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Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn arrived at the finish line of this year’s event in Palmerston North on Saturday, October 31, with a nine-and-a-half minute lead over five-time former winner Tony Quinn and his co-driver Naomi Tillett (Nissan GT-R35) and almost 20 minutes ahead of the third placegetters, 2013 event winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant (Porsche 911 GT3).
In doing so, the Inkster and Winn completed a rare Targa New Zealand ‘three-peat’, having also won the one-day Metalman Targa Sprint in March and the three-day Targa Bambina (née Rotorua) in May.
The 21st annual Targa New Zealand event covered a record 1035.5kms of closed special stages and 1431.7kms of touring stages, leaving Auckland on Monday, October 26, and travelling via Hamilton, New Plymouth, and Havelock North to finish in Palmerston North the following Saturday.
Last year was the first time Inkster and Winn had won the main Targa event, but that was in the absence of past Targa champions, Quinn and Tillett, who crashed out on the second day in Quinn’s then-new Lamborghini Huracán.
This year, the pair — Inkster, the former gravel ace from Patumahoe, near Pukekohe, and Winn, from Howick in Auckland — established an early lead over Quinn and
Tillett and were never headed off, leading both the Andrew Simms Allcomers 4WD class and overall classification from start to finish.
Having seen Inkster and Winn getting faster each year, long-time event pace-setter Tony Quinn said he knew the pair were going to be the ones to watch this year: “I’m proud of Glenn that he has got to the point where he is a true challenge. I thought if I kept enough pressure on him [Inkster] something would happen. But it didn’t — so full credit to him.”
Class leaders emerge
After early exits for high-profile entries Leigh Hopper and Simon Kirkpatrick (via a crash on day one), Nic de Waal and Guy Hodgson (a crash on day two), Clark Proctor and Sue O’neill (mechanical woes on day three), and Mark and Chris Kirk-burnnand (blown engine on day three), a pattern developed.
Inkster and Winn led the Andrew Simms Allcomers 4WD class and overall, Martin Dippie and Jona Grant set the pace in Instra.com Modern 2WD, and Holden Commodore V8 pair Bevan Claridge and Campbell Tannock emerged as leaders in Metalman Classic 2WD.
Initially, the ’65 Ford Mustang of former motorcycle ace Jason Easton and his co-driver, Campbell Ward, joined Claridge and Tannock as they battled the various Kirk-burnnand combinations. However, the Mustang was slowed and eventually stopped by suspension breakages; then, following a second off-road excursion, it was out.
Australian husband-and-wife duo Keith and Mary Anne Callinan then emerged as Claridge and Tannock’s main challengers; their classic Ford Escort RS1800 was originally built for the Sydney to London Marathon Rally. Alas, just as they were looking at their best event finish to date, they slipped back down the order when a bolt came out of the Escort’s water pump mount and the escaping water swamped the engine’s air cleaner.
Chief beneficiaries were Nelson pair Bruce Farley and Glen Warner, and Carl Kirk-burnnand and co-driver Scott Hay from Auckland (both BMW 325i–mounted), who moved up to second and third places, respectively, with another Nelson pair, Ashton Wood and Chris Lancaster, fourth in Wood’s Ford Escort RS1800.
Wood bought the ex–ari Vatanen / Blair Robson / Inky Tulloch RS1800 from a museum 15 years ago, and rebuilt it using the original number plate and mechanicals (gearbox, diff, suspension, brakes, and so on) around a new shell. This year marked the car’s fourth Targa New Zealand event in its reborn state, and, bar getting a surface change wrong and running off the road in one stage, Wood was having a ball.
Dunedin pair Martin Dippie and Jona Grant were initially challenged in Instra.com Modern 2WD by Clark Proctor and Sue O’neill, and Ross and Carmel Graham (Holden Torana A9X).
However, as those teams were struck down or slowed by mechanical trouble, Steven Kirk-burnnand and Mick Hay (BMW 318Ti Compact) took up the challenge, eventually finishing second place in class and were an impressive fourth overall, in front of the equally fast-finishing BMW pairing of Perth-based Kiwi Robert Darrington and co-driver David Abetz. Event firsttimers Matt Todd and Dan Reichenbach (BMW M3) from Gisborne kept their best until last to take fourth place in class on the final day from mid-event standout pair Grant Aitken and Caroline Cullimore (Toyota 86) from Cromwell.
Fittingly, perhaps, the last word about this year’s marathon event comes from Barry Kirk-burnnand — remembering that he and Mike Lowe are the only drivers to have started and finished all 21 Targa New Zealand events.
This year Barry and co-driver Dave O’carroll finished seventh in Metalman Classic 2WD, a class they have won before in Barry’s familiar BMW M3.
“We had a tough event this year,” Barry told the crowd at the finish. “Lots of things went wrong with the car, but we stayed in it [the event] and we’re here, and that’s fantastic because it is still bloody good fun!”
Targa New Zealand events are organized with the support of sponsors Chicane Racewear, Ecolight, Federal Tyres, Global Security, Kids in Cars, Metalman, NZ Classic Car Magazine, Race Brakes, Racetech, Teamtalk, Trackit, and VTNZ.