Tight slippery back roads of Taranaki challenge Targa NZ competitors
A day of wet and winding roads helped close up the Targa NZ top ten on the third day of competition in Taranaki on Wednesday.
While last year's 20th anniversary event winners Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 8) continued to ease ahead of five-time former event winner Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Tillett (Nissan GT-R35) at the head of the 60-strong field, the tight, slippery back roads New Zealand's energy province is famous for helped re-arrange the top ten.
Defending Targa NZ title holders Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn in their Mitsubishi Evo 8 continued to extend their lead on the third day of the event. Picture/ Fast Company/ProShotz.
The winner of the 2013 event, Dunedin pair Martin Dippie and Jona Grant (Porsche 911 GT3) were both best of the Instra.com Modern two-wheel-drive entrants and third overall, with Metalman Classic class leaders Bevan Claridge and Bevan Tannock (Holden Commodore V8) fourth and Steven Kirk-Burnnand and co-driver Mick Hay (BMW 318ti) the first of the Kirk-Burnnand clan in fifth.
There was nothing in it between the fourth-placed Claridge/Tannock Holden Commodore and the Mark and father Chris Kirk-Burnnand (BMW M3) in sixth.
After 169kms through six different special stages in the shadow of Mt Taranaki the difference between fourth and fifth place was just four seconds and the gap back to sixth only another 22.
That wasn't all either.
Cromwell-based veteran New Zealand saloon car driver Grant Aitken and co-driver Caroline Cullimore are now third in Instra.com Modern 2WD and eighth overall in their diminutive Toyota 86RC, just 10 seconds behind the hi-tech 4WD Mitsubishi Evo 10 of gravel rally stalwart Brian Green and his co-driver Fleur Pedersen.
Bevan Claridge and Campbell Tannock in their Holden Commodore moved up the class and event standings yesterday. Picture/ Fast Company/ProShotz.
After comfortably leading the Instra.com Modern 2WD class for the first two days, Clark Proctor and Sue O'Neill (Ford Escort/Nissan V6 Turbo) were stopped in their tracks for a second year in a row with a broken gearbox input shaft.
A crash also looks like it has ended the event for the Australian members of the Kirk-Burnnand family, Eliott and Adrian (Subaru Impreza WRX).
However, the 'never-give-up' spirit of Targa rallies was exemplified by several competitors who returned to the event on Wednesday after sorting problems experienced on Day 1 or 2.
Taranaki businessman John Rae and co-driver David Leuthart not only returned with a new engine in their VW Polo/Mitsubishi Evo 10 hybrid, they did so in style, Rae immediately on the pace in the Andrew Simms Allcomers 4WD class despite the new engine producing far less power than the highly-tuned race one that blew up on the event's second stage on Monday.
"It was the first time we ran the car and we figured we had got this far, we might as well see what we could do to get back into the event," Rae said on Wednesday afternoon.
"The guys at Ralliart had a brand new engine so I bought it and my guys spent Tuesday swapping the good bits from the first engine then we brought it back down (New Plymouth) and put it on the dyno yesterday."
Also back and back running competitive times was Jason Easton and co-driver Campbell Tannock from Foxton in Easton's Ford Mustang.
The pair were second in the Metalman Classic 2WD class after the first day only a break a shock absorber and bend a steering rod in the resulting off-road excursion on the second day.
Both damaged items were repaired overnight and Easton and Tannock were back in action today, topping the class time sheets in two of the stages including the competitor favourite final one of the day, Carrington, high on the slopes of Mt Taranaki.
That stage also saw the light, nimble 1,6 litre Citroen C2 Super 16 of Christchurch gravel rally ace Marcus Van Klink and Dave Neill prove its worth with fastest time in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class.
The Targa NZ event heads east to Palmerston North on Thursday, then on to Havelock North on Friday before returning west for the finish at Palmerston North (at the city's Square) on Saturday.
Information on both the main (six-day) 2015 Targa New Zealand and two-day Targa Regional Rally events is available on the event website www.targa.co.nz or in the latest copy of NZ Classic Car magazine.
Targa New Zealand events are organised with the support of sponsors Chicane, Ecolight, Federal tyres, Global Security, Kids In Cars, Metalman, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Racetech, TeamTalk, TrackIt and VTNZ.
Andrew Simms Allcomers 4WD
1. Glenn Inkster/Spencer Winn (2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) 02:41:50
2. Tony Quinn/Naomi Tillett (2008 Nissan GTR) 02:46:28
3. Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen (2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RS) 02:57:53
4. David Rogers/Aidan Kelly (2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RS) 02:59:18
5. Graeme Wong/Kim Blatchley (1998 Subaru Impreza Type R) 03:10:21
6. Jeff McCandless/Marcella Mumm (2010 Subaru WRX STi) 03:11:53