The Subaru Impreza WRX STi C-spec of Orewa driver Stace Hopper will be one of the cars to watch at the two-day Targa Rotorua tarmac rally in the Bay of Plenty this weekend
Hopper and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick were the surprise package in Targa Rotorua last year, finishing eighth overall in what was the pair's first ever motorsport event, and since then the limited edition 2003 model has been rebuilt by noted marque tuner Kent Thompson from Speedsource in Warkworth.
"The engine itself is out of Kent's own car and the car is now fitted with a wide-body bodykit based on the WRC Imprezas," says 26-year-old Hopper.
The event comprises seven closed special stages on Saturday and 10 on Sunday and has attracted over 100 entries, most from within New Zealand but some - like recent Targa Tasmania winner Tony Quinn (running with co-driver Sue O'Neill this weekend) - from Australia.
Hopper is a relative late starter as far as cars are concerned but has a strong competitive background in off-road motorcycle racing and in previous years has contested various Targa events as a co-driver beside his father Leigh.
Hopper Senior is also competing this weekend, in a Subaru WRX STi C-spec as well, but this time with Michelle Bain in the co-driver's seat.
Though he laughs off questions about where he'd like to finish this weekend - "anywhere as long as I beat Dad!" - Hopper did enough last year to suggest a place in the top five is a definite possibility.
"To be realistic, " he cautions, "it's a very different car to last year and, if you like, to what I'm used to, but in saying that we're not going down there just to make up the numbers."
Stace and Simon's entry in this weekend's Targa Rotorua event has the support of family companies Hopper Developments and Hopper Construction, as well as Hynds, Cordite Construction, J. Steel Australasia and Speedsource.