Winning this year's Targa Bambina which finished in Rotorua on Sunday was all part of a plan for the country's top tarmac motor rally duo, Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn and their Ecolight Mitsubishi Evo 8.
Inkster, from Patumahoe near Pukekohe, and Winn, from Auckland won the 20th annual Targa New Zealand event in the South Island in November last year. But engine problems meant they failed to finish the inaugural three-day Targa North Island event from Auckland to Whitianga and on to Rotorua earlier in the year.
That event replaced the one-day Targa Bambina in February and two-day Targa Rotorua in June and this year reverted to the Targa Bambina name.
"Winning the 20th anniversary event was obviously our main goal, but having to pull out of the North Island one last year was like unfinished business. So this year," Inkster said "we decided that our main goal would be to not only finish all three Targa events this year, but to win them as well."
The pair won the one-day Targa Sprint event in Auckland in March and led this year's Bambina event, which started in Auckland on Friday, from start to finish.
On the way they won 18 of the 21 stages outright and finishing a comfortable four-and-three-quarter minutes in front of fellow Instra.com Allcomers 4WD category member Nic de Waal and his new co-driver Tom Grooten (Subaru Impreza WRX).
Last year's winner, Leigh Hopper and new co-driver Ben Grooten, were an early threat in Hopper's Subaru Impreza WRX. But the Orewa pair were out late on Friday morning after running off the road.
They returned in a leased Mitsubishi Evo on Saturday but 'just to have fun' according to Hopper, event rules stating that you can only remain in contention for a place if you start and finish in the same car.
Despite having to do a diff change at the side of the road on Sunday morning, victory in the Metalman Classic 2WD class and fourth place overall went to Foxton driver Bevan Claridge and his co-driver Campbell Tannock from class and event stalwart Barry Kirk-Burnnand and co-driver Dave O'Carroll from Auckland in a BMW M3.
For most of the event Claridge and Tannock were locked in a battle for category supremacy with Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand from Wellington in their BMW M3 and Claridge's former co-driver, Jason Easton and Campbell Ward, in Easton's classic notch-back Ford Mustang.
Easton and Ward crashed out of the Hobbiton stage west of Matamata on Saturday though, and late in the penultimate event stage on Sunday Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand were forced to pull out when a suspension bolt broke.
Class sponsor Clark Proctor and co-driver Sue O'Neill had also been contenders on Friday, but a terminal engine issue (broken crank) saw the Nissan-engined Escort back in the Metalman truck and on its way back to Auckland on Friday afternoon.
The Instra.com Modern 2WD category also turned into a battle of attrition, this one won by Auckland pair Simon Clark and Richard Somerville in Clark's new late model BMW M3.
On the first day of the event the class was dominated by husband and wife Ross and Carmel Graham from Hawera in their Holden Torana A9X. But clutch problems put them out on Saturday morning, handing the lead to Perth-based Kiwi expat Robert Darrington and his co-driver David Abetz in their BMW M3.
They in turn held it through Saturday and into Sunday morning before an off-road excursion in Stage 18 on Sunday morning saw the lead to pass to Clark and Somerville,
Darrington and Abetz hung on for second from the Mike Lea and Grant Handley in Lea's Nissan SR20 turbo-engined BMW Compact.
There was real depth and diversity in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class, with six different class winners.
Mike Lea's Nissan-powered BMW Compact was again the dark horse, the Reporoa man winning the most stages in the class - eight - but held back by mechanical issues and the odd off-road excursion.
Clark and Gisborne newcomer Matt Todd proved the efficacy of investing in later model BMW M3s, Clark topping the class time sheets in five of the stages and Todd and co-driver Dan Reichenbach finishing fourth in class and eighth overall in their first multi-day Targa event in Todd's 2007 model.
There was also a fascinating event-long battle in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class for Toyota 86 coupe bragging rights between former Mini racing aces Chris Lewis and co-driver Kieran Anstis from Waiheke Island, and Grant Aitken and Caroline Cullimore from Cromwell.
Lewis started and finished with the upper hand, ending up seventh in class to Aitken's ninth, but often there were only seconds between the Toyota twins on stage.
This year's three-day Targa North Island event attracted 50 starters plus another 30 in the allied but non-competitive Targa Tour.