Rotorua return this weekend for first Targa Rally event of 2021

| Photographer Credit: Pro Shotz

Having developed several ‘destination-based’ events to run in the first half of the year ‘Targa man’ Peter Martin was really spoiled for choice when it came to putting together his first event of 2021.

Rotorua, this weekend, got the nod for several reasons, however, and tomorrow a total of 95 competition and ‘tour’ cars will descend on the popular lakeside Bay of Plenty tourist town in readiness for the first two-day Targa Rotorua event since 2017.

“It really has been too long since we’ve run an event solely based in Rotorua,’ Martin, owner and CEO of motorsport event organising specialist The Ultimate Rally Group, and Event Director on his weekend’s two-day Targa Rotorua tarmac motor rally said on Thursday evening.

Leigh Hopper and co-driver Michael Goudie (#969 Subaru WRX) dominated the last Targa tarmac rally event held in NZ, the two-day 2020 Targa Hawke’s Bay run n July last year.

“We’ve been back for a day here and day there since then but when I polled some of our Targa regulars about where they wanted to kick off their Targa year in 2021 an overwhelming number said ‘Rotorua;’ so Rotorua it is.”

Heading into the event it is hard to look past multi-time former Targa Rotorua event winner Leigh Hopper from Orewa just north of Auckland and his North Shore-based co-driver Michael Goudie (Subaru Impreza WRX) as favourites again.

The pair absolutely dominated the only Targa event run last year, the two-day Targa Hawke’s Bay, winning nine out of the ten special stages to cross the finish line in Havelock North with an advantage of over three minutes over second placed local pairing Ivan Knauf and Trevor Corbin, also in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

Third overall, in 2020, and first Mitsubishi Evo driver home in #940 was former NZ gravel rally champion Bruce Herbert and co-driver Bevan Parker

In saying that there are plenty of other potential event winners in the bumper 54 car competition field the revived Targa Rotorua event has attracted this year. Amongst that group are four-time former New Zealand gravel rally champion Bruce Herbert and his co-driver Bevan Parker (Mitsubishi Evo 10), both from the Manawatu, Jason Gill and new co-driver Nicole Summerfield in Gill’s exotic Mitsubishi Evo-powered VW Polo R, and fellow Aucklander David Rogers and Irish co-driver Shane Reynolds in Roger’s own Mitsubishi Evo 10.

Should the weather remain fine and roads dry there are also several podium prospects amongst the top 2WD entrants; like former Targa NZ winner Martin Dippie and co-driver Jona Grant from Dunedin in Dippie’s late model Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

The Targa Tour is once again well-supported and remains a popular part of Targa NZ events.

The first Targa regular to take advantage of the COVID-19-free trans-Tasman travel bubble, long-time Perth-based Kiwi Robet Darrington and NZ-based co-driver David Abetz will also be quick in Darrington’s BMW E46 M3.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this weekend’s event makeup and that of previous Targas is the sheer size of the entry in the allied  but non-competitive Targa Tour category.

This weekend there will be 43 vehicles ‘on tour’ from exotics like Roger Battersby’s Lamborghini Gallardo through classics like Michele Addison-Wood’s 1985 Porsche 911 to the late model Holden Colorado Ute of Rob Bos

For more information go to or check out the Targa NZ page on Facebook.

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.

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