‘Relief’ as start of last year’s postponed Targa NZ event now just days away

| Photographer Credit: Graham Hughes/ProShotz

“Relief,” is the emotion Ultimate Rally Group owner and event director Peter Martin says he is feeling the most right now as he counts down the days, hours & minutes until the official start – at 7.00am next Wednesday, May 25 th in New Plymouth – of what, for all intents and purposes, is last year’s five-day Targa New Zealand event.

Having had to cancel completely what was to have been the 26th annual Targa NZ event in October 2020, Martin says he was adamant that the 2021 one would go ahead – ‘even if we have to postpone rather than cancel it completely for a second year in a row, and run it….sometime in May next year,’ he said during New Zealand’s third and longest COVID-19 Lockdown in early October last year.

Fast forward seven months and that is exactly what is happening, with what was originally planned to be a marathon five-day odyssey through the beating heart of the Central North Island, from one coast to the other over in the last week of October 2021, effectively re-booted.

It will still start in New Plymouth in Taranaki on the North Island’s west coast and finish five days and 2,000-odd km later in Havelock North,  Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast, the only real difference the time of year and start (Wednesday May 25) and finish (Sunday May 25) days and dates.

“Due to there being less daylight hours (in May compared with October) we made the decision to remove the final stages on the first (Tarata) and third (Bushy Park) days, as well as the Motere stage on Day 5. Otherwise,” said Martin, “the event is as plotted to run in October last year, one of reasons we decided not to change the name.” 

Though he has already run one successful event (the two-day, Hamilton-based, Targa Bambina on March 12 & 13) since the ‘incredibly difficult’ decision to have to postpone the 2001 Targa NZ event in early October last year, Martin says that one of the many reasons why ‘relief’ is the main emotion at the moment is because of the ‘sheer pleasure’ everyone involved derives from what has become known in local motorsport circles simply as ‘Main Targa.’

The Targa Tour remains a popular part of all Targa events.

Martin is not just talking about the competitors, either.

“Absolutely not. “We’ve got volunteers who keep coming back year after year. Even a lot of the people we deal with at Councl level in terms of road closures and such have told me how much they enjoy it when ‘the Targa Rally comes to town.”

“So yes, I feel ‘relief’ that our big 2021 event is finally going ahead…..for everyone who gets a buzz out of it. I also feel relieved that so many of our seasoned Targa NZ regulars have seen fit to ‘keep the faith’ despite us not being able to run a full five-day Targa NZ event here since 2019.

“Finally,” says Martin, “I feel genuine relief that the country is now ‘open for business.’ Again, because as far as I am concerned, we are now in full-on catch-up; for the rest of this year a least and in all probability well into 2023 as well.”

So, next week’s ‘2021’ Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally starts in New Plymouth on Wednesday and is set to re-visit some of the most iconic stages in the now 26-year history of the event.

There is also growing interest in the new Targa Time Trial organised and run in conjunction with the Vintage Car Club of New Zealand.

Just some of these include the super-long 42.7km Te Akau stage on the first morning of this year’s event, and the challenging Inglewood Jumps stage first thing the next morning then there-and-back runs to and back out from the self-styled Republic of Whangamomona in the afternoon of the second day.

For the first two nights the field returns to New Plymouth before heading south for a single night’s stopover in Whanganui then east to Hawke’s Bay where the event will be based for the final two nights – via Saturday stages using Fields Track in the morning and the mythical Gentle Annie Rd in the afternoon.

All-up, entrants face a beguiling mix of 760km of closed road special stages and 1240km of touring stages for a event total of 2000 km.

Incorporated into and set to run concurrently over the final two days with the full five-day ‘2021’ Targa New Zealand event is also a separately entered and scored – two-day – ‘2021’Targa NZ Regional tarmac motor rally.

Not only that but for the first time in the ‘Main Targa,’ both the five-day and the two-day regional events will also incorporate their own concurrently run but independently organised and scored VCC Time Trials run in conjunction with the Vintage Car Club of NZ, as well as concurrent but non-competitive Targa Tours.

There has been plenty of interest and indeed support for the addition of a Time Trial component to the existing Targa mix after an initial proof of concept run in 2018 and first successful open event effort in 2019.

Numbers-wise, next week’s 2021 Targa NZ event has attracted 134 entries, 74 for the main five-day event (split 37-Main comp/27-Time Trial/10-Tour) and 60 across the three categories in the Two-Day Regional event.

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines contract media work with weekend Mountain Bike missions and trips to grassroots drift days.

Related Stories

Join in the conversation!


Leave a Reply