Classic Targa tales
As usual, there were some classic Targa tales behind the headlines — starting with that of Metalman class winner Bevan Claridge, from Opiki, south of Palmerston North. Claridge’s four-door 1992 Holden Commodore V8 is not the first car that might spring to mind when you think ‘Targa Rally’, but Bevan won’t hear a bad word about it — and for good reason. He bought the Holden new back in 1992 and, after always regretting selling it, swore that if he ever found it again, he’d buy it back and run it in Targa.
One day, he was driving through Cambridge and saw his old car parked in a driveway so, true to his word, he stopped, found the owner, and offered to buy it back on the spot. The owner declined but agreed that, when he did decide to sell it, he would offer it first to Bevan. When that time eventually arrived, Bevan didn’t waste any time, caging it, upgrading the brakes and suspension, and turning it into what in just three years has become a bona fide BMW M3–beater!
Fast-finishing Bruce Farley from Nelson also had a story to tell — three weeks before this year’s event, he contracted Legionnaires’ disease from handling potting mix and spent the next 10 days in hospital.
“I was a very sick puppy, but I was determined, despite what the doctors were saying, to be well enough to get back in the car,” he said.
And he was — although an off-road excursion, complete with oil-line fire and another competitor crashing into the prone car on the third day, meant his luck hadn’t completely turned around.
“We had to fight really hard to get back into contention,” said Bruce. “We basically lost 10 minutes but I thought that by driving really, really hard we could peg most of that back — and we did!”
Also facing up to and staring down adversity were visiting American Hank Moore and compatriot Kelly Silverton, in a BMW 320i that Moore had bought specifically for the event. The skills learned running a race shop at home in Spokane in Washington state came in handy when Moore ran off the road on the Whangamomona stage when his BMW’S throttle stuck open. The car’s resultant flight off a sizeable bank and into a swamp was long enough to break suspension components and both engine mounts, but, with the help of Matt and the guys at Pulse Automotive in Palmerston North — recommended by BMW marquemate Gerry Hodges — Moore was able to repair the damage and finish the event.
Boy’s Own adventure
Then there were NZ Classic Car’s November cover car owner Mark Hellier, co-driver Glenn Edley, and their Porsche.
“We broke an axle on the first day, then we ripped the left rear shock tower off the car on the big jump at Inglewood,” explained Mark. “The great thing about Targa, though, is that you deal with these things. It really is the last Boy’s Own adventure.”
Hellier and Edley also loaned a set of wheels to fellow Porsche aficionados Eddie and Ben Grooten, when an old Dunlop tyre they were running delaminated.
What of event stalwarts Mike Lowe and co-driver Phil Sutton in ‘Barty 2’ — Lowe’s new Enzed-backed Fiat Abarth Assetto Corse?
The pair ended up 11th in class and 21st overall in a car that Lowe spent most of the event sorting while he developed a to-do list for future events.
“For the first three or four days, we really weren’t in the groove, and, yes, I think there were times we both wished we were in the old car. It wasn’t just the car, either,” said Lowe. He admitted to ‘ driving the car like Barty’ (his original Abarth) for the first couple of days: “With Barty, the throttle was like a switch — either on or off. With the new car, you have to feather the throttle to get the best out of it; that took a bit of getting used to. We were still wheel-spinning in fourth gear going into Whangamomona!”