Targa Rally 2015


Despite all the 'shit' going on in my life at present, I refuse to turn up my toes and die. I have, therefore, agreed to help with Targa Rally all next week. This means that David will do the Hamilton run on Monday 26th (Labour Day), - thanks Dave, Mike will do my Pauanui run Tues, Wed, Thurs and Fri morn, then the Hamilton run on Friday 30. Thanks very much Mike too. Should be in Trannie the Transit, backed up by Glennie the Hiace. As has been my 'wont' I'll do a Prologue before we start on Monday morning explaining what we are expecting to do, then a write-up each night and then a final Epilogue once we have finished.

Although somewhat short on numbers, the team this time will comprise:


Our 'out of the gate time' tomorrow Monday 26th is 6.30 a.m., two stages tomorrow at Plantation, not far from Te Kauwhata, staying in Hamilton tomorrow night.

Tuesday morning we do the first stage of the day out the back of Te Awamutu so it will probably be another 'out the gate time; of 6.30 a.m. Another stage - the last of the day - then staying at Autolodge New Plymouth.

On Wednesday we do a couple of stages out the back of Mt Egmont staying at Autolodge again.

Thursday we head for the forgotten highway and do two stages in the vicinity of Whangamomona, the cars stay at Palmerston North that night, we are at Feilding though.

After a 'Gentle Annie stage or two, we end up in Napier for the night.

Saturday Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka, then once the Rally itself is finished we head back home. (Tired but happy?)

Day 1 - Monday 26/10

Out of the gate at 6.30 a.m.

Dale and Kevin in Chalkie, Zac, Luke and Toby in Torry and myself in Townie.

We did a Timing Team regroup at Plantation Rd, Dale and Kevin setting up the Timing (TIMY) gear, at the flying finish also teaching Zac and Luke at the same time.

Toby and I meantime set up the finish control, I did road cards, Toby did everything else. Cards, writing up log sheet, criss cross sheet, receiving times from Kevin at Flying Finish etc.
Mind you I still had my normal Post Chief duties to perform.

Some, not all, the cars got close to the 200kpmh target, quite a few knew 'us' from previous rallies too.

After the 1st stage Zac and Luke, having had a crash course in operating the timing gear they had never seen before, headed away to do their own Flying Finish for Stage 2

Meanwhile halfway through the second prologue run we ended up with a VERY long gap between cars (something like 5 mins, instead of the usual 1 min)This we learned had been caused by a competitor 'taking out' a power pole, causing the stage to be abandoned. This is not as simple as it sounds, but the upshot of it all was that after the lunch break the regroup seemed to work fine and everything was back on track.

Tonight we are staying at Microtel Backpackers in Hamilton.

Day 2 - Tuesday 27/10

Out the gate at 6.30 again !

Zac and Luke in Tory, heading for their own stage and Dale and Kevin in Chalkie and Warwick and Toby in Townie.

On site at ss3 pretty much on time, but Dale and Kevin had what can only be described as a 'tunnel vision view' on the cars at Flying Finish which meant that whilst they could 'readily' get the time, the speed at which the cars were travelling meant that reading the numbers was well nigh impossible. This meant that once the cars had actually stopped at Finish Control we needed to relay the actual car number back so it could be entered into the system. Messy but worked.

We had a lunch break at Te Kuiti, after which Townie decided to do its overheating trick again!!!!

After several agonising minutes Dale determined that the thermostat wasn't actually opening and after consultation with the nearest (other) mechanic, obtained a product to help 'unstick' it. This has worked so far to date. Fingers crossed.
As part of this problem we arranged a 'Plan B' which had Zac and Luke joining our team for the afternoon stage and having the whole six of us (a full strength team you might say), made it MUCH easier. There was one car that had to be pushed over the flying finish line, but otherwise the only real point of interest was that the stage was 38 km long and cars were taking between 15 and 18 mins for travel it. You do the sums.

We then headed for Autolodge New Plymouth which I used to be heavily involved with.
Anna is still managing it, Ruth is still very much the matriarch, and at 85 is still as 'sharp as a tack'. It was actually Anna's birthday party tonight so they were somewhat preoccupied.
The six of us had a few drinks at the bar, and then a meal in Juliana's Restaurant.

Tomorrow Zac and Luke are out of the gate at 6.45 Kevin. Dale ,Warwick and Toby say 8.30. The stages tomorrow are all around Mt Egmont, we are back at Autolodge tomorrow night !!

Day 3 - Wednesday 28/10

The halfway point of the rally.

No REAL Dramas today.

Zac and Luke were out of the gate at 6.30 a.m. Their only real drama (but a real one) was that they simply did not get breakfast, or lunch, or daytime snack, so were ravenously hungry by 5 p.m. After the very expensive "Silver Service " meal at Juliana's last night it was back to earth with Burger King tonight.

As for Dale, Kevin, Toby and me.it was a much more leisurely out the gate time of 8 a.m.

Once again with only two of us at Finish Control it became a bit of a mission particularly when the 'problem' reared its ugly head - we commandeered one of the block marshals to do 'road cards' for us for a while.

Normally the cars, which are set off at one minute intervals, arrive more or less at one minute intervals and everything works as it should. our 'problem' occurred when 6 (yes six) arrived together, it was simply impossible, to read the car number, 'stop the clock', and enter the number then restart before the next car. The six crossed the flying finish line in less than a second !!!! This required some working out I can assure you.

Not related to the 'problem' the stage finished (having started late too) over 30 mins late.
This meant that even though we more or less skipped lunch, we still had to refuel the vehicles so we were half an hour late for our next stage ( the last of the day). yes both vans were worked very hard getting there if you know what I mean!!.

Once more we had small problem, with 2 or 3 card arriving at once but got it sorted.

So back to New Plymouth, Burger King for dinner, refuelled all the vehicles (to the brim) as tomorrow we all travel the 'Forgotten World Highway' some of us twice.

We were somewhat disappointed the the spa pool was 'out of action', but these things do happen.

We are 'out the gate at 6 am (yes 6 a.m.) tomorrow. It looks like being a long day !!

We eventually end up in Feilding for the night..

Day 4 - Thursday 29/10

Another day. A double dip of the "Forgotten Highway.

Out of the gate by 6 AM, out to Whangamomona by to be there by 8.
Did our stuff, bought a pie each from the Hotel and found that we and no comms coverage either.
No Cell ph, no Rally comms, no result link etc. even when a full wavelength aerial instead of the quarter waver was tried. Great

An hour later we at least managed to get some comms back to Rally Hq. from our Finish control Fleetlink radio - oh joy.

After that stage was over. we then packed up and set up the finish again at what had been the start. This meant that we had to drive the 40k stage twice - quite fun. However when stopping at the midpoint comms link (where there was reasonable comms coverage) my own cell phone went mad with texts, missed calls, and even some actual calls all of which made life just that more difficult.

The weather then packed a sad and although I had taken an umbrella, it really was cold and wet. During this stage we lost 3 cars, no personal injuries but some cars are very much worse for wear !! Written off even .

We then drove some 200 km to Feilding where we are staying tonight, Out of the gate at 6.30 tomorrow morning, a local 40 km stage then over Gentle Annie to Napier.

More from me tomorrow, right now I need my beauty sleep.

Day 5 - Friday 30/10

What a day !
Out of the gate at 6.30, coffee and pie for breakfast then set up for our first stage an hour or so away.

Boy was it cold!
Toby was in the van (Townie) so that wasn't too bad, but I was dong Road cards (and post chief duties) and although wearing a singlet, flannelette shirt, a Rally Whangarei fleecy jacket, and my lovely mustard coloured jersey, (with the post chief hi-viz over it all), the wind still decided not to go around, but straight through me. I would be stretching it a bit to say I turned blue, but it really was cold.

No major disasters, so headed for Taihape for lunch (guess what, another pie and a coffee), the on to Gentle Annie stages. to get where we had to go we had to drive both stages - enough said !!

Our finish was at the end of the second stage, and as we had several 'offs', or mechanical failures, once more we had to rope in one of the block marshals to do the road cards so I could do my post chief duties.

We noted the particularly good team work at both the Flying Finish (with Dale and Kevin), and Finish Control, with Toby and Warwick.
As far as we can tell not a single mistake - all day.

Tomorrow we are out the gate at 5.15 doing 3 Stages, 28, 30 and 34.

Home VERY late tomorrow night !

Day 6 - Saturday 31/10

I note that last night I did not explain that we stayed at Kennedy Park Holiday complex, and then I took the team out to dinner at Restaurant Indonesia as a real thank you for all their efforts.

So today - out of the gate at 5.15 am, not so cold today just on an hour to our first of three stages.
Set up, with a really long 'slow down between Flying Finish and finish control. We were scared that the range may be beyond the range of our hand held radios, but nope all was well..

Two stages without having to move, oh joy!

Another hour or so to our final stage of the rally!

No problems - another flawless performance on the part of all of our team.

Once cleared drove through the Square at Palmerston North, to drop Toby because the teenagers were heading all the way back to Thames to go to a party while the grownups quietly headed for Dales's place at Tirau.

An epilogue in a day or so.


So, the rally is all over.

A number of firsts.

The first time we have been involved with Targa.

The first time we have actually done timing for a Marathon Rally, other Timing jobs
have been for one or two day events. For marathon rallys we have always done
block marshalling etc.

The first time we have had to work with a finish team of only 2 on flying finish and 2 (including the Post Chief) at Finish Control.

The first time we had provided a Flying Finish team for another team.

The first time we had electronic trackers on all our vehicles.

Probably the first time we did the lion's share of the work. With 36 stages, and 4 timing teams that's an average of 9 stages per team. We did 13 !!!!!

In Summary

Day 1. Out the gate 6.30. Timed the 'Plantation; stages, stayed at Microtel in Hamilton.

Day 2. Out the gate 6.30 again 1st stage out the back of Tokanui, then after lunch at TeKuiti the van did its overheating trick again. Next stage at Awakino, then stayed that night at Autolodge New Plymouth.

Day 3. Out of the gate 8 ish , the first stage that we had 6 cars arriving together, a late departure from that stage meant we had to travel (very fast) to the last stage of the day. But still arrived (just) before road closure. Back to Autolodge that night.

Day 4. Another early start, out to two stages on the Forgotten Highway. Afterwards a long drive to our stop that night at Feilding.

Day 5. The stage with the 'lazy wind' . Boy was it cold - sometimes back in Christchurch we used to say 'that wind was straight off snow' I guess as we were quite close to the Ruahine ranges it probably was.Our next stage was the second one through Gentle Annie,- the Taihape to Napier road.I have driven it only twice before but it has improved quite a lot since then.
We stayed at Kennedy Park resort, and went out to dinner at Restaurant Indonesia

Day 6. Another VERY early start- We had to be at the 1st of our 3 stages by 6.10 and it was nearly an hours drive away.After doing the last stage of the day,- Zac/Luke had to do the last stage of the rally - we all drove home.

Analysis shows that our two vehicles, Townie and Chalkie each did 1850 km from Monday to Sat and Zac did nearly 2000km. The difference likely to be that we pretty much always headed straight to our finishes, usually using mainly main roads, Zac however usually went to each start so he could drive through the stages.

NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!

Without in any way making light of the technically competent and even more so the operational competence demonstrated by Dale and Kevin (and I guess Zac and Luke), as our Flying Finish teams, I have been VERY impressed with what my right hand man TOBY AUSTEN did throughout the event.

As there were only the two of us at finish control his duties included:

1. The night before helping work out the best route and time to leave to get to where we had to be next morning.

2. On arrival at the stage, set up the 25w radio aerial etc.

3. Unpack the numerous signs, stands etc.

4. Supervise and help the (local, inexperienced) block marshals set up the equipment including the chicanes.

5. Targa doesn't use 3,2,1 signs just a 'slow down' sign roughly equivalent of our usual '3'sign, Toby often had to walk just to place it. We wished we had brought a little motorbike, a skateboard, a scooter or even a bicycle!!

6 But once the stage started his effort was amazing.

The time from flying finish was radioed, written down on the log sheet.

With quite a long FF to FC length usually there were two or more car times radioed before the car actually arrived at Finish Control.

This means that he then had to locate the correct time on the log, from the car number, write it on the competitor's card, often confirm the number back to FF.

All the time coping and dealing with incoming information, often with exceptionally - noisy rally cars about 5 feet from his ear hole!!!

The criss-cross sheet to mark off start orders.also had to be filled in as he went along.

But quite often he had to radio the actual car number back to FF when they hadn't managed to read it anyway.

But wait there's more - when I had to do Post Chief duties, which included talking to each driver when chasing missing cars etc.- he also had to get out of the van, get the card from the driver etc, work on it and then give it back again.

Older readers will no doubt recognise the phrases 'flat out like a lizard drinking', or - even 'looks like a one armed paperhanger with an itch' !!!

7. Once I got clearance to close. He then had to pack up, including packing away all the marshals signs, get the 'slow down sign, although the FF boys were often press-ganged to help with this..

8. On some occasions we did, indeed need to drive the rally stage whereupon he took on the role of 'co-driver' or 'navigator' reading the turns and cautions from the road book. On other travels he just used the supplied maps to get us where we had to be.


A real pity that so many people would not help - even another 4 would have let us provide the two full finish teams asked of us - as I say a real pity.

Regards to all.

Warwick Sykes
#1 Post Chief
Targa Rally 2015

Many thanks to Pieter Meuldijk for knocking this into shape.