N PARSONS & ANSWER TARGA CAL
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.
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.”
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.