Wednesday, 26 February 2020


Event drama doesnt stop Hopper extending his Targa lead

Event drama doesnt stop Hopper extending his Targa lead

In a second day full of event drama Subaru ace Leigh Hopper and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick remained on top of the Targa North Island leaderboard, the Orewa pair arriving in Rotorua with a minute and-a-half lead over Auckland Mitsubishi pair Jason Gill and Mark Robinson and a further three minute advantage over Modern 2WD class pace-setter Martin Dippie and his co-driver Jona Grant in Dippie's Porsche GT3.

The big story on the second day of the new three-day North Island event, however, was the forced cancellation of three stages. The field was halted before it went into Special Stage 11, the 38.53km Hobbiton stage between Cambridge and Matamata, so that an Ambulance could respond to a 111 call unrelated to the event.

Then just after the stage was finally started, Paul Lampp lost control of his Ford Escort and hit a power pole.

Lampp and co-driver Graham Pedler were uninjured, but with time needed to repair the pole the decision was made to cancel that stage and the two others that immediately followed it, the 17.33 km Richmond Downs north of Matamata, and the repeat of the 38.53km Hobbiton.

That meant the field had a longer than normal lunch and sercvice break at the Hobbiton Movie Set before heading west for the final 34km stage of the day at Waotu near Awapuni.

Class-wise the only big change was the loss of Allcomers 4WD day one stage winner Glenn Inkster and co-driver Spencer Winn with engine issues in their Mitsubishi Evo.

The pair finished a close second to Hopper and Kirkpatrick in the first stage of the day - the 12.17km run along State Highway 25 between Whenuakite and Tairua - then won the second only to be slowed and finally stopped by their engine issues in the third.

"Something has gone wrong but what that is we still don't really," said Inkster. "We had to change a head gasket last night and in the first two stages this morning we had a couple of repeats of the misfire we had on Stage 5 yesterday but each time it cleared itself and it didn't really effect our times.

"In the third stage this morning though it got really bad, to the point where towards the end it lost so much power we wondered whether we would get to the end. We did, but then it just stopped and wouldn't start again."

As well as leading overall after the second day, Hopper and Kirkpatrick also lead Gill and Robinson and another Mitsubishi Evo driving Auckland pair, David Rogers and Aidan Kelly, in the Allcomers 4WD class standings.

The other class leaders at the end of the first day also had good second days, Porsche GT3 pair Martin Dippie and Jona Grant from Dunedin remaining in charge in Modern 2WD and Ross and Carmel Graham (Holden Torana A9X) from New Plymouth maintaining their advantage over fellow husband and wife pair, Tony and Jo Butler (Cheetah V8) in Metalman Classic 2WD.

Barry Kirk-Burnnand and Dave O'Carroll have been the dominant players in Metalman Classic 2WD for several years, but this weekend the BMW M3 pair from Auckland  have found themselves battling for third place with Barry's BMW 325i-mounted son Carl and his co-driver, Sam Gordon, and the similar car of fellow Aucklanders Rex McDonald and Daniel Prince. 

Kirk-Burnnand Senior and O'Carroll finished the first day in second place in class behind the Grahams but today the pair slipped back to fifth in class behind the Grahams, the Butlers and the McDonald/Prince and Carl Kirk-Burnnand/Gordon 325i BMW four-doors.

Also making a big impression was long-time north-Auckland race and rally driver Greg Goudie and son Michael in Greg's freshly finished Mk 1 BDA Escort. Though the car was finished days before the event, the Goudies proved immediately competitive and this morning they were second quickest through the new Pumpkin Hill stage before beating Tony and Jo Butler by two seconds and the Grahams by three to claim a breakthrough class win in the second stage. 

Behind Dippie and Grant and Krogh and Sharratt in Modern 2WD, a day-long battle also waged between the late-model BMW 3-series coupes of Perth-based Kiwi Rob Barrington and co-driver Dave Abetz and Thames driver Gary Murphy and James Bell and the smaller but no less impressive BMW MINIs of James Kirkpatrick and Ben Forest (second  to Dippie and Grant through Pumpkin Hill) and Targa regulars Barry Hare and David Mallin (fifth through Pumpkin Hill).

The event continues tomorrow (Sunday) with a further seven stages in and around Rotorua.


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