Those supercar posters definitely took pride of place for the owner of our featured Porsche 911 and provided the catalyst for his continuing passion for motor racing and exotic cars, Mark Hellier’s love of motor sport having begun while he was still at high school. At that time, he started racing motorcycles along with his good friend Scott Buckley — son of Bill Buckley — in 250cc production-class racing and in the British, European, American Racing (BEARS) class.
Mark enjoyed his motorbike racing from 1988 through to 1992 — then, although still in his early 20s, he genuinely felt he was getting a little long in the tooth to continue this form of motor sport.
At that same time, he had a good friend who was racing a Nissan Sentra Cup Car, and Mark decided to give it a try. However, after a few sessions, he felt it was just too slow for his taste — not surprising, after racing motorbikes — and decided not to continue racing.
The lure of the 911
Mark still had fond memories of those iconic bedroomwall posters, especially the ones depicting Porsche’s turbocharged 930 with its intoxicating styling, superwide rear wheel arches, and massive rear wing. He’d always held the dream to one day own an air-cooled 911 — as a young lad, he’d even constructed and meticulously painted models of this iconic Porsche, as so many of us did back in the day.
As the years flew by, the usual procession of new cars arrived, along with fresh family and work commitments, until one day Mark reached the conclusion that what actually excited him about driving cars was that intimate connection between driver, car, and road. With the modern cars he was driving at the time, he felt that too much technology was intervening and that upset the driving experience. It was time to search for motoring nirvana — and, for Mark, that would come in the shape of the Porsche 911 he’d always dreamed of owning.
The hunt was on, and it didn’t take long for a 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 to catch his eye, and he purchased the car as his daily-driver. It was certainly very different to the Nissan S16 Silvia and other modern cars he’d owned over the years.
Having reignited his Porsche passion, Mark joined the Porsche Club of New Zealand, and, before long, he decided that he wanted to go motor racing. However, the thought of damaging his pride and joy out on the track didn’t fill him with enthusiasm. While he was working away his garage one night, stripping the dash out of his 911, the thought occurred to him that there must be a better way to go motor racing that wouldn’t mean he’d have to destroy his much-loved air-cooled Porsche.
At about that same time, just as he was beginning to think about returning to motor sport, Mark thought about giving Targa New Zealand a crack. An old school friend, Glenn Edley, expressed his interested in holding down the navigator’s slot — but the problem was that Mark’s Porsche wasn’t a fully prepared Targa car. So, instead, the pair signed up for the 2012 Targa Tour, an event that they could do in Mark’s Porsche 911 Carrera without having to modify it in any way. Needless to say, they thoroughly enjoyed the event — so much so that Mark decided to go in search of a Porsche race car that could serve double duty as a Targa mount.
A Porsche with history
Mark soon discovered that finding a relatively good, motor sport–prepared Porsche 911 was easier said than done. Finally, after talking to Peter Booth from Motorscience, whose company services Mark’s 911, a suitable car was found.
The car in question was a 1984 Porsche 3.2 Carrera that belonged to Andy Gale, the 2008/’9 Bridgestone Porsche Series champion as well as the 2007/’8 and 2008/’9 Class B Bridgestone Porsche winner. The car had previously been owned by Porsche Club members Jeff Lowrey and John Garty. It looked like the perfect car for Mark, and he purchased it from Andy in 2014.
The Porsche had served as a pure circuit car for about 14 years, and the first task was to bring it back to road-legal condition — which would include gaining a WOF and a COF — not a simple task, given that the 911 had been sitting in Andy’s barn for a while. Luckily, the Porsche only required a few simple things attending to — including wiring, headlights, tail-lights, and windscreen wipers — to get it back to road-legal specifications
The car’s 3.2 flat-six engine … remains completely stock apart from a mild performance chip, a sports exhaust system, and added cooling for greater reliability
The only item left to install was a rally meter, and, by May 2014, Mark and his co-driver Glenn were ready to tackle their first three-day Targa North Island event — effectively a revamped Targa Rotorua with an extra day added, in celebration of 20 years of Targa for those unable to compete in the main Targa South Island event later in the year.
That first event was indeed a family affair, with the entire family, brother-in-law and four kids as the service crew, plus a few mates pitching in to help out wherever possible. According to Mark, it was a fantastic experience and the first step on the Targa learning curve for all involved.
Mark couldn’t believe the camaraderie and help his fledgling team received from the other competitors along the way, especially from his fellow Classic Car– category competitors
During that event, the 911’s only mechanical issue was the loss of third gear on the very first special stage — although that didn’t deter them from finishing the event, which was Mark’s main objective.
With their first Targa done and dusted, Mark and Glenn now had their eyes firmly fixed on competing in the main Targa South Island later that same year. Not only would that event be a milestone, celebrating Targa’s 20th anniversary, but it would also be the first time Targa would run in the South Island, offering competitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience some of the world’s most spectacular scenery and a series of superb driving roads.
However, before Mark and Glenn could even consider driving the 911 through the South Island, there were a few issues that required attention. The first item on the list was to completely rebuild the gearbox to ensure it wouldn’t drop a gear again — as well, Mark installed new skid trays, improved the ventilation and added International Race of Champions (IROC)-style bumpers front and rear to give the car a fresher look.
Targa South Island
This was a whole new experience for Mark and Glenn, and, without family members on board, a permanent crew consisting of Brendan Evans and Shannon West was on hand to keep the 911 in tip-top condition throughout the gruelling five-day event.
Thanks to early Porsche 911’s fearsome reputation for getting their tails out of shape, Porsche were forced into improving the aerodynamics and rear end stability by introducing a rear spoiler.
The International Race of Champions (IROC) was a North American car race for invited drivers from a broad range of motor racing disciplines such as Indy Car, NASCAR, Sports Car Racing and Drag Racing. The IROC events were generally raced on oval race tracks in identically prepared stock standard cars – in different colours, all of which were set up by one team of mechanics, to ultimately test the drivers ability. IROC events finished in 2008 due to lack of sponsorship.
Mark admits that his trusty 911 isn’t the fastest car in Targa, but it’s reliable and, more importantly, tremendous fun to drive
Mark’s Porsche rolled out of the paint shop only days before our photo shoot, and we were extremely grateful for his efforts to have it ready in time to be included in this special Targa New Zealand edition
Mark found the roads on most of the special stages long, straight, and very fast — not entirely suitable for the 911, as he preferred twisting roads, feeling them more suited to the Porsche’s excellent grip. Despite that, the event went without a hitch for Mark and Glenn, with the car performing extremely well — although Mark did notice that its suspension hardware was now showing signs of tiredness and attention would be required at some point in the foreseeable future.
Once back in Auckland and in preparation for the 2015 Targa season, beginning with the Targa Sprint in March, there was indeed plenty of work ahead for Mark.
The first to-do this time was to give the entire suspension a freshen up, which included performance items such as Elephant Racing matched sway bars, the reinforcement of sway-bar mounting points, new mono-balls (spherical bushings), as well as new spring plates with adjustable height to make it easier to switch the car between circuit- and rallydriving modes. New torsion bars, axles, tie-rods, and bump-steer adjusters were also fitted.
After competing in the 2015 Targa Sprint, Mark decided to consider a few safety upgrades, as he felt that the existing roll cage, originally built for circuit racing, needed replacing, despite advice to the contrary. As a result, a new chromoly roll cage, complete with cabin wheel and side-intrusion protection, was fitted, along with new race seats. As the car’s interior had been stripped to facilitate the roll-cage replacement, Mark took the opportunity to give the 911’s cockpit a spruce-up. Once everything was completely sealed and repainted, new doors were fitted and the dashboard cleaned up.
Just prior to this year’s Targa Bambina, Mark gave the Porsche a shakedown at Hampton Downs and discovered a rather nasty expensive-sounding noise coming from the rear of the car. The noise turned out to be the differential. The unit would require a complete rebuild — and Mark decided that his should include a new crown and pinion and two-way Guard LSD. Unfortunately, there were no parts available in the country at the time, meaning that they had to be airfreighted to New Zealand from Germany. They arrived just in time to be fitted for Targa Bambina — in fact, the Porsche came off the hoist a mere 40 minutes before scrutineering for the event began!
In the end, Mark drew inspiration from the blue Porsche 911 used by Denny ‘The Bear’ Hulme for his 1974 IROC entry.
Inspired by ‘The Bear’
Mark is very fortunate to have a dedicated crew, and every Thursday night it’s ‘crew night’ in Mark’s garage and time to attend to the 911. The car’s 3.2 flat-six engine is still looked after by Motorscience and remains completely stock apart from a mild performance chip, a sports exhaust system, and added cooling for greater reliability. Mark admits that his trusty 911 isn’t the fastest car in Targa, but it’s reliable and, more importantly, tremendous fun to drive.
As the car’s interior had been stripped to facilitate the roll-cage replacement, Mark took the opportunity to give the 911’s cockpit a spruce-up.
Mark would like to take this opportunity to thank Tania Hellier and Lauren Thatcher-Edley for their support and forgiveness, Paul and Richard McCarthy (Plastics Constructions) for their help and guidance at every turn, as well as Jonathan Maitland (Blomfield Signs), Peter Booth (Motorscience), Greig McSporran (Profile Autobody), Kayne Irwin (Platinum Wheels), and Chris Petch (Racer Products)
After a successful Targa Bambina, the next stage for Mark was to focus his attention on tidying up the Porsche’s exterior panels. The work included repairing over 14 years’ worth of racing-related scrapes, bruises, and repairs. The sunroof was removed and a new bonnet was fitted, along with Perspex rear and rear three-quarter windows.
Mark also wanted to freshen up the 911 with the addition of new livery, but without reverting to something like the more standard Martini or Gulf style — instead, he wanted something that emphasized the Porsche’s classic styling and also gave the car a New Zealand flavour. In the end, Mark drew inspiration from the blue Porsche 911 used by Denny ‘The Bear’ Hulme for his 1974 IROC entry.
Mark’s Porsche rolled out of the paint shop only days before our photo shoot, and we were extremely grateful for his efforts to have it ready in time to be included in this special Targa New Zealand edition.
With such a significant investment in the car, Mark has been asked if he intends moving into a more modern Porsche such as a GT3 — his answer is a quite definite no! He loves classic cars and the Targa classic field and the people who enter the category — and that’s because they all race and drive their great cars the way they were meant to be driven and get to do it with a bunch of good mates and other likeminded enthusiasts. We couldn’t agree more.