After a year away the Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally is back in Taranaki today.
The 100-strong field begins the 18th annual event in Auckland this morning, arriving in New Plymouth via Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, the Kawhia Harbour and Awakino tonight.
"We didn't go to Taranaki last year and we certainly heard about it afterwards," organiser Peter Martin said yesterday.
The first cars are due at New Plymouth Girls High School for a charity car wash at 5.30pm and at the event's overnight base at the New Plymouth Centre City car park - where spectators are welcome - at 6pm.
On Wednesday morning the first car is due to leave the Centre City car park at 8.25am with the field heading west then north for stages at Tarata, Inglewood (site of the famous Inglewood jumps section, in which the fastest cars leave the ground).
They move on to Ratapiko then Whangamomona before continuing to Ohura, Waimiha and the next overnight stop at Taupo.
With the last-minute addition to the field of current New Zealand Rally champions Richard and Sara Mason in their Subaru Impreza it looks like there will now be a three-way battle for the lead with four-time Targa New Zealand winner Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Tillett in their Nissan GT-R35, and stage winners Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn from Auckland in a Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Local interest, meanwhile, will be focused on the highly modified V8-powered Toyota Hilux ute of Inglewood pair Stuart Rose and Gary Renall.
They won the Metalman Classic class at the Targa Rotorua event, and look set to again provide competition for traditional class pacesetters Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand from Wellington in their BMW M3.
The first three stages on Wednesday morning, SS8 at Tarata, SS9 near Inglewood and SS10, Ratapiko, provide good viewing options within easy driving distance of New Plymouth.
Stage maps and start-finish times are available at targa.co.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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