Third time was indeed a charm for Auckland’s Haydn Mackenzie and his Hamilton-based co-driver Matt Sayers (Mitsubishi Evo 10 RS) as the pair won the first Targa tarmac rally event of the year, the two-day, Waikato-based, Targa Bambina, which finished in Hamilton this afternoon.
The pair won their first Targa tarmac rally together – the two-day Targa Hawke’s Bay event - in May last year then took on and won – on only their second attempt – the main five-day Targa New Zealand event through the central North Island in late October and early November 2019.
That makes their emphatic lead-from-the-front win in the weekend’s newly reinstated Targa Bambina event their third on the trot, and sets the pair up nicely for their first event ‘title defence,’ of the two-day Targa Hawkes Bay event which this year is being held over the May 16-17 weekend.
The weekend’s Targa Bambina event combined close to 300kms of timed closed special stages over the two days, seven in the south-western Waikato and King Country on Saturday and eight in the south-east of the province today.
To say that Mackenzie and Sayers dominated the event would be an understatement, the pair winning all but two of the stages outright and arriving back in Hamilton on Sunday afternoon with a lead of over four minutes (4:19.7) over their teammates in the Auckland-based DMG Automotive squad, David Rogers and his co-driver Shane Reynolds, in Rogers’ virtually identical Mitsubishi Evo 10 RS.
On the first day of the event, and for the first three stages today, the Mitsubishi pair were split by the Subaru Impreza WRX of long-time Targa competitor Leigh Hopper and his co-driver Michael Goudie, both from Orewa.
Hopper was the only driver to take a stage win off Mackenzie of the first day of competition and was less than a minute behind as the cars entered parc ferme on Saturday night, However his challenge ended on the side of the road with a mechanical issue on the old Te Aroha Road stage this morning, effectively gifting second place to the Rogers/Reynolds Mitsubishi.
The combination of crisp sunny days and dry roads meant the 4WD Mitsubishis and Subarus did not have quite the advantage they might usually have over the 2WD BMW sports coupes that are so popular with the event’s ‘privateers’
Included in this group are the likes of the E48 M3 of Perth-based expat Robert Darrington and his Kiwi co-driver Dave Abetz, the deceptively quick BMW 330ti Compact of Jeremy Friar and co-driver Katrina Renshaw, and the late model BMW M2 of local Targa stalwart Mike Tubbs and co-driver Brooke Walden.
Darrington, in particular, didn’t disappoint, setting the second quickest stage time in four stages, the first against the full field of front runners on Saturday, then three times on Sunday, and in the end was only a minute (1:01.1) adrift of Rogers to claim third place and first place in his class (7).
Also impressing with his pace was Jeremy Friar, who ended up fourth overall, just edging out (the margin in the end was a meagre 38.6 seconds) the first production 4WD car home, the Subaru Impreza WRX of Hawke’s Bay pair Ivan Knauf and Trevor Corbin.
The margin was even closer between the Knauf Subaru in fifth place, and Mike Tubbs’ 2WD BMW M2 – just 9.1 seconds
The fact that the organisers offered a new GPS and video-based pace note system to all competitors for the first time obviously also played a part because on some stages in particular the margins between competitors in very different cars had to be seen to be believed.
In the penultimate stage on Saturday, a 13.92km sprint near Waitomo, fourth placed Robert Darrington was just a single second slower through it in his 2WD BMW M3 than third placed David Rogers in his 4WD Mitsubishi Evo 10 RS.
The margins were even less from fifth to eighth places, 0.4 of a second separating Jeremy Friar is his 2WD BMW Compact, and Ivan Knauf in sixth in his 4WD Subaru Impreza WRX. Mike Tubbs in his 2WD BMW M2 was just a further 0.4 of a second back in seventh place while Mainlander Andrew Oakley was eighth in his 4WD Audi RS5 only 0.9 of a second back.
After spending literally years trying, victory in the Classic 2WD category must have tasted especially sweet today, too, for event stalwarts Anthony and Joanne Butler in their locally-made (HQ Holden-based) Cheetah sports coupe.
The pair were never far from the Top 10 for most of the first day and were rewarded with the overnight lead in the Classic 2WD category over the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 of fellow Aucklanders Mark McCaughan and Lindsay Lyons.
Today they further extended that to finish 10th overall and finally claim a dominant class win by almost a minute-and-a-half over McCaughan’s newer and considerably more exotic Mercedes-Benz.
Targa New Zealand events are organised by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors AndrewSimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Global Security, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Race4Life Trust, Racetech, TrackIt, Vital and Writeraze.