N PAR­SONS & AN­SWER TARGA CAL

New Zealand Classic Car - - TARGA BAMBINA 2016 - Pho­tos:

ot to take any­thing away from the em­phatic out­right win­ners Glenn Inkster and co-driver Spencer Winn in their 2008 Mit­subishi Evo VIII, but this year’s two-day Targa Bam­bina will be re­mem­bered for the tri­umphant re­turn of the leg­endary ‘Skid’ Mark Par­sons and car owner Mal Clark, in Clark’s dis­tinc­tive or­ange 1972 Rover P6.

De­fend­ing and now two-time Targa New Zealand event win­ners Inkster and Winn made a clean sweep of the one-day Targa Sprint, three-day Targa North Is­land (née Ro­torua), and six-day, 1000-plus-kilo­me­tre Targa New Zealand events last year, and again made no race of this year’s new two­day 13-stage Pukekohe-based Bam­bina event held on a hot and sul­try week­end over March 5– 6.

Inkster and Winn won nine of the 13 stages out­right to lead home fel­low Mit­subishi Evo driver Ja­son Gill and co-driver Dun­can Mcken­zie, who won three of the four other stages but ended up 38 sec­onds be­hind.

Third over­all, and in the An­drew Simms All­com­ers 4WD class, was the other lo­cal Mit­subishi Evo pair of Mal­colm Smith and Con­rad Healy, from Drury.

Fourth over­all and de­serv­ing win­ner of a very com­pet­i­tive Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD class was Targa reg­u­lar Clark Proc­tor and co-driver Sue O’neill, with Proc­tor’s hy­brid Nis­san V6 turbo-en­gined MKI Ford Es­cort the quick­est 2WD mod­ern in eight of the 13 stages.

Se­cond home in the Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD was the Holden To­rana A9X V8 of Haw­era driver Ross Gra­ham and co-driver Matthew Mer­wood, the pair one of four oth­ers who won stages in the class over the two days.

De­served win

Pop­u­lar win­ner of the Me­tal­man Clas­sic 2WD class and an im­pres­sive sev­enth over­all was the 1971 Rover P6 V8 owned by Auck­land clas­sic car prepa­ra­tion spe­cial­ist Mal Clark but driven by fel­low Targa vet­eran Mark Par­sons.

To­gether, the pair was first in class in six of the seven stages on the first day and five of the six on Sun­day. Se­cond in the Me­tal­man Clas­sic was for­mer Targa New Zealand class win­ner An­ton Tal­lott and co­driv­ing son David in a Se­ries 1 Mazda RX-7 al­most three min­utes be­hind, with fel­low Auck­lan­ders Rex Mcdon­ald and Daniel Prince third in a BMW 325i.

“I don’t think ei­ther of us have done a Targa for about five or six years, so when this one came up I said to Mark, you can use my car if you like,” said car owner Clark.

Claim­ing with the straight­est of faces but a def­i­nite twin­kle in the eye that said, ‘I can drive straight if I need to, but where’s the fun in that?’ the ex­u­ber­ant Par­sons was plainly en­joy­ing him­self on roads that seemed to suit both his style and the well-sorted-and­bal­anced P6.

On the se­cond run through both the Kern Road and Paer­ata stages on the first day, he and Clark were not only quick­est through in their class but also reg­u­larly in the top 10, with Proc­tor’s hy­brid Es­cort/nis­san the only 2WD car quicker.

So, the back-it-in and tail-out an­tics are not just for show?

“Oh no,” Par­sons said. “If I was driv­ing one of th­ese mod­ern 4WD cars it would be a dif­fer­ent story, be­cause they in­her­ently have a lot of grip. The cars I drive tend to be older and quite pow­er­ful, and they don’t have the grip of a mod­ern car.

“His­tor­i­cally, peo­ple like Mal and my­self are tight bug­gers, too; we don’t buy new tyres very of­ten, so that doesn’t help the cause in terms of grip!”

That said, the old V8-pow­ered P6 makes a re­mark­ably good Targa car, one Par­sons finds hard to fault.

“It re­ally is go­ing bril­liantly,” he said at ser­vice on Sun­day. “It looks like it should be heavy and feel that way to drive, but it’s not. It’s ac­tu­ally a plea­sure to drive and feels very lit­tle dif­fer­ent to my own

[Par­sons’ equally leg­endary V8-en­gined Tri­umph TR8].”

De­spite mur­mur­ings of late that cur­rent Targa events are no longer suited to older and/or clas­sic cars, the Me­tal­man 2WD class proved as di­verse and com­pet­i­tive as ever, with the next four place-getters sep­a­rated at the end by fewer than two min­utes.

An­ton Tal­lott and David Con­nell, who took a stage win off Par­sons and Clark on Satur­day, were also lucky they were not caught on Sun­day, as penul­ti­mate-stage class win­ner Rex Mcdon­ald and co-driver Daniel Prince closed the gap be­tween se­cond and third down to just 17 sec­onds.

Porsche ace Mark Hel­lier and co-driver Doug Hanna started well in last year’s New Zealand Clas­sic Car Targa is­sue cover car, but were soon slowed by a bro­ken left­front tor­sion bar.

Hel­lier ex­plained, “It was on the third stage and we had to (1) work out how to fix it, and (2) how to do it with the least loss of time, so what we did was a bit of bush me­chanic­ing by push­ing the wheel up into the well and run­ning with no left-front sus­pen­sion for three stages, while one of our guys went and got a part off a road car and met us be­tween stages to try and put it in. We weren’t quite able to do that, but we were able to fix it at the end-of-day ser­vice, af­ter which we were off again at full pace.”

Mod­ern masters

Eas­ily the most di­verse cat­e­gory, and no less com­pet­i­tive, was the Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD, which was well won by a re­lieved Clark Proc­tor and co-driver Sue O’neill.

Af­ter a brief and largely frus­trat­ing dal­liance with a Nis­san GT-R, long­time event sup­porter Proc­tor proved just as quick back be­hind the wheel of his dis­tinc­tive — and much mod­i­fied — yel­low Es­cort but suf­fered gear­box is­sues in the last two Targa New Zealand events.

This time, the Nis­san V6 turbo-en­gined Es­cort was a pic­ture of re­li­a­bil­ity, and, af­ter be­ing beaten to the top class spot by Mike Lea and Grant Han­d­ley (Nis­san Sr20-pow­ered BMW Compact) in the first stage, and class spon­sor Ross John­son and co-driver Mike Patch­ing in John­son’s flame-spit­ting GT2 Porsche in the se­cond, Proc­tor and O’neill started as­sert­ing them­selves in the third, even­tu­ally head­ing home Haw­era pair Ross Gra­ham and Matthew Mer­wood (Holden To­rana A9X V8) at the event’s end by al­most two min­utes.

Be­fore that, though, oth­ers in the top-six mix in­cluded the 2015 BMW M3 of Si­mon Clark, and co-driver Richard Somerville and the ear­lier-model M3 of the al­ways quick Rob Dar­ring­ton and co-driver David Abetz.

As the week­end pro­gressed, how­ever, and var­i­ous is­sues raised their heads, Gary Mur­phy and Terry Rouse eased up the or­der to claim third over­all in class in Mur­phy’s 1993-model M3, and Targa reg­u­lar Ed­die Grooten’s son Tom and co-driver Andy Bowie mus­cled their way past Tony and Jo But­ler’s dis­tinc­tive open-air Hold­en­based Chee­tah con­vert­ible for fourth in Tom’s de­cep­tively quick 1983 Toy­ota Star­let.

2016 Targa Bam­bina event win­ners Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn

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