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The name – Targa Bambina – might be familiar. But that – plus the time of the year and general area the event is being held in – are two of the only other things that will be when competitors are flagged away from Hamilton’s FMG Stadium on Saturday morning for the first of three Targa tarmac motor rallies being held in New Zealand this year.
For a start, the new two-day, 789.54km ‘Bambina’ event (which uses a mix of new and popular stages from previous Targa NZ and Targa Rotorua events) is the first that owner and organiser, the Ultimate Rally Group, will run solely under permits issued by the Auckland-based Australasian AutoSport Alliance (AASA), rather than long-time incumbent, the Wellington-based MotorSport New Zealand organisation (MSNZ).
Last year permitting and licensing functions at the two Targa events run were split between MSNZ (the competition side) and the AASA (the concurrently run but non-timed Targa Tour).
This year all three Targa events – Bambina this weekend, Hawke’s Bay in May, and the main, five-day Targa New Zealand in October, will be permitted by the AASA.
The other major change this weekend is the introduction of a special stage safety note system.
Traditionally, Targa events have been ‘blind’ with the route book more a navigation guide to and from each stage with only major intersections and hazards noted.
Under the new Jemba-based system adopted by the Ultimate Rally Group, every corner on every stage is defined using words (i.e. medium), letters (L for left, R for right) and numbers (1 being the slowest, 8 the fastest).
The Jemba Inertia Notes System is based on software developed by Swedish company Jemba and comes complete with a video of each stage (which can be viewed on the Targa NZ website).
The cost to set up and run the system was substantial but Ultimate Rally Group owner and event director Peter Martin says it was one he simply had to bear.
“Like everything else these days,” he said earlier this week, ‘it’s a safety issue and the cost is just another compliance one I have to pay if I want to keep running events like Targa.
“Some of our regulars would prefer to see us continue in the ‘blind’ tradition, where part of the unique skill set of a ‘Targa driver’ is to be able to ‘read’ the road. But my attitude is: “If it’s available, and it makes the event safer for everyone involved, how can we afford not to use it?
“As more requirements are placed on event management and more external investigation is likely, we have to be able to justify everything we do in order to minimise the risk to all involved.”
In much the same way - and following on from his move, several years ago now, to make the use of HANS (Head And Neck Safety) devices compulsory for all drivers and co-drivers - all new-build vehicles entered in a Targa event from this weekend’s Targa Bambina event must be fitted with seats with integral head restraints (aka ‘winged’ seats).
“There has been huge development in this area and as we have highly recommended the use of these for the last five years. So, “ says Martin, “we are now saying that from 2020 any new-to-Targa vehicle will be required to have them and we are encouraging everyone else entering an existing vehicle to upgrade their seats.
“Again, this is fundamentally a safety issue, and one, I feel, we as an event organiser have to take a strong lead on.”
Having won both the Hawke’s Bay and ‘main Targa’ events last year, Auckland/Hamilton pair Haydn Mackenzie and Matt Sayers (Mitsubishi Evo 10) enjoy favourite status heading into this weekend’s event.
Spirited opposition, however, is expected to come from fellow Mitsubishi Evo 10 pair, David Rogers and new co-driver Shane Reynolds, and Targa specialist Leigh Hopper and co-driver Michael Goudie (Subaru Impreza WRX).
There will also be plenty of interest in how the Ford Escort MK 2 of Emirates Team NZ boss Grant Dalton and co-driver Chris Stephens goes in the Classic class.
The event will again consist of competition and tour (non-competitive) categories with a total entry of 34 cars.
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