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With several major business and sporting commitments on both sides of the Tasman this month, Queensland-based Scot Tony Quinn is busier than he has ever been. But he wouldn't miss this year's four-day Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally for the world.

"Without question Targa New Zealand is one of the best run and best value-for-money events that I do," says the man who with co-driver Naomi Tillett has won the popular annual event for the past four years in a row.
 
Though best known as the man behind Australian pet food giant VIP Pet Foods, Quinn, 56, and members of his family also now own and run iconic Australian confectionary maker Darrell Lea, as well as - on this side of the Tasman - the Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago.
 
The Park, New Zealand's latest multi-purpose motorsport facility, was officially opened at Easter and hosts its first major event, the final round of this year's Australian GT Championship, over the November 9-10 weekend.
 
With a visit from the Prime Minister, John Key, next Friday (October 25), a quick trip back across the Tasman for the V8 Supercar race meeting at Surfers Paradise on the 26th and 27th, and this year's 19th annual Targa New Zealand starting on Thursday the 31st it doesn't leave Quinn - who this year will share a new Darrell Lea-backed Nissan GT-R35 with long-time co-driver Tillett - much time to mentally prepare for the event, but he will be at the start line at the Dotcom Mansion north of Auckland on Thursday October 31 come what may.
 
"If there's any Targa event I should miss it's probably this one, because I am so busy, but next year's is the 20th Anniversary event which I have already started planning for so I would like to keep my starting record intact for that."
 
Having himself won five Targa New Zealand events and with Tillett the last four on the trot, as well as regional events here and the Targa Tasmania event across the Tasman, Quinn is very much the uncrowned King of tarmac events in this part of the world.
 
He is going to have to be on top of his game if he and Tillett are going to make it five in a row however.
 
Having taken the fight to Quinn and Tillett last year before crashing out of the event, former gravel rally ace Glenn Inkster and his co-driver, Spencer Winn, from Waiuku have upgraded to a later model Mitsubishi Evo (the EcoLight-backed Mitsubishi Evo 8) and Inkster says that the pace up front will be fierce.
 
"With us in the Eco Evo, Tony and Naomi, and Clark Proctor and Sue O'Neill, in GT-Rs, Leigh Hopper and Simon Kirkpatrick in their Subaru and guys like Jason Gill and Todd Bawden in their Mitsis the field at the front is the strongest it has ever been."
 
Hopper, in particular, is due for a top result in the main Targa event, he and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick having now twice won the Targa Rotorua event and been quick but often unlucky on the main event.
 
After his Rotorua win earlier this year, Hopper's crew has stripped and rebuilt the car and added a new sequential-action gearbox for quicker gear changes.
 
Set to debut a newly-built car of his own, meanwhile, is one of the (many) members of Targa New Zealand's Kirk-Burnnand family, Coatsville, Auckland 29-year-old Steve.
 
He has been co-driving for his father Barry for the past six years but decided last year that seeing as how his father Barry was 'having way too much fun driving the car to hand it over to me' the only way he was going to get to drive a car himself was to build one of his own.
 
That car is a 1994 BMW 318ti compact powered by a 2.8-litre 6-cylinder BMW M52 engine which Steve has entered in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class.
 
He will be joined in this year's event by no fewer than five other members of the Kirk-Burnnand clan with cousin Elliott from Perth taking on co-driving duties and Steve's father Barry re-united in his BMW E30 M3 with original co-driver Dave O'Carroll from Auckland.
 
Barry's other son, Carl, will again be sharing his car, a BMW 325i, with his regular co-driver, Sam Gordon, while joining Barry and Dave O'Carroll as joint favourites in the Metalman Classic class are Steve and Carl's Wellington-based cousin Mark and his father Chris in their E30 M3, who this year will also be letting another Australian-based cousin, Adrian, spend some time in the co-driver's seat!
 
Having only just finished his new car Steve says he will be treating this year's  four-day Targa New Zealand event as a shake-down, his goal 'to finish and if we do well it will be a bonus!'
 
This year's Targa New Zealand event will see  80+ competitors and 50 associated Targa Tour participants cover almost 650kms of closed special stages and 1225km of transport stages over four days, starting in Auckland on Thursday October 31 and visiting New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Havelock North before ending in Taupo on Sunday November 03.
 
Internet entrepreneur and keen fast car fan Kim Dotcom is hosting the start of this year's event at the Dotcom Mansion near Coatesville on Auckland's North Shore.
 
Dotcom will open the grounds of the mansion for documentation and scrutineering on Wednesday October 30 and will flag the 130+ cars set to start this year's event away early on Thursday October 31.

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