Runaway early event leader Glenn Inkster and co-driver Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 8) finally conceded a stage win at the end of the second day of this year’s Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally in Taranaki this afternoon.
However the Auckland pair – gunning for a record-setting sixth consecutive win in the annual five-day motorsport marathon - will still head into the crucial third day tomorrow morning with a lead of just over three-and-half minutes (3.34.5) over fellow event veteran Leigh Hopper and his co-driver Michael Goudie (Subaru Impreza WRX).
They remain in second place albeit with a buffer now of just 18 seconds over this year’s Targa Hawke’s Bay winner Haydn Mackenzie and co-driver Matthew Sayers, who won the final stage of the day today, the return run from Whangamomona to Douglas.
True to form the white-hot pace Inkster and Winn have set from the first stage yesterday until the run into Whangamomona today saw several key pairings crack.
On that list, unfortunately was Subaru WRX ace Nick de Waal and co-driver Shane Reynolds, fourth overall after the first day, and still classified sixth overall despite having to take a maximum stage time on the return from Whangamomona, thanks to a number of mechanical issues.
Gravel rally specialist Marcus van Klink and co-driver Matt Richards (Mazda RX8) found themselves in a similar position, still classified ninth overall but with work to do tonight (replacing their car’s flywheel) if they are to continue tomorrow.
The day’s biggest scalp, belonged, however to former circuit racing ace Eddie Bell and his co-driver Blair Forbes from Christchurch (BMW M3) who were running fifth overall and leading 2WD car at the end of the first day only to crash heavily on the morning’s second stage, Ratapiko.
The demise of the Bell/Forbes BMW left the way open to 2013 Targa NZ event winner Martin Dippie and co-driver Jona Grant (Porsche 911 GT3 RS) to move up a place to fourth, albeit 11 minutes behind leaders Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn and seven behind third placed Haydn Mackenzie and Matthew Sayers.
Easing, as if by stealth into the overall top ten and leading their class, are BMW 330ti Compact pair Jeremy Friar and co-driver Katrina Renshaw who finished the day in 8th place just 51.6 seconds behind event regulars Jason Gill and co-driver Mark Robinson in Gill’s new purpose-built VW Polo R tarmac rally car.
Another late model BMW, this time the M2 of Hamilton driver Mike Tubbs and co-driver Brooke Walden, is also now back in the top 10 (and second to the Dippie/Grant Porsche in Class 6) after an up and down first day, but quick, clean day today which included an amazing 4th place in the final run back from the lunch stop at Whangamomona.
Also on his way back up the time sheets after an issue on the first day is the earlier model (E30) BMW M3 of Wellington pair Mark and his father Chris Kirk-Burnnand.
With the bit well and truly between his teeth on a road he was competed on a number of times now Mark set the 4th quickest time overall on the 38.84km run into Whangamomona.
In their absence, Horowhenua Holden Commodore SS driver Bevan Claridge and co-driver Campbell Tannock continue to lead the Classic 2WD cars in 14th place overall, two spots ahead of the first of the Kirk-Bernnand clan BMW E30 M3s, driven by Mark’s Auckland-based uncle Barry and his co-driver Dave O’Carroll, with Mark and Chris closing fast and now 19th overall.
Tomorrow the field remains in Taranaki for most of the day before heading south for the next overnight stay in Whanganui.
This year’s 25th annual Targa NZ event is again a multi-faceted one with three separate starting groups - Competition, the Targa Tour and now a Time Trial organised in conjunction with the Vintage Car Club of New Zealand.
A separately scored but concurrently-run two-day ‘Regional Targa’ – complete with its own eight-strong Targa Tour group - is also being run this year over the final two days of the main event.
Targa New Zealand events are organised by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors AndrewSimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Global Security, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Race4Life Trust, Racetech, TrackIt, Vital and Writeraze.