Fourth day down and one to go! New Zealand Targa rallies are generally ran in both wet and dry conditions. It is extremely rare for the entire rally to go completely dry, however last year it did happen! This year however, the weather has arrived and brought with it some more carnage.
Hopper has officially retired from the rally. We found out last night that the car may be a total right off. Initial conversations were that it wasn’t too bad but apparently the car endoed and the coil overs were relocated through the hood! I’m sure we’ll see Leigh back next year though. The white Maserati performed some its own air show this morning. The story is the car went flying off the road completely missing a turn. According to reports around the rally the driver said they flew a solid thirty feet in the air and the car kept going for about 200 meters down a hill before coming to rest at the bottom of another hill….thanks to the assistance of a tree stump! Apparently the car isn’t too bad though and may be back in the morning if they can find a new radiator. Best of luck to them!
Inkster also had a couple of moments today with one or two spins and a slide off the road and into a bank which re-designed the right rear corner of his Mitsubishi. No worries though as Inkster comes from a gravel rally background where these situations are common place. The crew pulled out the hydraulic spreaders and bent it back into shape again. He didn’t miss a single stage and is still running strong.
Today we traveled to the town of Marton which is home of the infamous “cop corner.” A few years ago a local police officer decided to blow the road closure after the sweep car went through but before the rally cars started. The story goes that the rally organizers tried stopping him but he informed them of his official position in the region and took off anyways. He ended up getting his just deserves as he blew through the 90 degree left hander and launched his car into the paddock beyond…Hence the name “cop corner.”
This corner can be tricky in the best conditions but the local council just laid down new tarmac last week. Apparently the term “laying down new tarmac” in this region means…opening a giant bag of rocks and dragging it from one side of the road to the other! It was nothing but gravel! Add to that the wet weather conditions and you can imagine how tricky this corner became! The drivers ran the stage twice today. The first time around a Ford escort panel wagon about three cars in decided to park it in the grass/fence. So all of the upcoming cars had to slow way down to avoid them. (Video Below)
A WRX (drivern by Leigh Hoppers helicopter instructor, not kidding!) performed a perfect job of parallel parking as he slid directly between the Escort and the armco for the single lane bridge. With the assistance of the all wheel drive in the Subie he was able to get right back on the road and continue on. The Escort meanwhile had to be pulled out after the stage had closed. (Video Below)
After the cars had gone through the first time we heard a report that Proctor was being towed down the transit stage on the back of a tow rope. Rumor has it he has blown his transmission…Which is a HIGHLY modified unit. He missed the repeat of “cops corner” which was the last stage of the day. Hopefully his team can repair the car and get him back out in the morning.
Steve and Jen are doing a great job of pushing hard and doing their best. We didn’t get off to a great start with the differential issues we had early in the week and that put us in a hole which has been basically impossible to climb out of. The team is doing well though and we are coming up with new ideas on how to prepare the car for next year! The car is running well and we had a nice team dinner tonight to celebrate Jen’s birthday. These races are a lot about competition and winning but the biggest thing is having fun and bringing the car and drivers home safely.
Last night more footage was added to the video capturing Steve Millen racing the STILLEN GT-R against Leigh Hopper and his helicoper as well!
Footage from local spectators is beginning to hit the web as well, here’s a quick shot of the STILLEN GT-R rounding a corner on Day 1
All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage