For close to 100 years the prospect of racing from Auckland to Wellington in record time has tempted keen drivers. This year the organisers of the annual Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally are giving entrants the chance to do it within the law.
After celebrating its 20th anniversary with a one-off Christchurch-to-Queenstown event in 2014, then starting in Auckland but finishing in Palmerston North in 2015 and starting in Taupo and finishing in Havelock North last year, the 23rd annual Targa NZ will this year start just south of Auckland on Tuesday October 24 and finish at Taranaki Wharf in Wellington on Saturday October 28.
In between are 739kms of closed special stages and almost 1200kms of open road touring with overnight stops in Hamilton (two), New Plymouth and Palmerston North.
Coincidentally, by heading south into the Waikato then west to Taranaki before the run south again to Wellington this year’s event covers the same sort of ground the likes of pioneering Auckland-Wellington record-setters Phil Seabrook and riding mechanic Bill Hinton did almost a century ago.
On April 06 1923 the pair successfully completed their own 700+km journey in 14 hours and 58 seconds, breaking the existing record by over 20 minutes and beating the time the nightly express train took down the, considerably shorter, main truck railway line, by over three hours.
“It’s uncanny isn’t it,” says Event Director Peter Martin. “We’ve been following in the wheel tracks of some fantastic local history and its only now that it has come to light.”
When Phil Seabrook set his record the roads south through the Waikato and King Country then west over Mt Messenger and south again to Hawera and Wanganui before the final run down the coast to Wellington, were little more than tracks.
Road conditions aside, the key difference between racing from Auckland to Wellington now is the ability event organisers like Martin have to apply to close sections of road.
And again, there is a local precedent few know about.
After representations from local car clubs immediately after WW2 the government passed the Vehicular Traffic Road Closure Regulations in 1949 making New Zealand one of the only countries in the world where applications to close roads can be made then heard and decided upon by local authorities.
“It’s something, obviously, which most people simply take for granted these days but again,” says Martin, “it is absolutely key to us running events like Targa NZ today.”
The annual event remains on the ‘Bucket list’ of many motorsport fans and every year attracts a broad cross-section of regular competitors, from tarmac rally specialists like defending Targa New Zealand title holders Glenn Inkster and co-driver Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 8), to the ever growing number of exotic sports and classic car owners who complete the allied Targa Tour which follows the same course.
With the prospect of a Wellington finish Peter Martin says he has already fielded more enquiries both for the main event and tour from all over the country but particularly the South Island ths year.
The success of recent Regional Rally events run on the final two days of the main Targa NZ one has also prompted considerable interest in the one this year, which starts in New Plymouth on Friday October 27 and finishes with the main event in Wellington on Saturday Ocoter 28.
Targa New Zealand events are organised by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors AndrewSimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Ecolight, Global Security, Kids In Cars, Metalman.co.nz, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Racetech, TeamTalk, TrackIt and VTNZ.
For more information go to www.targa.co.nz.