Is it Time for a Clas­sic Targa?

New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL - Photo: Ground­sky Pho­tog­ra­phy

Last year, Targa New Zealand’s draw­card for its main event re­volved around cel­e­bra­tions to mark the event’s 20th an­niver­sary, in­clud­ing the op­por­tu­nity to take part in the first South Is­land Targa. This year, the event re­turns to more fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory — the North Is­land — with the chief lure be­ing the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete over a record­break­ing 1000-plus kilo­me­tres of closed-road spe­cial stages.

In­ter­est­ingly, this ini­tia­tive by Targa New Zealand or­ga­niz­ers has met with a mixed re­ac­tion ­— while some say they rel­ish the chance to chal­lenge them­selves and their ma­chin­ery fur­ther, oth­ers feel that the ex­tra dis­tances in­volved will make an event al­ready no­table for its tough­ness on cars and driv­ers an even harder propo­si­tion.

One or two of the Targa veter­ans who pre­fer to run older, clas­sic ve­hi­cles went so far as to say they would not be en­ter­ing this year’s Targa as they be­lieve the ad­di­tional strain that would be put on their clas­sics by 1000 kilo­me­tres of hard, spe­cial-stage driv­ing would be too much for their cars to han­dle. How­ever, those sen­ti­ments are not re­ally all that new.

Back in 1995, while the ma­jor­ity of the cars that took part in the in­au­gu­ral Targa New Zealand were bona fide clas­sics, the field also in­cluded a hand­ful of mod­ern cars. Over the fol­low­ing years, Targa events saw the num­ber of gen­uine clas­sic cars slowly dwin­dle, as many com­peti­tors turned to more re­li­able mod­ern ma­chin­ery. That’s an un­der­stand­able trend — af­ter all, hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of full-on spe­cial-stage com­pe­ti­tion is al­ways go­ing to be an eas­ier ask in a well-equipped, up-to-date 4WD rally weapon than in a low-tech clas­sic car. Also, those who’d baulk at tear­ing out the in­te­rior of an E-type Jaguar in or­der to weld in a roll cage would not worry too much about per­form­ing the same type of surgery on a Mit­subishi or a Subaru.

As a re­sult, while there’ll al­ways be some clas­sic cars on Targa, their num­bers have been on the de­cline since 1995 — and even hard-bit­ten Targa veter­ans have cho­sen to tread a more mod­ern path.

As an in­di­ca­tion of this trend, over the course of Targa’s his­tory, only two driv­ers have taken part in each Targa New Zealand. Barry Kirk-burn­nand swapped his orig­i­nal Cortina-lotus Mk2 for a BMW M3 more than a decade ago, while this year sees that in­trepid Fiat au­to­mo­bilist, Mike Lowe, fi­nally make the move to a mod­ern car af­ter 20 years of Targa com­pe­ti­tion at the wheel of his iconic ’60s Fiat Abarth. Mind you, Mike hasn’t strayed too far from the beaten path — his new mount is a 2008 Fiat Abarth As­setto Corse.

Twenty-one years in, per­haps it’s time for Targa New Zealand — un­der the aegis of Peter Martin’s newly formed Ul­ti­mate Rally Group — to look at the pos­si­bil­ity of or­ga­niz­ing a Clas­sic Targa New Zealand, an event that would cater specif­i­cally for clas­sic cars, for ex­am­ple, pre ’75. Clas­sic Targa could run over two to three days and, while of­fer­ing enough closed-road stages to make the event fun and ex­cit­ing, keep com­pet­i­tive mileage down to more man­age­able num­bers. For those not want­ing to add roll cages and other safety gear to their clas­sic cars, the event could in­clude a match­ing Clas­sic Targa Tour.

Of course, the over­all vi­a­bil­ity of such an event would de­pend upon whether enough clas­sic car own­ers could be en­ticed to en­ter — if you reckon you’d like to par­tic­i­pate in some­thing along the lines of a Clas­sic Targa, why not get in touch with Peter Martin and his en­thu­si­as­tic team and ex­press your in­ter­est.

Such an event would, I’m sure, eas­ily gain New Zealand Clas­sic Car’s full sup­port.


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