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Tarmac rally specialists Leigh Hopper and Simon Kirkpatrick (Subaru Impreza WRX) from Orewa north of Auckland have claimed their second Targa Rotorua win in three years after early event leaders Tony Quinn and Naomi Tillett from Australia were slowed by a sensor failure in their borrowed Nissan GT-R35 late on Sunday.
Quinn - who won the 2009 event - and Tillett shared stage wins with Hopper (who won in 2011) and Kirkpatrick on the first day of the now two-and-a-half day Targa Rotorua event on Friday before winning all seven stages on Saturday and taking a 25 second overall and Instra.com Allcomers 4WD class lead into the final day today.
The Australian pair were again quickest through the first stage this morning but in the second a G-force sensor failed, leaving Quinn to battle on with drive going only to the rear wheels (rather than all four) of the sophisticated Nissan.
A mercy dash by crew members to Hamilton secured a replacement sensor but by the time it was fitted Hopper and Kirkpatrick were in front and staying there until the finish line.
"And all credit to them," a gracious Quinn said afterwards. "Leigh did a great job, he fought right to the end which was the right thing to do. Naomi and I also did the best we could do and that was it at the end of the day."
"We  weren't holding anything back today, that's for sure" Hopper confirmed. "We've been throwing the car at everything to try and gain some time back on Tony all weekend and we certainly had some really hot goes today. The car has been great, we were on the limit really all day and the car has just been immaculate, unbelievable, just the power and the predictability of it really made a huge difference to the times over any other car we have turned up to Targa with."
Between them Hopper and Quinn claimed overall and Instra.com Allcomers 4WD class wins in all 17 stages of this year's event, the Kiwi pair's final winning margin over Quinn and Tillett 43 seconds. Third in class and overall were Aucklanders Jason Gill and Mark Tapper in Gill's Mitsubishi Evo9GT, fourth Christchurch pair Brent and Samuel Early in their Nissan Skyline R34.
Local driver Mike Lea and co-driver Grant Handley maintained their Saturday lead in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class on the final day of competition despite the best efforts of early event class pace-Richard Krogh and Glenn Sharratt in a late model Porsche 911 and Wanganui pair Paul Tulloch and Paul Bass in a turbocharged Toyota MR2.
Krogh and Sharratt were quickest on Friday but Lea and Handley topped the class time sheets in five of Saturday's seven stages and three of the seven today - despite cooling issues with their unique Nissan SR20-engined BMW 3-Series Compact.
"Yeah, there were a few stages where the car was using more water than petrol today," Lea admitted, "but overall I'm rapt, absolutely fizzing."
On Saturday Melbourne-based Kiwi Richard Scoular and his co-driver, Aucklander Mike Patching, were second in class in their Mazda RX7 but after day of competition when as many as five other pairings were disputing a place in the class top three it was consistency which saw Tulloch and Bass overhaul Scoular and Patching to claim second in class with Scoular and Patching third and Auckland pair Bob Boniface and Simon Butler in a BMW 135i couple fourth.
After repairing their late model Porsche 911 overnight, first day fast men Richard Krogh and Glenn Sharratt were also back in the hunt in the Instra.com Modern 2WD class on the final day though after missing all but the first stage - which they won - on Saturday thanks to running off the road and damaging an engine mount they were no longer in the hunt for overall class kudos.
Despite that the pair again showed that they had the pace to run at the front in the hotly contested class, winning three stages and pulling themselves back up to 10th place in the final class standings.
"It was a good day," Krogh said at the finish line. "We really enjoyed the stages today."
Finally, the Metalman Classic 2WD class ended up another Kirk-Burnnand family benefit, with Wellington-based son-and-father combination Mark and Chris adding two more class stage wins to their tally on the way to an event class win by just over two minutes from their Auckland-based equivalents Steven and Barry in matching 1989 BMW E30 M3s.
Though Mark has now been driving his father Chris' M3 for some years this event was the first in which his cousin Steven did most of the driving in the car he shares with his father Barry and one of the highlights of the event for everyone in the Kirk-Burnnand clan was Steven's debut class stage win on Saturday.
"Steve and Carl (their cousin who finished fifth)definitely kept me honest and it's fun to see the whole family doing well," said Mark."
No mention of this year's event would be complete, either, without reference to Auckland husband and wife Tony and Joanne Butler and their distinctive Chevrolet V8-powered HQ Holden-based Cheetah two-seater sportscar.
The pair topped the Metalman Classic 2WD time sheets on Friday and continued to set the pace in the class on Saturday, claiming two more stage wins before being slowed when blowback through the car's carburetor caused a brief engine fire.
The time they lost sorting that out allowed the two Kirk-Burnnand pairings to shuffle them back to third place by the end of the day but the Butlers again came back fighting today, winning the first two stages and finishing second to another impressive class pairing Angus and Euan Howden (BMW 425i) in the third - only to break a front ball joint and grind to a halt in the fourth.
That put them out of overall class contention, but didn't stop them completely, a crew member dispatched to Repco in Hamilton for a new balljoint which when fitted allowed them to complete the event in 12th place in place.
In their absence the Howden brothers from Wellington claimed two class stage wins of their own to end up third in class in their BMW 325i in only their second event.
In fourth was Auckland driver Rex McDonald in his similar BMW 325i which he shared with daughter Kate who had flown in from London especially for the event. The pair were always in the mix, but looked set to end their event on the side of the road when they broke a brake disc rotor.
In the true spirit of Targa events, however, the Howden brothers offered them their spares so they could get to the finish line - which they did, beating the fifth member of the Kirk-Burnnand family, Wellingtonian Carl and his co-driver Sam Gordon in their BMW 325i, who finished fifth.
Visiting Canadian couple Kelly Silverthorn and Michelle McLeod rounded out an enjoyable return to Targa competition in this country with sixth, just under a minute ahead of the similar Porsche 911 of father and son Eddie and Ben Grooten.
The 2013 Targa Rotorua event was organised and is run with the support of sponsors Britz, NZ Classic Car magazine, Ecolight, Federal motorsport tyres, Instra Corporation, Metalman, Mobil1, TeamTalk, Trackit, VTNZ and Woolrest Biomag.

Targa Rotorua 2013 Rotorua Fri-Sun May 10-12 2013
Overall results

Instra.com Allcomers 4WD
 1. Leigh Hopper/Simon Kirkpatrick (1995 Subaru Impreza WRX Sti) 02:34:24
 2. Tony Quinn/Naomi Tillett (2008 Nissan R35 GT-R) 02:35:07
 3. Jason Gill/Mark  Tapper (2005 Mitsubishi  Evo9GT) 02:38:39
 4. Brent Early/Samuel Early (2001 Nissan Skyline) 02:42:43
 5. David Dobbe/Adrian Dobbe (1992 Nissan GT R32) 02:52:27
 6. Gary Morgan/Kingsley Smith (1990 Subaru Legacy 2.0 RSR) 02:52:58
 7. Rick Giddy/Paul Ottaway (2003 Subaru WRX Sti) 02:56:12
 8. Kevin Deane/Chris Ramsay (2006 Subaru  Impreza STI ) 02:57:15
 9. Allen Fretwell/Donald  Brunt (1991 Subaru Legacy RSRA)  03:01:53
 10. John Ludlow/Shane Kerrisk (2001 Subaru Impreza WRX) 03:04:12
Instra.com Modern 2WD
1. Mike Lea/Grant Hanley (1990 BMW E36 Compact) 02:49:30
2. Paul Tulloch/Paul  Bass (1991 Toyota  MR2) 02:51:47
3. Richard Scoular/Mike Patching (1997 Mazda RX7) 02:52:21
4. Bob Boniface/Simon Butler (2008 BMW 135i Coupe E82) 02:54:19
5. Robert Darrington/David Abetz (2002 BMW E46) 02:55:28
6. Peter Dudson/Dave Hannah (2004 Nissan  350Z) 02:58:10
7. Antony  Rountree/Mathew Foster (1997 Ford Mustang)   02:59:17
8. Keith Penny/John Cuff (2002 Honda Civic Type R) 03:00:03
9. Ken Fountain/Mike Matheson (2001 Honda Type R) 03:00:51
10. Richard Krogh/Glenn Sharratt (2005 Porsche 911) 03:01:03

Metalman Classic 2WD
 1. Mark Kirk-Burnnand/Chris Kirk-Burnnand (1987 BMW M3) 02:53:41
 2. Steven Kirk-Burnnand/Barry Kirk-Burnnand (1989 BMW M3) 02:55:04
 3. Angus Howden/Euan Howden (1986 BMW  E30 2.7) 02:56:44
 4. Rex McDonald/Kate McDonald (1990 BMW E30) 202:58:08
 5. Carl Kirk-Burnnand/Sam Gordon (1991 BMW 325i) 03:00:27
 6. Kelly Silverthorn/Michelle McLeod (1973 Porsche 911 3.0RS) 03:02:40
 7. Eddie Grooten/Ben Grooten (1978 Porsche  911 SC) 03:03:36
 8. Bernie Hiestand/Jilly Hutson (1983 Ford Capri 2.8i) 03:05:23
 9. Linden Bawden/Rhys Bawden (1979 Ford Escort) 03:06:13
 10. Andy Mygind/Abbie Mygind (1972 Datsun 240Z) 03:06:59

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