New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Pho­tos:

on­ven­tional wis­dom says that you earn your Targa New Zealand stripes the hard way: you learn by do­ing, with the odd — of­ten event-end­ing — mis­take part of a process, which, if you ded­i­cate your­self Zen-like to it for long enough, will even­tu­ally be­stow on you the re­ward you seek. It’s a good thing, then, that no­body told this to Kaik­oura con­trac­tor Re­gan Ross and co-driver Shaun Howie.

While over­all event and an­drewsimms.co.nz All­com­ers 4WD class win­ners Glenn Inkster and co­driver Spencer Winn (Mit­subishi Evo VIII) used years of ex­pe­ri­ence, both good and bad, to claim their third Targa New Zealand ti­tle on the trot by a margin of just over five min­utes, Ross sim­ply turned up, drove the wheels off his ’82 RS1800 Ford Es­cort in his tar­mac-event de­but, won the Me­tal­man Clas­sic 2WD class by over six min­utes, and placed fifth over­all. Not bad for a first ef­fort, and part of the of­ten in­de­fin­able magic that is Targa New Zealand.

Short and early

This year’s event was both shorter and held ear­lier in the month of Oc­to­ber than in pre­vi­ous years, start­ing at Wairakei, just north of Taupo, on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 13 and fin­ish­ing — with an­other mem­o­rable flour­ish cour­tesy of lo­cal clas­sic car en­thu­si­asts — at Have­lock North on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 16. In be­tween were 640.7km of spe­cial stages and 962km of tour­ing from Taupo to Otoro­hanga in the north, Feild­ing to the south, and Have­lock North to the east.

The new ear­lier date — con­ve­niently free­ing up Labour week­end for com­peti­tors and vol­un­teers alike — and the more com­pact event foot­print ob­vi­ously found favour with com­peti­tors and spec­ta­tors. The last-minute with­drawals by Clark Proc­tor — with diff, then en­gine, is­sues on the eve of the event — and Brent Emer­son, re­duced the com­pe­ti­tion en­try by two, but 64 com­pe­ti­tion cars still faced the starter at Wairakei, while an­other 10 en­tered the two-day Re­gional Rally from Palmer­ston North to Have­lock North on the Satur­day and Sun­day.

Triple win­ners

In terms of nuts and bolts, the 22nd an­nual Targa New Zealand event (and 50th event or­ga­nized un­der the Targa brand, if you in­clude all the other Sprint, Bam­bina, Ro­torua, and North Island ones) was all about Inkster and Winn claim­ing their third main­event win in a row, mean­ing the pair are now just one vic­tory away from match­ing con­tem­po­rary event King Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Til­lett’s four-from­four record set in Quinn’s Nis­san R35 GT-R.

The Eco­l­ight-spon­sored pair did it in style, too, stop­ping the clocks over five min­utes clear of their near­est ri­vals, 2013 event win­ners Martin Dip­pie and Jona Grant from Dunedin, in Dip­pie’s lat­est Porsche GT3 RS. Both com­bi­na­tions also claimed class wins — Inkster and Winn in the an­drewsimms. co.nz All­com­ers 4WD and Dip­pie and Grant in the Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD.

While the event didn’t start par­tic­u­larly well for Inkster (from Pa­tuma­hoe, near Pukekohe) and Winn (from How­ick in Auck­land), the pair fought back af­ter prob­lems with their car on the first day to dom­i­nate the sec­ond and third, for a big enough lead to stroke home on the fi­nal day.

Fel­low for­mer gravel rally star Chris West and his co-driver Chris Cob­ham (Mit­subishi Mi­rage Evo) from Auck­land beat them home on the first day and kept the pair hon­est un­til late on the third day, when they slid off the road on oil left by an­other car on the long and un­com­pro­mis­ing Gen­tle An­nie East stage on the way from the Cen­tral Plateau to Hawke’s Bay, when their event was over.

The wet, slick road also caught out All­com­ers 4WD class spon­sor An­drew Simms and his co­driver Craig Vu­lawalu (Mit­subishi Evo X), as well as Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD top-three prospect Brent Early and co-driver An­drew Oak­ley in Early’s for­mer event-win­ning (ex–joe Mcandrew) Nis­san Sky­line R34 GT-R.

Leigh Hop­per and his co-driver Michael Goudie (Subaru WRX STI) were also lucky to get to the fin­ish line to claim third place over­all and sec­ond in the an­drewsimms. co.nz All­com­ers 4WD class, af­ter com­plet­ing the last three stages of the event with­out a clutch and run­ning off the road at least once be­cause of the fact.

Also suf­fer­ing me­chan­i­cal prob­lems late in the event and slip­ping down the leader board to sixth were Quinn and Til­lett. The pair were due to start the event in a new two-wheel-drive Porsche GT3 RS like the Dip­pie/ Grant one, but Quinn was forced to press his well-used Nis­san R35 GT-R 4WD into ser­vice when it be­came ob­vi­ous that the Porsche, though landed, could not be race-pre­pared in time. That the car and its driver were still com­pet­i­tive went with­out say­ing, and Quinn swapped times with the Subaru of Hop­per and Goudie for sec­ond over­all when the R35 GT-R was first slowed, then even­tu­ally stopped by a gear­box is­sue on the fi­nal day.

In stark con­trast, com­plet­ing a near-per­fect Targa New Zealand in his new car was 2013 event win­ner Dip­pie and co-driver Grant. Set­ting an im­pe­ri­ous pace at the head of the Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD class, the dy­namic duo from Dunedin topped the class time sheets in 24 of the 25 stages, and thor­oughly de­served their el­e­va­tion — thanks to the is­sues Hop­per and Goudie faced — to run­ner-up spot over­all on the fi­nal day.

There was also a fas­ci­nat­ing bat­tle of the BMWS in the Global Se­cu­rity Mod­ern 2WD class, in which Steven KirkBurn­nand (Barry’s son) and co-driver Mick Hay even­tu­ally pre­vailed in their mod­i­fied 1994 318ti Com­pact over Perth-based Kiwi ex­pat Rob Dar­ring­ton and his co-driver David Abetz, in their 2002 E36 M3. They ended up sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively, in class (and fourth and sev­enth over­all) af­ter a three-way bat­tle for sec­ond place, with the only other driver to take a class stage win other than Dip­pie be­ing Christchurch rally driver Mar­cus van Klink and his co-driver Matt Hayward in van Klink’s new tar­mac car, a Mazda RX-8.

No ac­count of this year’s event would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing Tom Grooten and mate Andy Bowie, who fin­ished a gi­ant-killing fourth in the Global Se­cu­rity 2WD Mod­ern in Grooten’s in­de­cently quick 1983-model Toy­ota Star­let KP61. Yes, it is ex­ten­sively mod­i­fied (the rea­son it runs with the moderns rather than the clas­sics), but what sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Targa ace Grooten (son of Porsche 911-driv­ing event stal­wart Ed­die ‘Dad’s Pies’ Grooten) does with it is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Fi­nally, af­ter Auck­land Mit­subishi Evo IX driver Jason Gill and co-driver Mark Robinson were forced out with over­heat­ing is­sues on the first day, the con­cur­rent two-day Targa Re­gional Rally from Palmer­ston North to Have­lock North was won by Cromwell pair Grant Aitken and Caro­line Cul­limore in Aitken’s Toy­ota 86. Sec­ond were Auck­land pair Graeme and Ma­ree Co­ley in an Audi RS4 and third were Jerry Friar / Nick Chib­nall-west in a BMW 330ci.

Targa New Zealand events are or­ga­nized with the sup­port of spon­sors An­drewsimms.co.nz, Chi­cane Racewear, Eco­l­ight, Global Se­cu­rity, Kids in Cars, Me­tal­man.co.nz, New Zealand Clas­sic Car mag­a­zine, Race Brakes, Racetech, Teamtalk, Trackit, and VTNZ.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to targa.co.nz.

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