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The countdown has begun for the new-look three-day Targa North Island event which starts just south of Auckland on Friday May 16 and heads to Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula the first day then to the Waikato and Rotorua the next.
 

Previously there have been up to three different Targa events, all in the North Island, with a one or two-day Targa Bambina or Targa Sprint in February, a two-day Targa Rotorua on or near Queen's Birthday weekend in June, and the annual six-day Targa New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington or more recently, Hawke's Bay or Taupo, at the end of October.
 
This year there are just two main ones, the three-day Targa North Island this month and the six-day Targa New Zealand - being held in the South Island for the first time in the 20-year history of the event - from Monday October 27 to Saturday November 01.
 
The new Targa North Island event starts at the Simunovich Olive Oil Estate high in the Bombay Hills and heads south and west for stages from Mangatawhiri to Mercer, then Pukekawa to near Rangiriri, and from Te Kauwhata to just north of Huntly and return, before crossing the Hauraki Plains for a short stage at Hikutaia and a longer one from just outside Coromandel township over the range to Te Rerenga before the first overnight stop at Whitianga.
 
The next day (Saturday May 17) competitors get to tackle two of the event's most anticipated stages, a new one from Whenuakite over Pumpkin Hill to just outside Tairua, and a previous favourite from Whiritoa to just outside Waihi via Golden Valley, before heading west for stages north and south of Matamata then back east for the second overnight stop at Rotorua.
 
Sunday May 18 is then spent in and around Rotorua with the field heading south for the Ngakuru and Waikete Valley stages in the morning, east for Manawahe then back to the city via the top-of-the-lake Hamurana and final Paradise Valley stages in the afternoon.
 
In Rotorua the event will be again be based at the Village Green on the corner of Tutanekai and Whakaue Streets with the start on Sunday morning on the adjacent 'Eat Street.'
 
Kids In Cars is the official charity of the event and Nigel Karl and his team will be back running a family fun area on the Village Green with Bouncy Castles, Face Painting and rides in the Kids In Cars Ford Falcon V8.
 
The new Targa North Island event has attracted over 80 entries including those of 2013 Targa New Zealand overall winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant (Porsche GT3) from Dunedin, last year's Targa Rotorua winners Leigh Hopper and Simon Kirkpatrick (Subaru WRX) from Orewa, and perennial crowd favourite, former Rotorua (now Perth-based) Mike Lowe and co-driver Phil Sutton in their distinctive 1964 Fiat Abarth 1000.
 
Over the three days entrants in the main event and accompanying tour will cover 480 kms of closed special stages and 680 kms of transport stages, providing a challenge second only to the 870kms (closed special stages) and 1700kms (transport) of the six-day Targa New Zealand event in the South Island later in the year.

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