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Targa Rally

How to Pick the Perfect Aftermarket Swaybars

Every week our automotive experts get questions about swaybars from automotive enthusiasts.

No wonder…swaybars, a.k.a anti-roll bars, are a popular and cost-effective way to significantly improve vehicle handling in corners, through slaloms and during evasive maneuvers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: “Which swaybar is right for me?” Picking your perfect swaybar requires consideration of key factors including:

  • The make and model of your car or truck
  • How and where you’ll drive it
  • What you hope to gain from suspension upgrades like sway bars

This sway bar buying guide will help you decide which anti-roll bars are right for you.

Soon you’ll be on the road to happier handling!

Stillen sway bars shown on Infiniti Q50

You can enjoy simple, cost effective handling improvements with a set of STILLEN sway bars

Begin at the End

By which we mean:

  • The best sway bar for you depends on how you’ll use your vehicle. Is it your daily driver, canyon carver, weekend track car, full-time race car, rock crawler or desert mauler?
  • The right sway bar is part of an integrated suspension system that reflects your primary vehicle use. For track days or racing, the optimal suspension setup may include shocks, springs and wheel alignment changes along with aftermarket sway bars.

Take the Bar Exam

So what is a swaybar exactly? Simply put, it’s a metal crossbar that ties the driver and passenger side chassis and suspension together. When a car is traveling straight down the road or track, a sway bar has little effect on handling.

But as soon as you crank on the steering wheel and enter a corner, a sway bar ‘springs’ to life to help control the weight shift that occurs during cornering.

Here’s how a swaybar works:

  1. As your vehicle turns into, say, a left-hand corner, a portion of vehicle weight transfers (‘rolls’) to the right-hand side of the vehicle.
  2. This rolling effect loads the suspension, steering and tires on the right-hand side of the vehicle. Some side loading is desirable and necessary as long as it’s controlled.
  3. A sway bar helps control this rolling effect by twisting along its axis as the chassis and suspension moves.
  4. As the bar cycles through its range of travel, it offers progressively more resistance to twisting.
  5. The sway bar’s ever-increasing resistance to twisting works to counter the force of vehicle roll.

Check out this cool animation showing a swaybar in action:

Not all Plants are Potted

After installing a swaybar, the effect you’ll notice from the driver’s seat is that your car feels level or ‘planted’ as you take a corner.

This ‘planted’ stance is the result of better weight distribution and traction.

Not only does it feel good, it offers big benefits:

  • A car that’s more planted through a turn allows for better rotation and more control
  • A car that’s more planted lets you get back on the gas sooner, resulting in quicker acceleration out of the turn

With the right sway bars on board, you’ll soon be taking familiar corners at higher speeds than you used to.

And grinning a lot more too.

Stiffer Isn’t Always Better

Is an aftermarket swaybar always necessary?

Given that STILLEN is a leading manufacturer of aftermarket sway bars, our answer may surprise you.

The answer is: No, an aftermarket sway bar isn’t always the best solution for every vehicle, driver or environment.

Here’s why:

  • In most cases, an aftermarket sway bar is going to be stiffer than the factory sway bar
  • In most cases, this is going to improve the performance and handling of the car
  • For most drivers, these improvements are going to make them happy and they’ll quickly adjust to the improved handling characteristics of their car

But we won’t tell you that installing a swaybar is the right thing for all drivers vehicles and situations.

Real World Results May Vary

For instance, suppose you’re looking to improve the handling of your daily driver and you install a sway bar rated at 200% stiffer than stock.

Rather than improve, your cornering performance, ride quality and traction will suffer on real world road surfaces. Potholes, mid-corner dips, and road kill will all fight against your uber-stiff setup.

Say your left side front wheel hits a bump mid-turn. Stock suspension or a moderately stiff aftermarket sway bar will transfer some of the energy to the passenger side front wheel – no biggie.

But an extremely stiff sway bar will transfer much more of the energy – maybe enough to unsettle the suspension and reduce traction by creating tire lift on the inside wheel and excessive sidewall flex on the outside tire.

The swaybar you installed to improve handling can work against you, especially paired stock springs and tires (more on this later).

Newfound Glory

Even world-class car handlers like STILLEN founder Steve Millen don’t automatically run stiffer swaybars.

Here’s a great example of a situation where an aftermarket sway bar wasn’t optimal for the conditions:

In 2009 the STILLEN rally team headed to Newfoundland, Canada, to compete in the Targa Newfoundland rally with a NISSAN GT R. Prior to the trip, the team engineered new Penske coil overs and new sway bars along with a host of other performance parts designed to enhance the already formidable GT R.

They also packed the factory front sway bar into the trailer.

You might think: “Well Duh, rally car….if you crash you need spares.”

But in reality, the team wasn’t convinced the stiffer sway bars they’d developed and tested on smooth roads during the Southern California summer were going to be suitable for the rough roads of Canada.

Especially when the forecast called for plenty of rain North of the border.

When driving in the rain, tire compliance is key to maintaining traction. When the road is dry and offers plenty of tire grip, you can stiffen the suspension and make the tire work harder.

But when traction is limited, a stiffer setup overworks the tires and traction suffers. Better to soften the suspension and make it more compliant to conform to the road surface.

In the end, the team found that the optimum setup for the STILLEN GTR on the Targa Newfoundland roads: run the OEM front sway bar and the STILLEN rear sway bar.

By retaining the stiffer rear sway bar they reduced the car’s natural tendency to understeer and made the car rotate better through the turns.

The next year when they took the car to the Targa Rally in New Zealand, they re-installed the STILLEN front sway bar and ran stiffer coil springs on the Penske shocks.

The roads in New Zealand are faster and offer more grip even in rainy conditions. The stiffer setup was spot on for maximum control in the challenging environment of rally racing.

Check out the results in this video from the 2011 Targa Rally:

Moderation for the Masses

For the vast majority of drivers using their vehicles for daily driving, canyon carving or occasional track use, sway bars that impart a moderate increase in stiffness are the best choice. The incremental stiffness will retain factory-like ride quality while offering improved handling in the corners and slaloms.

For even more versatility and fine-tuning, adjustable sway bars might be your best option.

The more adjustability a sway bar offers, the more you can fine tune your suspension to suit your needs and preferences.

What’s more, adjustable sway bars allow you to set up your suspension to favor:

Oversteer (when a car turns more sharply than desired by the driver), or

Understeer (when a car turns less sharply than desired by the driver), or

Neutral Handling (when a turns exactly as desired by the driver)

Illustration of a car in oversteer

Car in understeer condition

UNDERSTEER happens when a car does not turn as sharply as driver intends.

Z Well Adjusted Z

The Nissan 370Z is ideal for explaining understeer and oversteer and for illustrating the versatility of adjustable sway bars.

Check out the stiffness ratings of the 370Z sway bars listed in the below chart.

Brand Front Rear Adjustable
% Stiffer (F/R) Best For Size (F/R) Color Construction Endlinks Bushings
Stock Yes Yes No Stock N/A 26.5mm/24mm Black Hollow Stock Stock
Nismo Yes Yes No N/A N/A 27mm/25.5mm Black Hollow Stock Uses Stock
Eibach Yes Yes 2 way / 3 way 76, 117% / 67, 98, 130% Street & Light Track 32mm/29mm Red Hollow No Yes
Hellwig Yes Yes No / 3 way N/A Track & Occasional Street 35mm/25.5mm Grey Hollow No Yes
Hotchkis Yes Yes No / 3 way 205% / 40, 75, 120% Track & Occasional Street 35mm/28mm Grey Hollow No Yes
STILLEN Yes Yes 5 way/ 3 way 21-48% / 37-70% Street & Light Track 27mm/25.5mm Red Hollow No Uses Stock
Suspension Techniques Yes Yes 2 way / 2 way 55, 88% / 30, 66% Street & Light Track 28mm/24mm Green or Black Solid No Yes


You’ll notice the STILLEN option is a little different. We conducted extensive (and fun) road and track testing to get a feel for the 370Z and determine the best sway bar setup to optimize handling without diminishing the inherent nature of the car.

Like the majority of vehicles on the road today, for safety purposes the 370Z is set up from the factory to understeer a little.

The reason for this is liability and safety.  Auto manufacturers like Nissan have to build their cars for typical drivers who aren’t trained to handle a car in high-stress situations.

When the average driver experiences understeer, their natural reaction is to panic, let off the gas, and apply the brakes. Conveniently enough, this is exactly how to counter understeer.

With less gas and more brake, the vehicle will slow down, the tires will regain their composure and the vehicle will resume traveling in the desired direction. 

Too bad, because one of the biggest advantages of a rear wheel drive car like the 370Z is the ability to power through turns. With the factory setup favoring understeer, this advantage is lost.

All that beautiful power going to the rear wheels is pushing the car in a direction you don’t want to go.

Using a STILLEN adjustable sway bar, a 370Z the driver can fine tune the suspension to balance and improve the handling of the car.

This balanced feel will a give the Z pilot the confidence to  carry more speed through a turn as they begin to feel the car rotate through the turn as opposed to pushing through it.

Stillen 370Z rear sway bars

STILLEN rear sway bars take 370Z handing from great to superlative.

Through extensive testing and refinement, STILLEN identified stiffness increments we selected offer the 370Z driver great options. The STILLEN sway bars can be adjusted for a good balance of road comfort and crisper handling for spirited daily driving and canyon carving.

At the other end of the spectrum, drivers looking for maximum performance can adjust the bars to a stiffer setting for track days.

All Together Now

Along with a stiffer sway bar, for track or racing use, the key to maximum control and handling on the ragged edge may include shock or spring upgrades, tweaking wheel alignment and selecting the proper tires.
Here’s what the STILLEN experts recommend:

  1. Determine which tires you are going to run
  2. Select the springs you’ll run based on tires, track layout and conditions
  3. Select which sway bar is right for you
  4. Adjust wheel alignment to suit, keeping in mind a more aggressive sway bar usually requires more aggressive alignment settings

For example, for track use you might run an aggressive tire like a Nitto NT-01 or a Nitto NT-05. If you don’t mind running an aggressive alignment specification, a really stiff sway bar should work well.

However, if you’re using your car primarily for road use, you might run tires like the Nitto NT555 or an Nitto INVO. The ideal sway bar will be slightly stiffer than the factory bar. 

Sway Your Opinion

Bottom line: a properly matched set of sway bars will really improve the balance of your car or truck and is a great way to fine tune handling.

The result: major improvement in the joy you get out of hustling your ride through your local canyon roads or on your favorite race track.

Most drivers will be happiest with a moderate increase in stiffness. An adjustable sway bar offers the versatility to fine tune handling as desired.

STILLEN has been designing and manufacturing sway bars in-house for more than 20 years.  We private label manufacture swaybars for some of the largest “suspension manufacturers” in the industry.

We have also manufactured sway bars for OEM vehicle manufacturers as well.

In addition to our swaybar manufacturing expertise, we design and develop complete suspension packages for use on street, track and off-road environments.

Bottom line: you can buy and install STILLEN swaybars with confidence!

Got more suspension questions?

Call one of our Automotive Counselors for expert advice at (866) 250-5542.

Few things stick out in my life as such happy times as ripping open the giant Slot Car box at Christmas with the TYCO logo and the huge “Zero Gravity Cliff Hangers” or “US1 Trucking” emblazoned on the side, shoving aside other gifts and wads of torn and crumpled wrapping paper to clear enough room and take over the living room.

Getting the track set up, plugged in, the hum of the power supply, finally jamming a finger down on the trigger and watching the little car shoot down the track at what seems like 900mph with tiny sparks visible under the chassis, not having a chance in the world at making the turn and spiraling off somehow getting airborne and disappearing in the depths and darkness behind the Christmas tree in the corner.. Controller surprisingly hot in my hand and a curl of smoke coming up through the vents..

For those who hung on to those good times and continued on with Slot Car Racing, no doubt Scalextric is a name you’ve heard of and trust. They specialize in bringing realistic vehicles to the slot car world, and this year they’ve taken on recreating the STILLEN R35 Nissan GT-R in striking detail.

The Nissan GT-R is done in a 1:32 scale, and even be modified just like the real thing, changing anything from tires to gears to swapping motors. Check out the detail in the pictures below:

Steve Millen and STILLEN have a history with Scalextrix, as they also did the STILLEN Ford GT a couple of years back after it competed in the New Zealand Targa:

So if you are a slot car enthusiast, or know of one, this is a perfect Christmas item to add to the vehicle fleet!

Well, the week long Targa rally has come to a close here inNew Zealand.  It was a great week and Steve and Jen did a very good job.  Before arriving for the start of the week we installed larger fuel injectors, a new tune, and some stiffer springs in the shocks.  We figured this would be a fairly natural and reliable progression.  We had no idea what the other GT-R teams had in store!  Tony Quinn arrived with bigger turbos and an engine that had been bored and fitted with larger pistons, 410mm brake rotors and more.  Proctor had a stroker motor with stock turbos as well as larger brake rotors.  Steve said that as Proctor’s GT-R launched off the line he would spin all four wheels.  Dodson’s R35 also came in with heavy modifications and increased horsepower.  Last year, we were all on a similar playing field and ran tight all week.  This year everyone brought the big guns.

Steve and Jen pushed hard all week and were able to bring the car home with a fourth place finish.  The event winner, Tony Quinn in his R35, won the event for his fourth time.  Glenn Inkster in his high horsepower Mitsubishi Evo 6 came home in second place just a few seconds behind Quinn despite having a couple of offs and having to take a tire penalty.  Glenn Smith rounded out the top 3 in his 600+ horsepower Mitsubishi Evo X which looked like it had just come out of a video game!

Steve was pushing hard the last day of competition and had a bit of an off.  He was able to carry on with the stage and never actually stopped moving.  We don’t think he lost more than a few seconds after it was all said and done.

These Targa rallies are a great way to test as well as develop new products.  This year we brought down a few new STILLEN products like adjustable camber arms and some other performance components as well as the new generation Dunlop Sport Maxx tires.  These Targa events are run on roads that would normally be open to the public so you can really see how the parts are going to perform in all conditions in the real world.  The new Dunlop tires are an amazing tire and proved to work well all week long.  In an event like the Targa where you only get 8 tires to last the week it’s important that your tires will offer supreme grip without wearing too quickly.  The Dunlop Sport Maxx tires worked great in the wet and dry conditions all week long!

The 2011 Targa New Zealand rally ran the way these rallies are supposed to be run.  There were hot days, there were rainy days, and all in all it was a lot of fun!  Steve and Jen did a great job and really fought hard for a top five finish!  On the drive North after the rally was over we had already started planning for next year and coming with ways to improve the car to make it even more competitive for next year!  We have some pretty wild ideas forming and we’re excited to show you all what we come up with!

Check out the video below for a taste of the action, and more photos below!



All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage


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





We are officially past the middle of the week and the car is running very well!  Tonight we swung by a local auto shop to do some simple service work.  Just an oil change, brake pad replacement and general inspection.  Everything looked great and we can’t wait to see how Steve and Jen do the next two days.  Today consisted of a lot of running around and trying to help the service crew and I wasn’t able to get on any stages.  However, i assure you there will be more photos coming in tomorrow.

There’s no lack of support for Steve Millen, as shown by his youngest fan, his grandson Braeden!

There have been quite a few interesting developments over the day.  Quinn was experiencing a damaged oil return line from one of his turbos but that is/was a pretty minor repair.  The car is back in overnight parking now and ready for tomorrow.  Glenn Inkster in the Evo 6 Mitsubishi is still going strong, actually had a bit of an off today on one stage damaging his hood and front bumper.  Nothing too major though as he only lost 15 seconds on the stage!  Rumor is that he actually spun one or two times after that stage and is still able to continue taking time off the leaders!  man, this guy can drive!!!

Leigh Hopper, the guy dad raced in the helicopter yesterday, apparently though he was still in his helicopter…The story is he tried doing a barrel roll on the fifth stage of the day before realizing his car doesn’t fly quite like the chopper…Haven’t seen the car yet but apparently it was on its roof.  Hopper, always in good spirits, was sited on the side of the stage throwing rocks at the Giddy car, good friends of his, as they went by!  Best of luck to team HTR in getting the car back out in the morning.

Overall the car and the team are working well.  Steve and Jen are doing their best and we’re hoping for a good result!

More photos and updates to come tomorrow!

Another angle of yesterday’s GT-R vs. Helicopter drag race


Quick interview with Steve Millen at 3:00 in on the official Targa NZ daily recap


All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage


Well we had an eventful day today!!!  I wrote last night’s first blog post from the hotel room prior to everyone else arriving.  Conrad and I got there a bit early so we checked in and started getting things organized for the rest of the teams arrival.  Once Steve and Jen arrived we ran down to the town they were in and went straight over to the local Nissan dealership who were kind enough to offer the use of their facilities so we could go over the car after the first days events.

Steve had lost considerable amounts of time because the car was going into limp mode due to high transmission temperatures.  We wanted to inspect everything and see what was going on.  As soon as we dropped the diff fluid, we knew we had found the culprit.  Inside the diff fluid there were clear signs of metal wear.  The fluid had taken on a metallic shimmer.  We inspected the transmission fluid and it looked fine.  For those of you who don’t know, the GT-R rear differential, transmission, and transfer case all share one big assembly.  So, we figured that the differential was getting so hot it was cooking the transmission as well.  The only thing we could do was pull out our spare assembly and install it.

Normally, if we were in a GT-R certified dealership working with the right tools, this would be a 3-5 hour job.  However, this was not a certified GT-R dealer, and we did not have all the tools!  After a lot of swearing, some busted knuckles, and some frustrating moments, we finished the swap….at 5:15 a.m. this morning!!!  We went back to our hotel rooms, got an hour of sleep and packed up to take on today’s adventures.

That was a lot of work and a real pain but boy was it worth it!!!  Steve was pushing hard today and according to early reports finished second in a couple stages.  Had he been able to push harder yesterday like he did today we would be in a much better position!!!  Unfortunately, we’re a little out of luck as it is what it is, but that’s racing!

Attrition is already showing on some of our competitors cars!  Dodson blew up one of their gear boxes yesterday and was having more issues today, keep in mind their transmissions are HEAVILY modified and far from stock.  Proctor cracked three wheels yesterday and arrived to the parking garage this morning with a brand new set on all four cars!  A couple of cars have gone off but fortunately nothing major and everyone has been able to carry on and make the necessary repairs.

While it was awesome to see Steve and Jen pushing hard today and making big strides, it was even more exciting when Leigh Hopper challenged Steve to a bit of a drag race at this afternoon’s extended stay lunch stop on an airport strip.  Normally these stops are only an hour or so, but to avoid the evening traffic crossing the bridge in Auckland the organizers set up a three hour event at Sunny Hills airport in Warkworth.  Leigh challenged Steve to a drag race in the GT R….against his acrobatics helicopter!!!  It was insane!  Leigh is an amazing pilot and was performing some amazing aerial acrobatics, including sliding his helicopter along the grass for a good 100 feet or so.  They raced twice and Steve won the first time but Hopper took the victory the second go around. Check out the video on-board to see the race!  The GT-R’s ECU has been set with a top speed limiter of 200km/hr, which is the maximum speed allowed in the rally.. Leigh’s helicopter doesn’t have such a limiter!

All in all, it was an awesome day!  However, as you can imagine, I’m exhausted!!!  Enjoy the pictures and video, I’m going to bed!


All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage


Today was the first  day of actual racing.  It was a great day and Jen and Steve did a fantastic job.  Their still getting to know each other’s styles and figure out what the other one wants to say as well as hear.  It always takes a bit of time to develop that relationship between driver and co-driver.

Team STILLEN Targa Rally Group Photo Including Steve Millen, Jodi Millen, Jen Horsey, Kyle Millen, Conrad Healy, Joe Nagy, and Mark Ungles

Team STILLEN Targa Rally Group Photo Including Steve Millen, Jodi Millen, Jen Horsey, Kyle Millen, Conrad Healy, Joe Nagy, and Mark Ungles

 The car is running well.  We’re ending the night in Whangarei (“wonG uh ray” or “phonG uh ray” if you say it the Maori way).  We’re very excited to be on new roads this year.  It really helps level the playing field.  When the organizers put these events on they have to get the approval from every single person who lives on the roads we’re going to be racing on.  It takes about five months and they see around 9,000 people.  It’s truly impressive and even more impressive that they were able to branch out to new parts of the country!  Peter Martin and the crew at Targa New Zealand have worked hard to put on the best possible event!

Conrad and I did quite a lot of traveling today and got to see three stages!  Got some great action shots as well as a few “uh oh” moments from some of the competitors.  Steve has been up and down in the standings all day.  The first couple of stages were a bit rocky but later in the day they started making some great times and even beating some of the front runners like Tony Quinn.  It’s still very early in the race though.

Wish us luck and follow along as the rally continues!

Targa New Zealand 2011

Targa New Zealand 2011

Targa New Zealand 2011

Targa New Zealand 2011

Targa New Zealand 2011


All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage


Well, we’re back in New Zealand for the Targa Rally.  Today was the first official day of the event and it started with scrutineering in the viaduct in Auckland Harbor.  Last night was pretty exciting as the All Blacks (New Zealand rugby team) won the world cup!  Today was a bit busy in Auckland as they shut down the main streets and had a ticker tape parade for the team.  GO ALL BLACKS!!!!!

Once we got down to the scrutineering location we let Steve and Jen (more on Jen later in this post) do their thing with the organizers of the event.  Mark and Joe (you know them from years past) have to follow up with their crew meeting.  Conrad and I cruised through the park ferme (parking area) to check out some of the competitors cars.  The BS has already started as some of the other GT-R teams are telling us they aren’t running as much power as we know they are….That’s OK…we’re not going to tell them everything we’ve done either!!!

Joe Nagy of Nissan North America tech center joins the team again this year.  This is Joe’s third event with the Team STILLEN Nissan GT-R. He worked with Steve on the initial launch of the GT R at all of the magazine and dealer demonstrations and knows these cars inside and out.  He and I flew into New Zealand on Thursday and spent Thursday and Friday preparing the car.  On Saturday Mark Ungles flew in and joined us while we worked on the tuning and further preparation.  Mark has been with the team since 2006, the first year of the Ford GT.  He brings a lot of knowledge of rallying and great mechanical aptitude.  We spent Saturday and Sunday wrapping up the final adjustments to the car, ride height, tuning (special thanks to Jack at Horsepower Logic) etc.  Overall preparation has been relatively easy.  We added some adjustable rear toe arms as well as changed springs, injectors, and a few other little tweaks.

Jen Horsey is new to the team but not new to racing, especially rally!  Jen has been involved in North American rally racing since 2004.  You may remember her from the X Games in car commentator.  She was also the co-driver in the Evo that decided to do an endo in X Games competition over the jump in 2008…We’ve already told her that she was brought on board for her navigator skills…not acrobatics abilities.

You all know Steve Millen.  Steve is the President and CEO of STILLEN.  Steve was born and raised in New Zealand, competing in rally and hill climb events before progressing into saloon and open wheeled race cars.  After moving to America, racing all over the world, and winning multiple championships Steve still looks forward to coming home every year and competing in the Targa rally.  These events are always a fun time and a great way to see the country and catch up with friends for a week.  Plus it doesn’t hurt to “sight see” at 100+ MPH through back country roads!

Steve’s wife Jodi is kind of the team mom.  Taking care of the service crew as well as making sure Steve and Jen have everything they need.  There is no more important job on the team than making sure the driver and co driver are happy and the service crew is fed and ready at any moment.

Then there is me and Conrad.  I’m Kyle Millen, I’ve been coming on the Targa’s every year since 2006.  I have done some navigator work but after a couple of bad experiences with motion sickness we’ve all agreed I’ll be most useful as the reporter sending updates back to everyone back home!  Conrad Healey has been on every Targa New Zealand Dad has ever done.

We’re ready to go, the car is running great!  Steve and Jen are working on the route books and how they want to call the instructions.  Jodi is getting the crew sorted with everything they need.  I need to get to work to make sure all the cameras and what not are ready.  Check back tomorrow for the first update of actual racing news!  By the way….the first day is allllll new stages!  Needless to say we’re very excited!

Here’s a quick video of the STILLEN GT-R, lots more to come as the Rally begins!


If you missed the previous years coverage, here’s a compilation video of some of the NZ courses from 2010, and links to previous years coverage:


2010 Recap: https://blog.stillen.com/2010/11/targa-new-zealand-rally-2010-recap-and-wrap-up/

2008 Recap: https://blog.stillen.com/2008/11/2008-dunlop-targa-rally-new-zealand-wrap-up/


All 2011 Targa New Zealand Coverage


Every year towards the end of October, teams from around the world gather together in Auckland, New Zealand to start the 5 day Dunlop Targa Rally.  The Targa Rally is a grueling test of man and machine that takes place over closed country roads that would normally be open to the public.  The roads get closed down for just a few hours, just long enough to funnel 100+ “rally” cars through.  Competitors arrive in all types of vehicles, from a Ferrari F430 World Challenge race car, a Maserati and a few Porsche GT3 super cars to WRC-prepared Subaru and Mitsubishi rally cars, and even the older classic cars come out in force, like the old Mark 1 Escort’s and even a Datsun 240Z with a supercharged LS2 engine and sequential gearbox.  2010 however was the year of Godzilla.

In the 2010 running of the New Zealand Dunlop Targa Rally there were four Nissan R35 GT-R’s competing in the actual race, and one GT-R competing in the Targa “Tour”, an event which takes place on the same closed roads and along the exact same route as the actual rally, the only difference being the Tour drivers are limited to a much lower top speed and do not compete for any sort of winner’s prize.  The four GT-R’s this year were piloted by some of the most experienced Targa Rally competitors, including Tony Quinn.  Tony has won 3 Targa’s now and competes in Australia and New Zealand with his GT-R in numerous different Targa’s each year.  Steve Millen took the STILLEN-prepared GT-R to the event for the first time.  Clark Proctor and Harry Dodson are the local New Zealand drivers and both came out with heavily modified GT-R’s of their own.  The stage was set for a great battle all week long.

Strategy is a big part of these Targa rallies.  When preparing for a Targa rally the key thing to plan on is rain.  Pretty much every Targa NZ Rally sees at least one or two days of rain.  In the 2009 Targa Rally they actually experienced hail and snow on the last day of competition!  In 2008, the organizers had to close the final stage as hurricane force winds were blowing the ocean waves across the road.  The reason rain is so important to the rally is because the competitors are limited to six tires for the entire week, including the four you start with.  This means if you get a blow out or wear out your tires too early, you can only count on two spares.  If you take a seventh tire you get a 3 minute penalty, and for your 8th tire and on, you get a one minute penalty each.  The final stages are run in Wellington, New Zealand, one of the most modern cities in all of New Zealand and is actually the country’s capital.  It is also known as “windy Wellington” as the weather is often adverse.

When preparing for the Targa Rally Steve and the crew analyzed the weather forecasts and it appeared the weather would remain dry for the first couple of days, but would turn towards the end of the week when we got to Wellington.. Perfect!  Just what we wanted to see!  Keeping this in mind Steve took the first day relatively easy, letting Clark Proctor and Tony Quinn battle it out for the lead.  Knowing that the harder they pushed the more tire they were going to be scrubbing, the entire team felt confident in the strategy and were looking forward to the wet days when the other teams had scrubbed off their tread!  Glenn Inkster, a local tarmac rally champion, stuck his nose in the fight with his heavily modified Mitsubishi Evo, but it appeared he wouldn’t have any tires left after watching him drift through turns and slide his car all around the roads.

On day 2 Proctor retired from the rally after sliding off the road and damaging the rear of the car in the second stage.  In the same stage, he also blew the engine and his week was done.  Steve meanwhile decided to pick up the pace and start giving chase.  Applying more pressure to Quinn and Inkster and even setting some fast times for some stages.

As day 3 approached, so did the weather!  The STILLEN team was excited and we knew the times were going to tighten up.  Steve felt even more comfortable with the car as he also noticed the Dunlop tires did not seem to be wearing heavily so he pushed on harder and again, laid down some fast times and won a couple of stages on the day!  A real battle for second place was starting to shape up between Millen and Inkster for second place as they both slowly but steadily began chopping time out of Quinn’s lead.

By the end of day 4 the team was ecstatic!  The car had been working great and the tires were holding up well!  The best news though came at the end of day 4.  Driving down to Wellington you couldn’t help but think about tire strategy as the heavy fog came rolling in and the air got cold.  Quick inspections of Inksters and Quinn’s cars showed nearly no tread left on both cars with plenty to spare on Millen’s!  The team went to bed that night thinking the leaders would either need to take time penalties for new tires or try to drive their cars on essentially slick tires through Wellington’s notoriously harsh weather which would allow Millen the opportunity to make up the time in the rain!  All weather reports were pointing to rain and the team was very excited to wake up in the morning.

The next morning we all jumped out of bed and ran to our windows to open the blinds and hope to see grey skies and rain pouring down.  Shock!  Nothing but clear skies and white clouds!  Could this be the first year that the Targa Rally competed all week on dry roads?  On day 2 there was a 30 minute shower in the morning that lightly dampened the roads but not enough to be considered an impact on performance.  It turned out that yes, this was going to be the first year that the Targa Rally ran dry!  So, Steve knew it was up to him to strap in and do his best to push as hard as he could, even though now Inkster’s and Quinn’s tires were actually better suited to the conditions since they were essentially slicks.  Steve pushed as hard as he could and again managed to set some fast times but was unable to overcome the time deficit.  After a week of hard racing, 2,000+ miles, and over 5 and a half hours of accumulated stage times, Steve finished 3 minutes and 30 seconds behind Tony Quinn and only a minute behind Glenn Inkster.

Overall, it was a fantastic week and the car performed flawlessly!  Steve took advantage of the awesome power and handling of the GT-R and pushed it to the limits.  Unfortunately, the weather did not play into the tire strategy and the result was a 3rd place finish.  Had the weather worked as it normally does on the Targa Rallies, we probably would have won the rally.  With the time penalties the other teams would have taken for tires the strategy may have worked perfectly and the team would be celebrating a win.  However, at the end of the day, the prize is the same.  Targa Rallies were started in Italy and the Italian word “Targa” translates to “plate.”  So, the top three finisher’s receive plates indicating their final position.  There is no prize money, just a great week spent with great people enjoying some amazing cars as you tour through a beautiful country.  Just like most endurance racing, simply finishing every stage is the real prize!

Follow all of the coverage of the 2010 Dunlop Targa New Zealand Rally

Racing Day 5 Wrap Up!

I am in my hotel room writing this before Steve and Phillip get into the wharf for the final destination.  They have both done an amazing job and the entire team is very proud of the effort and hard work put in by all!  Steve pulled out some pretty miraculous skills this week and showed that he hasn’t lost his edge.  Steve competes in very few of these rallies and really doesn’t get much time to get back into the racing lifestyle anymore, so it took a day or two for him to feel fully comfortable with the car, but I’ll tell you once he was in the zone he was a machine!  The in-car video footage and the photos tell the story better than I ever could!

The car has performed flawlessly all week and Mark and Joe have done a great job maintaining the car and making sure Steve and Phillip have exactly what they needed all week.  Jodi and Vivian (Phillip’s wife) have been great team moms and looked after the service crew and the drivers better than anyone could have asked for.  We are all very happy to come home with the drivers and car all together in one piece and with a very strong finish!  I am pretty sure this is Steve’s best finish in a Targa Rally and the competition is fierce!  Tony Quinn is a great driver and has a lot of Targa experience with his GT-R having competed in three New Zealand Targa’s as well as others in Australia.  Glenn Inkster is a very talented driver and will surely make a name for himself in the Rally scene.  Watching him flick his Evo through turns is a thing of beauty!

Finally, what is with this weather?  It was sunny and dry pretty much all week.  It’s been chilly but I have never even heard of a Targa rally being pretty much dry for the entire week!  Heck, last year it was hailing and snowing in Wellington!!!  In 2008 they had to cancel a stage because the waves from the ocean were coming up over the stage road!

Well, I’m off to meet Steve and Phillip and join the festivities!  Thanks for following along this week!  We’ll definitely have a ton of photos and in-car video footage and a final recap!

Follow all of the coverage of the 2010 Dunlop Targa New Zealand Rally