Targa New Zealand is the planet’s Ultimate Road Race and (thanks to Toyota NZ) I had the opportunity to take part in this year’s 25th anniversary. According to the Targa press, ‘you will either be touring or racing for the entire day, with just a few brief moments to catch your breath before the start of each exhilarating stage. Stage distances vary, with an average distance of 25km per stage. Your body, mind and car will be tested. For most, simply completing the Targa New Zealand (much like the original Targa Florio) is a success and I can now attest, they’re quite correct.
Here’s what you need to know…
As with any form of Motorsport event like this, you must get licensed. Targa NZ use AASA as a governing body. The New Zealand owned agency “Australasian Auto-sport Alliance” has been established to be a service organisation to motorsport, avoiding red tape and unnecessary delays – a “one-stop-shop”, where motorsport promoters & participants can obtain permits, licences, fuel passbooks and all necessary documentation for motorsport events in NZ. The AASA is an ideal way to get certified without the need to complete lengthy exams – rest assured, I was nervous enough already.
The right pace
The Targa event is split into categories, based on skills, attributes and nerve. There are the ‘professionals’ that are out and out racers, helmet on and pushing their machines to the limit against the clock and each other. They lead the event, setting stage and event times and paces at gloves off speeds. Not for the fainthearted, and not for me. And the Tour, still fast and exciting but limited in top speed. The ‘Tour’ itself has two categories, one limited to 200km/h top speed, and the area we were placed in, 130km/h top speed, at the rear. It may seem the easy option (and in comparison it is) but these are NOT straight roads.
Choose your weapon
Regardless of the category you opt for, you’re going to require a car. On offer this year was everything from race-tuned performance cars (from all over the globe) to classics, kits cars and borderline vintage. It’s a car-spotters dream and they are all there to go as fast as their legs can carry them (category dependent). My vehicle was the brand new Toyota Supra, built as a performance car, fast, nimble, good looking and powerful. It would have slotted into ANY of the categories and done well (if it wasn’t me behind the wheel).
The importance of a great shotgun.
Race note, pace notes and overall guidance – your navigator is paramount to your success. Choose one that has ideally done this before, is calm, not nervous or gets car sick. Toyota assigned us with one of their Targa top dogs. A big bloke that threatened me with pain (lots of pain) if I stacked the car – as if I needed another incentive.
Take wads of notes and loose change.
Targa NZ is both a challenge and a social event. Despite the competitive element, all the teams want you to get through the stages safely, without mechanical drama and have fun. Between virtually all stages, rest camps had been set up at schools and other community areas where donations are greatly received.
The NZ Targa Rally and Tour is an epic and very well run event. It has a full sense of community and camaraderie mixed in with high speed and challenging roads. It’s a must-do for all petrol heads (I guess EVs are welcome too). The new GR Supra performed admirably, unfazed by the terrain, cambers, long straights or narrow one-way bridges. What an event and what an experience.