Everything goes at Targa

By Eric Thompson

The annual week-long Targa New Zealand rally, which starts from Manukau City on October 27, has attracted 200 entrants.

The rally, which covers most of the North Island, is over six days and is for cars from the 1950s onwards.

The word Targa means "plate" in Italian and is derived from the prize that was awarded in 1906 to the winner of the first Targa, known as the Targa Florio.

This event was held in Sicily and ran from 1906 until 1973 through some of the most spectacular mountain roads and villages of the island.

The French marque Bugatti reigned supreme during the 1920s, then the Italians - Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari - took control until the Porsches arrived in Sicily. The indestructible German cars won 10 events from 1959 to 1973. Almost every Grand Prix driver of those years competed in the race.

The New Zealand version began in 1995 and has grown from a single event to a series, with the first two rounds being held in Rotorua earlier this year.

The rally has evolved to be the largest closed motorsport event in Australasia and is based around 10 categories broken into two competitions: classic and modern.

The categories are: historic, pre-classic, classic, post classic, Metalman super classics, Metalman all-comers, early modern, Honda riders contemporary and Super GT.

The competition covers most of the North Island, using around 1500km of touring and 750km of closed special stages where the cars compete against the clock.

Local community involvement is part of the event with groups providing over 4000 lunches, fundraising activities such as barbecues, car washes, and hospitality areas.

The event attracts people from all walks of life, both serious racers and casual ones, and some compete in standard road-going vehicles.

Crashes happen but it is a very low percentage and the cars have roll cages and safety gear.

In the Narva Targa tour, for first-time competitors, roll cages are not required, and they drive under the guidance of the Narva tour leader.

Younger drivers have not been left out in an attempt to encourage boy racers to compete in a controlled manner in a safe environment.

As part of the classic competition there are a variety of cars battling against each other, including Fiat 124s, Mazda 2 and 3s, the odd Hillman Avenger or a Holden Torana, even a Chrysler Valiant Charger - and don't forget the 1964 Fiat Abarth.

This year there's a Renault Alpine racing, the only one competing in Australasia.

In the classic section, spectators will also get the chance to see a quick Reliant Scimitar, several Porsche 911s, a Ferrari 308 GT4, a DeTomaso Pantera and an unlikely sounding 1967 Toyota Corona.

The modern section, or more to the point all-comers category, is where pretty much anything goes.

The most hybrid car probably belongs to NZV8 competitor Clark Proctor.

He's entered a 1970 Ford Escort powered by a 1990s V6 Nissan Turbo delivering its power to the road through a Nissan Godzilla gearbox via a Ford Falcon rear end. Thankfully it has full-on NZV8 brakes.

Rally ace Emma Gilmour has entered in a Subaru and will be worth watching after her good performance at the recent New Zealand round of the WRC.

The locals will not have it all their own way. There're a couple of overseas drivers determined to take the title.

Two competitors from Japan, Kobayashi and Take, have their eye on the prize in an EVO9 and a Nissan 350Z, respectively. Among the Australians there is a Holden HSV Maloo Ute and a 2008 Nissan Skyline GTR.

Steve and Kylie Millen have popped over from the United States with their Ford GT to give the Targa a real international flavour.

There's action every day and spectators get to watch millions of dollars' worth of cars racing on the road, rather than sitting static in a showroom or museum.

THE SCHEDULE

Monday, October 27
Telstra Clear Events Centre, Great South Rd, Manukau City.

Car Show starts at 9am.

Then drivers' briefing and official start at 1.50pm.

Tuesday
First car leaves Manukau at 7.10am. Nine special stages totaling 192.81km (with 363km of touring).

Lunch Break at Otorohanga at noon and first car finishes in New Plymouth, 5.40pm.

Wednesday
First car leaves New Plymouth at 9am. Four special stages totalling 125km (with 155km of touring).

Lunch break at Whangamomona. First car finishes in New Plymouth at 4.05pm.

Thursday
First car leaves New Plymouth at 8.20am. Six special stages totaling 160km (with 338km of touring).

Lunch Break at Marton. First car finishes in Wanganui at 5.40pm.

Friday
First car leaves Wanganui at 7.05am. Nine special stages totaling 181km (with 363km of touring).

Lunch at Tui Brewery, Mangatainoka. First car finishes in Wellington 6pm.

Saturday
First car leaves Wellington at 7.45am. Eight special stages totaling 90km (with 223km of touring).

Lunch at Southwards Car Museum. First car finishes at the official finish in Wellington at 4.55pm.

Sunday
Breakfast, prize giving and auction, Michael Fowler Centre, Wakefield St, Wellington at 8am.

- NZ Herald

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