Wednesday, Jul 31 04:40pm
AUTHOR: Paul Shanahan

PROFILE: Intrepid traveller Mike Lowe on Targa and that famous photo

Mike Lowe may not be an outright contender year on year, but when the five-day Targa Rally rolls around this October he’ll be there to continue a storied history in the great race.


This year marks the 25th anniversary of Targa New Zealand, the country’s ultimate road race that attracts entries from the far north and lower south.


Targa New Zealand media man Paul Shanahan sat down with Mike Lowe to recall best bits to date and reveals what he’ll be driving this year.


P: When was your first Targa?


ML: We had the unfortunate record of being the first car to crash on Targa! Day 1, Stage 4 on someone else’s oil.


The car was rebuilt overnight by the Fiat Club guys and gals, and we then finished our first Targa. Making it to the finish line was an amazing feeling. We were hooked from then on.


P: How many Targa Rally events have you done?


ML: We’ve done every Targa event bar one... I was recovering from prostate cancer and, to be honest, was more worried about missing Targa!


P: What car did you first compete in?


ML: My 1964 Abarth 1000 , affectionately known as Barty. We used Barty for 20 years , and became the most recognizable car of Targa.


We retired him to the National Motorsport Museum after the finish on the 20th anniversary event, but have bought him back for one final time for this years 25th Targa Rally.




What cars have you since used for Targa?


ML: Only two! Barty and Barty2-The Sequel. Barty2 is a modern Abarth 500 Assetto Corse Rallye works-built car, unique in the world (pictured above).


What is it about Targa that attracts you?


Unlike circuit racing where there are eight laps of adrenalin then three hours of nothing, Targa is non-stop 12 hours a day for five days of motorsport heaven.


It is also a true team sport. Our success is due to an excellent – and brave – co-driver in Phil Sutton, and ace crew Nigel Derbyshire and Dave Jowett.. We’re all good mates.


What is the your memorable Targa experience?


ML: After 25 years there are so many. I think for our team it was winning pretty much everything in 2006. Our class , our category, best crew award, the Peter Brock trophy, and the gumboot toss!


Also catching four Porsches and crossing them off on our door badges ! We proved you don’t need a modern, fast or expensive car to have fun and do well on Targa.




What is your craziest or funniest moment?


ML: Without doubt having a completely naked girl jump up with a "Go Go Go" sign mid stage.


I waved and couldn't stop laughing. Phil had his head down and didn’t believe me. Thank goodness for in-car cameras!


Who do you see as your closest rivals?


ML: Anyone in our class. That is the beauty of Targa, class winners are just as important as outright.


In just a few words, what would you say to anyone thinking about doing a Targa rally?


ML: Ignore the pub gossip and fake news, come and talk to people who have done the event. I have done all sorts of motorsport for over 40 years on both sides of the Tasman ( circuit racing, hill-climbs, Porsche Cup, Superkarts) and without doubt the best value for money, most exciting and most fun event is Targa.


You need to have the three P's: Preparation, Targa is an endurance event, not a sprint. Passion, enthusisam for your chosen marque. And above all Persistence, you never ever, ever give up.


Targa should be on every motorsport competitors bucket list. Your life is not complete until you have done Targa.

Targa New Zealand takes place on 28 October-2 November. It starts in Taupō, then heads to Otorohanga, Whangamoana, Stratford, Whanganui, Taihape, Dannevirke and finishes in Palmerston North. The rally takes in 800km of special stages