Photo : Fast Company / Ben Hughes

Subaru-driver Leigh Hopper and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick headed the field after the first day of competition in this year’s three-day Targa North Island event.

The Orewa pair won three of the day’s six completed stages and take a 28 second lead in both categories over Auckland Mitsubishi Evo pair Jason Gill and Mark Robinson, with Patumahoe’s Glenn Inkster and his co-driver Spencer Winn a further 43 seconds back in their Mitsubishi Evo.

Last year’s Targa New Zealand event winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant from Dunedin dominated the Modern 2WD category, topping the time sheets in all six stages to take a minute-and-a-half advantage over fellow Porsche pair Richard Krogh and Glenn Sharratt into the second day of competition on the Coromandel Peninsula and into the Waikato tomorrow.

Husband and wife Ross and Carmel Graham (Holden Torana A9X V8) caused an upset, meanwhile, in the Metalman Classic 2WD class by turning the tables on long-time class pace-setters, Barry Kirk-Burnnand and Dave O’Carroll (BMW M3), and Barry’s son Carl and his co-driver Sam Gordon (BMW 325i)

The Grahams claimed their first class scalp in the day’s first stage – Koheroa east of Pukekohe – and went on to top the class time sheets in three of the other stages and equal the time set by the winners of a fourth, another husband and wife pairing, Tony and Jo Butler in their Holden-based Cheetah V8.

Targa newcomers Ian Power and Shamus Kay had a good start to their day, setting the third quickest Metalman Classic 2WD time through the first stage in their BMW 320i only to overshoot a corner at the end of the second stage and end up in a ditch, where they were joined a few minutes later by the Nissan Skyline of Greg and Jackson Fowles.