The early exit of Day 1 runners-up Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie (Subaru Impreza WRX) allowed defending title holders Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 8) free reign to further extend their lead in this year’s Targa New Zealand event in the Waikato today.
Hopper and Goudie were just 22.3 seconds behind Inkster and Winn at the end of the first day of the 23rd annual multi-day tarmac rally event in Hamilton yesterday. However the overheating problem which raised its head in yesterday’s second stage – and which Hopper hoped was an easy fix – recurred this morning and the Orewa man and his North Shore Auckland co-driver were the day’s first official retirement.
“We thought it was the thermostat, then we found a split (radiator) hose this morning,” said Hopper. “Bottom line is that air is getting into the cooling system somewhere so, really, there was no coming back without working out from where, and that, unfortunately for us, is a job for the workshop.”
In the absence of Hopper and Goudie, Inkster and Winn went on to win all 10 closed special stages to increase their lead in both the AndrewSimms.co.nz Allcomers 4WD class and the event overall to 1min 37.01 seconds.
Behind them former NZ (gravel) Rally Champion Chris West and co-driver Chris Cobham fought a day-long battle today for second place with fellow Mitsubishi Evo pair Jason Gill and Mark Robinson, and the Subaru Impreza WRX of Nic De Waal and Shane Reynolds.
Over some of the shorter of the day’s 10 stages the difference between any two of the combinations was down to under five seconds. Though at day’s end back in Hamilton West and Cobham were safe in second, with just over a minute on De Waal and Reynolds, then Gill and Robinson just 13.1 seconds back in fourth after an event total so far of 166km of special stages yesterday and today.
After a day-long battle of their own, first two-wheel-drive pairing home (in fifth place three-and-a-half minutes down on event leader Glenn Inkster and co-driver Spencer Winn, but only 36 seconds off Jason Gill and Mark Robinson) was Steven Kirk-Burnnand and co-driver Mike Hay in Kirk-Burnnand’s Global Security Allcomers 2WD class leading BMW 318ti Compact.
Earlier in the day Perth-based expat Robert Darrington and David Abetz (BMW M3) were the quickest 2WD pair, but Kirk-Burnnand got quicker as the day wore on, to claim fifth place just under 10 seconds ahead of Darrington and Abetz.
After a cautious start, 2013 event winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant (Porsche 911 GT3 RS) ended up seventh overall after gradually working their way up the order today, eventually leap-frogging both the Kirk-Burnnand/Hay and Darrington/Abetz pairing to claim first-2WD-car-home honours in the final stage of the day, the 10.75km sprint through Parawa Road east of Te Awamutu.
Continuing on their giant-killing mission in their diminutive (albeit much modified) Toyota Starlet, meanwhile, were brothers Tom and Ben Grooten from Orewa. Short or long, wet or dry, it didn’t seem to matter which stage the brothers were in, the little red rear-wheel-drive Starlet was always nipping at the heels of the 4WD turbo cars and 2WD BMWs.
In one stage they set the sixth quickest time which helped them cement eight place overall between the Porsche of Dippie and Grant, and Mitsubishi Evo 10 of Auckland pair David Rogers and Aidan Kelly.
Just outside the top ten today was the new leader of the Metalman Classic 2WD class, Palmerston North man Rob Ryan and car industry colleague Paul Burborough from Hamilton in a Toyota AE86 coupe.
There were at least four pairings vying for Metalman Classic class honours with the lead swapping from stage to stage. It was Ryan and Burborough who came good in the end though, pipping Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand (BMW M3) for 13th overall spot by 11.1 seconds with Nelson driver Peter Jones and co-driver Ric Chalmers (Mk 1 Ford Escort) third in class just 15 seconds behind the Kirk-Burnnands, and Australian couple Keith and Mary-Anne Callinan fourth in class in their Mk 11 Ford Escort RS1800 a further minute-and-a-half back.
As well as Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie other retirements (most due to mechanical issues) today included those of fellow event regulars Eddie Grooten and co-driver Wade Maurice (Porsche 911), Bernie Hiestand and Jilly Hutson (Ford Capri), Tony and Joanne Butler (Cheetah V8), and John Rae and David Leuthart (VW Polo WRC)
The 2017 Targa NZ event continues tomorrow with five stages between Hamilton and New Plymouth, including the much anticipated marathons Kawhia Harbour (47.53km) and Awakino (35.98km).
On Friday the field heads to Palmerston North then on to Wellington for the final day on Saturday.
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, VTNZ and Writeraze.
For more information go to www.targa.co.nz or check out the Targa NZ ‘the Ultimate Road Race’ page on Facebook.