Reigning Targa 'King' Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Tillett (Nissan GT-R35) are back in the lead of the annual Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally after an impressive showing on the second day of competition in Taranaki and the King Country today.
 
Last year's event event runners-up, Glenn Inkster and Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo 6), beat Quinn and Tillett in often wet and treacherous conditions on the run from Auckland to New Plymouth on Tuesday,  but Quinn and Tillet came back with a vengeance today, winning six of the seven stages and only conceding three seconds to Inkster and Winn on the seventh.
 
The result was that after trailing Inkster and Winn by 14 seconds last night, Quinn and Tillett now lead the pair by 22 today with former Targa Rotorua winner Leigh Hopper and his co-driver Simon Fitzpatrick in a Subaru Impreza WRX almost two minutes back in third.
 
With a clear blue sky above them, weather and therefore road conditions were better for the 100-strong Targa field today than they were on Tuesday. But Quinn said it was more his approach to an event like the multi-day Targa New Zealand one that got him back in front.
 
"To be honest with you, they (the conditions) don't really make a difference either way. They're the same for everyone."
 
Today's route took competitors from New Plymouth to Taupo via three medium length stages between New Plymouth and Inglewood, a longer stage to Whangamomona for a lunch and service break then on to Ohura and Waimiha before a final sprint stage north west of Taupo. A highlight for competitors and spectators alike was the Inglewood Jumps stage where cars get airborne over a series of yumps.
 
These again claimed some high profile scalps including that of Aucklander Jason Gill whose Mitsubishi landed so hard it popped a front suspension strut through its tower and broke a steering column support bracket. The damage was able to be fixed quickly, however, and Gill remains fourth overall in the Allcomers 4WD category after the second day of competition.
 
In the Metalman Classic class, Inglewood locals Stuart Rose and Gary Renall (Toyota Hilux V8) were the toast of the first three stages in and around their home town, winning the first two on cue.
 
From then on in though they came under attack from all quarters, being beaten by Barry and Stephen Kirk-Burnnand in the third stage, Mark and Chris and Barry and Steve Kirk-Burnnand in the fourth  and the determined Ross MacDonald/Alan Cameron duo in a Fiat 125T special as well as the two Kirk-Burnnand combinations in the fifth.
 
The distinctive and very potent Hilux V8 was back in front in the penultimate stage at Waimiha but yet another candidate stepped up to knock Rose and Renall off their perch in the final stage of the day, the Holden Commodore V8 of Foxton potato farmer Bevan Claridge and his motorcycle champion co-driver Jason Easton.
 
That made it five winners in seven stages, though Rose and Renall retained their Day 1 lead with an advantage of just under two minutes over Barry and Stephen Kirk-Burnnand with another seven minutes back to Claridge and Easton.
 
And what about Mark and Chris Kirk-Burnnand? They slipped to fourth in the overall class standings after breaking a suspension strut in the penultimate stage.
 
Finally, after spread-eagling the class field on the opening day US-based expats Gavin and Amy Riches (Porsche GT3) continued on their swashbuckling way in the 2WD Modern category, winning all seven stages - the longest one by more than a minute - from top local pair Mark Whyte and Tracey Lance (Toyota Altezza V8) with BMW MINI men Barry Hare and Andrew Mackintosh the best of the rest in third.
 
With two days down and three to go Targa New Zealanmd competitors now head south for five stages between Waiouru and Palmerston North tomorrow with the first cars due in the Palmerston North square at 4.30pm in the afternoon.
 
With four wins under his belt already - three in the last three years -  Tony Quinn remains the man to beat. But he is not quite counting his chickens yet.
 
"No" he said this evening. "it's early days yet. We've still got to get through to Saturday and a thousand and one things could happen between now and then!"
 
The 2012 Targa New Zealand tarmac rally is brought to you with the support of sponsors APN, Britz, NZ Classic Car magazine, Federal motorsport tyres, Instra Corporation, Meguiars, Metalman, Mobil1, TeamTalk, TrackIt, VTNZ, and the Hastings District Council.
 
2012 Targa NZ
Results - Day 2
 
Allcomers 4WD

1. Tony Quinn/Naomi Tillett (Nissan R35 GT-R) 01:26:15 02:53:10
2. Glenn Inkster/Spencer Winn (Mitsubishi Evo6) 01:26:51 02:53:32
3. Leigh Hopper/Simon Kirkpatrick (Subaru Impreza WRX Sti) 01:27:58 02:55:28
4. Jason Gill/Malcolm Read (Mistubishi Evo 9 GT) 01:30:24 02:59:34
5. Brent Early/Samuel Early (Nissan Skyline) 01:30:29 03:10:42
6. Graeme Wong/Len Fisher(Subaru Impreza WRX Sti) 01:40:19 03:18:42
7. David Rogers/Aiden Kelly (Mitsubishi Evo X RS) 01:40:40 03:19:09
8. Alan Raynor/Tanja Luckow (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 RS) 01:42:30 03:24:20
9. John Birch/Chris Birch (Ford Escort Cosworth) 01:45:16 03:32:09
10. Philip Macey/Kirsten Allen (Mitsubishi Evo 2 RS) 01:51:20 03:45:07
 
Metalman Classic
1. Stuart Rose/Gary Renall (Toyota Hilux V8) 01:36:42 03:13:41
2. Barry Kirk-Burnnand/Steven Kirk-Burnnand (BMW M3) 01:37:38 03:15:25
3. Bevan Claridge/Jason Easton (Holden Commodore V8) 01:41:14 03:22:22
4. Mark Kirk-Burnnand/Chris Kirk-Burnnand (BMW M3) 00:02:00 03:23:56
5. Bernie Hiestand/Jilly Hutson (Ford Capri 2.8i) 01:40:46 03:24:26
6. Andrew Smith/Richard Haakma (BMW 320i) 01:42:08 03:24:34
7. Carl Kirk-Burnnand/Sam Gordon (BMW 325i) 01:42:32 03:26:22
8. Eddie Grooten/Ben Grooten (Porsche 911 SC) 01:42:42 03:26:23
9. Ross Macdonald/Alan Cameron (Fiat 124 special T) 01:43:51 03:30:13
10. Mark McCaughan/Brett Perry (Fiat 125) 01:46:01 03:31:00
 
Modern 2WD
1. Gavin Riches/Amy Riches (Porsche GT3) 01:29:30 03:00:48
2. Mark Whyte/Tracey Lance (Toyota Altezza) 01:33:03 03:06:31
3. Barry Hare/Tyson Jemmett (BMW Mini Cooper) 01:35:31 03:13:36
4. Bob Boniface/Simon Butler(BMW 135i) 01:39:23 03:20:25
5. Mike Sexton/Ricky Cooper(BMW M3 E36) 01:39:16 03:21:32
6. Keith Penny/John Cuff (Honda Civic Type R) 01:43:05 03:23:48
7. Michael Welch/John Welch (BMW E36) 01:42:01 03:24:23
8. Allan Lewis/Colin Cole (Datsun 240Z) 01:43:14 03:24:46
9. Mike Lea/Philip Sutton (BMW E30) 01:37:50 03:25:36
10. Masao Take/Takako Akaba (Nissan 380Z) 01:43:09 03:26:12

Photos: Flying high on the Inglewood Jumps are Jason Gill and Malcolm Read in their Mitsubishi Evo 9. Mark Kirk-Burnnand and father Chris won their class (Metalman Classic) on one of today's stages before being slowed by a broken suspension strut in their BMW M3. Photo credit: GroundSky Photography


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