal, which saw them also slow dra­mat­i­cally — with oil leak­ing into the clutch as­sem­bly — the stage be­fore. Ryan’s crew man­aged to change the seal dur­ing the lunchtime ser­vice and get the car back on the road, and with the Kirk-burn­nand BMW crip­pled and run­ning well off the pace, it looked like a for­gone con­clu­sion — un­til the fi­nal stage was can­celled, and the re­sult was called af­ter Stage 27, when the Kirk-burn­nands were still — just — ahead!

Targa tales

Like any Targa event, a re­port of who won and how only scratches the sur­face.

What might have been, for in­stance, in the Global Se­cu­rity All­com­ers 2WD class had Perth-based ex­pat Robert Dar­ring­ton and David Abetz not been slowed by an en­gine miss on the third day, and then run off the road on the fourth?

Be­fore the miss, the pair were the first 2WD car on the road, and look­ing set for a fin­ish in the top six.

Me­tal­man Clas­sic re­mains as fas­ci­nat­ing as ever, as well, with a depth and va­ri­ety of cars and driver/co-driver com­bi­na­tions not re­ally re­flected in the fi­nal wash-up. The MKII Ford Es­cort RS1800 of Aussie husband and wife Keith and Mary Anne Cal­li­nan was a joy to see and (in par­tic­u­lar) lis­ten to. Nel­son pair Peter Jones and co-driver Ric Chalmers were also up for a podium place in Jones’ MKI ver­sion, be­fore a tight right-han­der caught the pair out.

There’s a story to be writ­ten about the gi­ant-killing ex­ploits of the Grooten broth­ers, Tom and Ben, too, in Tom’s in­no­cent-look­ing but in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive KP61 Toy­ota Star­let. But these and other Targa tales are for an­other time!

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