A FULL REPORT AND RESULTS OF THIS YEAR’S EVENT
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.
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!
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!