Motorsport: King Quinn wins Targa again

Tony Quinn and Naomi Tillet in the Nissan GTR that has owned Targa New Zealand in recent years. Photo / Fast Company, Ground Sky
Tony Quinn and Naomi Tillet in the Nissan GTR that has owned Targa New Zealand in recent years. Photo / Fast Company, Ground Sky

Record-setting Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally winner Tony Quinn said before this year's event that if he and co-driver Naomi Tillett won it the sleek black Nissan GT-R35 the pair have shared for the past four years was heading to his new motor museum in Cromwell.

That mission was accomplished yesterday in Havelock North, the Quinn/Tillett GT-R crossing the finish line for consecutive win number four - and Quinn's fifth - over 10 minutes ahead of Auckland Mitsubishi Evo duo Jason Gill and Malcolm Read.

After last year's runners-up Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn ran Quinn and Tillett so close until they ran off the road and rolled on Friday morning it looked like the 2008-model Nissan GT-R35 might have to remain in service for another year.

But that roll took the heat off Quinn and Tillett heading into the fifth and final event day today, and a second - this time more serious - roll for Inkster and Winn in the second stage this morning - meant that a special place in the museum Quinn and son Klark are building at their new Highland Park motor racing complex in Central Otago was almost assured.

Almost?

That's right, almost, because despite a commanding lead over Gill and Read what started as a slight vibration through the steering wheel progressively worsened during the day, to the point where through the last couple of stages Quinn was forced to slow right down.

"By the last stage," he said," I couldn't get more than 134km/h out of her. It felt like one of the wheels was broken but we think now it's the front diff. Believe me, we were lucky to get home."

That wasn't the only last day drama, either. After repairing the damage from their roll before lunch on Friday and returning for the Gentle Annie stages in the afternoon, Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn thought they had to win the final day outright to guarantee themselves the Targa Series award (which recognises performances in all three Targa Bambina, Targa Rotorua and Targa NZevents).

With that in mind Inkster went out in a determined frame of mind, finishing a close second to the revitalised Nissan GT-R35 of Harry Dodson and Glen Cupit in the first stage then getting it all wrong in the second...

"The thinking," he said, "was that, OK the main prize (winning Targa NZ) had slipped away but there was still the series one to go for. In the back of my mind, too, was the fact that it was going to be another six months before we were going to drive the roads again so we were going for it.

"I came round a corner, slipped a bit wide and, you know, there have been so many times like that and I've got away with it but this time I didn't; the back of the car slapped a strainer post, the other side of the car whacked a big tree which flipped it on its roof and we ended up upside down a very long way down a ravine."

Having thoroughly enjoyed, thrived even, on the competition from Inkster and Winn this year, Tony Quinn was one of the first to commiserate with his young rival.

"I feel very honoured," he said, "that I'm able to race against Glenn, he is just such a great competitor and to be fair, what happened to him yesterday and today could happen to any of us at any time."

Inkster and Winn's early demise was by no means the only curve ball thrown at a competitor in this year's Targa NZ event on the final day either.

Expat Gavin Riches and wife Amy dominated the Modern 2WD class in their late model Porsche GT3 Cup car. But the final results show they didn't win their class, Paeroa pair Mark Whyte and Tracey Lance did in Whyte's V8-engined Toyota Altezza.

True to form the Riches again topped the class timesheets in the first two stages in the morning only to be forced to pull out of the next two when an engine ancillary (power steering, alternator etc) belt snapped. They returned with the car repaired after lunch and won their class again in the remaining four stages, but the damage was done, Whyte and Lance taking overall class honours by just over two minutes.

Meanwhile, with Quinn and Tillett forced to nurse Black Beauty home, the pace-setter in the Allcomers 4WD class on the final day was a determined Harry Dodson and his Dodson Motorsport sidekick Glen Cupit. With the axle and front diff issues which stopped them in their tracks on the second day now behind them they won the first stage from Inkster and Winn, finished second to Quinn and Tillett in the second then won the remaining six stages from either Quinn and Tillet or Gill and Read.

The final day also saw yet another duo win some stages in the Metalman Classic class, this time father and son Geoff and James Harriman (Toyota AE86) from Auckland setting fastest class time on the first just outside Havelock North then doing it again in the final two.

In between it was eventual class winners Barry and Steven or cousins Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand (both in BMW M3s) who topped the class timesheets with Barry - competing in his 18th consecutive Targa NZ event - taking the overall class win from early leaders Stuart Rose and Gary Renall in an unorthodox but effective V8-powered Toyota Hilux with Foxton potato farmer Bevan Claridge and his motorcycle champion co-driver Jason Easton bringing their V8 Holden Commodore home in third.

With the Riches losing just enough time to relinquish the lead in the Modern 2WD class, the speed and consistency of the Whyte/Lance Altezza V8 won through. Not that the pair had the final day to enjoy a stage win. When the Riches' Porsche was running sweetly it was they won claimed the class wins. And when it was not it was the giant-killing BMW Compact of Rotorua pair Mike Lea and Phillip Sutton.

Finally, the two-day Targa Hawke's Bay event-within-an-event was won with apparent ease by Porsche pair Richard Krogh and Glenn Sharratt from New Plymouth. They topped the two-day timesheets in all eight stages, eventually crossing arriving at race's end in Havelock North just over six minutes ahead of the Subaru Impreza ST1 of Richard Skilton and Nigel Edgar with the De Tomaso Pantera of Targa regulars Peter Cullen and Craig Strachan thirty seconds back in third.

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