Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 8) have claimed their third Targa NZ win in a row, the Auckland pair crossing the finish line at the end of the four-day/1602km tarmac road rally in Havelock North yesterday afternoon over five minutes clear of their nearest rivals, 2013 event winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant from Dunedin (Porsche GT3 RS).
Both pairings also claimed class wins, Inkster and Winn in andrewsimms.co.nz Allcomers 4WD, Dippie and Grant Global Security Modern 2WD.
In an event which took a field of 134 from a start in Taupo on Thursday to the finish in Havelock North today Inkster from Patumahoe near Pukekohe and Winn from Howick in Auckland fought back after problems with their car on the first day to dominate the second and the third to have a big enough lead to stroke home today.
Fellow former gravel rally star Chris West and his co-driver Chris Cobham (Mitsubishi Mirage Evo) from Auckland beat them home on the first day as Inkster struggled with an engine management system issue and traction problems. But with his car back running 100 percent on the second day Inkster wrestled back the advantage and was never again headed.
West and Cobham kept Inkster and Winn honest but late on the third day slid off the road and their event was over.
The same slippery corner on the second of two Gentle Annie stages also caught out West and Cobham's and Allcomers 4WD class sponsor Andrew Simms and his co-driver Craig Vulawalu (Mitsubishi Evo 10), and Global Security Modern 2WD top three prospect Brent Early and co-driver Andrew Oakley in their former event winning Nissan Skyline GT-R34.
Accidents on the final day also put paid to the finishing hopes of Auckland pairings Mark Hellier and Glenn Edley (Porsche 911) and Kim McLeod and Ben Quinn (Mazda RX7), the latter pair running in fourth place in the concurrent two-day Targa Regional Rally when they crashed.
Targa Rotorua event winners Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie (Subaru WRX ST1) were lucky to get to the finish line, let alone be able to hang on to second in the andrewsimms.co.nz Allcomers 4WD class after completing the last three stages of the event without a clutch and running off the road at least once because of the fact.
Also suffering mechanical problems and ending up back in sixth place overall was five-time event (four of them consecutively) winner Tony Quinn and his co-driver Naomi Tillett. Circuit-owning entrepreneur Quinn was due to start the event in a new two-wheel-drive Porsche GT3 RS like the Dippie/Grant one but was forced to press his well-used Nissan GT-R35 4WD into service when it became obvious that delivery delays meant the Porsche, though landed, would not be ready in time.
Quinn and Tillett were never far behind the lighter, more nimble Mitsubishi Evos of Inkster and Winn and West and Cobham, early in the event and Quinn was swapping times with the Subaru of Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie when the GT-R35 was first slowed then eventually stopped by a gearbox issue.
In stark contrast completing a near perfect Targa NZ in his new car was 2013 event winner Martin Dippie and co-driver Jona Grant.
Setting an imperious pace at the head of the Global Security Modern 2WD class the pair topped the class time sheets in 24 of the 25 stages and thoroughly deserved their elevation, thanks to the issues Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie faced, to runner-up spot overall on the final day.
Also enjoying a near perfect event were standout Metalman Classic 2WD class winners Regan Ross and Shaun Howie (Ford Escort RS1800). A stalwart of the South Island gravel rally scene, Kaikoura contractor Ross topped his class time sheets in 21 of the 25 stages, to beat former class winner and pace-setter Mark and father Chris Kirk-Burnnand from Wellington to the finish line at Havelock North by more than six minutes and end up fifth overall. Not bad when you are driving a rear-wheel-drive Escort which originally left the Ford factory in 1980.
Despite Ross and Howie's winning margin there was depth as well as quality in the Metalman Classic 2WD class, with a pitched battle for second through sixth places, Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand under constant pressure from Nelson pair Bruce Farley and Glen Warner (BMW 325i), fellow Mainlanders Ashton Wood and Chris Lancaster in another Escort RS1800, and Auckland BMW duos Barry Kirk-Burnnand and co-driver Dave O'Carroll (M3), and Rex McDonald and David Dixon (325i).
There was also a fascinating battle of the BMWs in the Global Security Modern 2WD class where Steven Kirk-Burnnand (Barry's son) and co-driver Mick Hay eventually prevailed in their modified 318ti Compact over Perth-based Kiwi expat Rob Darrington and his co-driver David Abetz in their M3.
They ended up second and third respectively in class (and fourth and seventh overall) after a three-way battle for second place with the only other driver to take a class stage win other than Martin Dippie, Christchurch rally driver Marcus van Klink and his co-driver Matt Hayward in van Klink's new tarmac car, a Mazda RX8.
Finally, after Auckland Mitsubishi Eco 9 driver Jason Gill and co-driver Mark Robinson were forced out with overheating issues on the first day, the concurrent two-day Targa Regional Rally from Palmerston North to Havelock North was won by Cromwell pair Grant Aitken and Caroline Cullimore. Second were Auckland pair Graeme and Maree Coley in an Audi RS4, third Jerry Friar/Nick Chibnall-West in a BMW 330ci.