True to his word, high-profile New Zealand motorsport personality Clark Proctor has confirmed he will contest this year’s 20th anniversary Targa New Zealand tarmac motor rally in his iconic Ford Escort.
Proctor, the man behind nationwide metal recycling business, Metalman, parked up the wild, wheel-waving turbocharged V6 Nissan-engined Escort in 2010 in favour of an altogether more sophisticated Nissan GT-R35.
But in a decision he is happy to admit had as much to do with sentiment as it did strategy he has sold the GT-R to fellow businessman and racer Peter Baker and commissioned a complete nut-and-bolt rebuild of the venerable Escort ahead of this year’s special six-day Targa event from Christchurch to Queenstown.
“We did the 10th anniversary Targa in the Escort and I said at the time I would drive it in the 20th so that’s what I’m going to do. Obviously, after seeing what Tony (Quinn) was doing with his GT-R we went and bought one of our own, but I’ve still been using the Escort in things like street sprints and hill climbs so when Peter (Baker) expressed interest in buying the GT-R I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to replace it with.”
Proctor hasn’t exactly turned his back on Nissan’s hi-tech, high performance GT-R35 either. His Metalman team will run his old car for Baker, as well as provide servicing support for fellow Aucklander Andrew Nichol in his GT-R35 in the main event and for Queenstown GT-R35 owner Mal Price in the associated (but non-competitive) Targa Tour.
Proctor and co-driver Sue O’Neill are one of over 80 earlybird pairings to have confirmed their intention to compete in the 20th anniversary Targa New Zealand event, being run – for the first time in that 20 years – in the South Island.
Others include last year’s outright winner, Dunedin man Martin Dippie and his co-driver Jona Grant, five-time (four-consecutive) winner Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Tillett, and recent Targa North Island event winner Leigh Hopper and his co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick.
The prospect of the event in their own backyard for the first time has also encouraged a number of top South Island-based drivers to enter including circuit, rally and hillclimb veteran Trevor Crowe from Christchurch, and Ashburton rally ace Wayne Muckle.
Targa New Zealand event director Peter Martin has just returned to his Wiri, Auckland, base from a quick trip to the South Island and he says there is a real buzz about the event already.
“Everywhere I went this time, and that included Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown, people wanted to know about ‘the Targa rally that’s down here this year.’ We’ve also got our sign-written community and volunteer liaison vehicle down there at the moment and, again, the feedback has been very good.
“If people don’t already know that the event is coming they want to know all about it; where it starts, where it finishes, how many cars are going to be in it, what roads we’re using? The level of interest this early in the piece is fantastic.”
The 20th anniversary Targa New Zealand event starts in Christchurch on Labour Day Monday (October 27) with scrutineering, documentation, drivers’ briefing then prologue at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna).
On Tuesday the field heads south for stages in mid-Canterbury, before the first of two overnight stays in Dunedin.
After a day full of stages in the Otago hinterland on Wednesday the field returns to Dunedin before heading south on Thursday to Invercargill – and a day’s end stage at Teretonga Park.
Friday October 31 is then spent completing stages between Invercargill and Queenstown finishing at Cromwell’s Highlands Motorsport Park (owned by five-time Targa NZ winner Tony Quinn).
Competitors then spend the final day (Saturday November 01) in the Lakes County with stages across the Crown Range and up Coronet Peak before the official finish in downtown Queenstown and the prize giving function the next day.
Article: www.nzmotorracing.co.nz : Benjamin Carrell
Media: Fast Company Photo: Groundsky.co.nz 12 July 2014