Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002

Scott Giannou's Porsche 911
Scott Giannou's Porsche 911 before the start.
I can't remember the last time I've had so much fun... and the Targa Newfoundland rally hasn't even begun yet!

As with any new event, there seems to have been a wait and see attitude among potential competitors. There are only 25 teams entered for the Targa stages, consisting of 35 stages over five days of rallying, all on paved roads. An additional 11 teams will run the closed roads as a TSD rally, getting to experience the driving pleasure at a sedate speed. In all the course is 2200 kilometers long, with 450 km. of stages!

But there are several teams from Australia who are veterans of Targa Tasmania, the event that Targa Newfoundland is patterned after. Jerry Churchill is here with his One Lap of America Dodge Viper. There is a 1938 Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia Spyder, the only Historic category car on the list. Just over half the entries for the Targa Stages are in the Classic category, up to 1977; several Ford Falcons and Mustangs, Porsches, Volvos and a 1967 Acadian Canso (the Canadian version of the Chevy II Nova). Among the Modern cars is one with true rally history, Taisto Heinonen's 1982 Toyota Celica, driven here by Ralph and Diane Grant.

Pre-Targa prep at Mile One Stadium Organizers have not gone into this lightly. They have the backing of the Provincial government and a long list of sponsors. Over the past few weeks they have trained 1800 volunteers about how to work a rally. That is no misprint... 1800 volunteers! It has been a very long time since there has been motorsports on The Rock and the residents want to be a part of the action.

Friday and Saturday were arrival and registration days. Most of the cars were scheduled to arrive on the overnight ferry from Nova Scotia, in time for registration on Saturday morning. However, Hurricane Gustav postponed the ferry for about 12 hours, so the bulk of the cars did not arrive until late Saturday. There was some scrambling to get through registration and tech inspection so teams could participate in the welcoming reception thrown by the host city of St. John's. Lots of local delicacies among the hors d'oeuvres... ever tried Cod Tongue?

Sunday was the first competition, though not really part of the overall competition. Called "Demonstration", it was a 1.8 km. stage around the Confederation Building. Several streets were closed off, the local Police did a pre-opening sweep of the course, then the assembled 36 teams took a couple of laps of the course. Each driver had to complete five runs of the autocross-style course to demonstrate to the officials that they were competent to run the rally.

Mark Williams works on his Ford Falcon Rally SprintFive-time Canadian Rally Champion Tom McGeer left them wondering when he slid co-driver Mark Williams' beautifully prepared 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint wide at the finish line, hit a curb and put the car up on two wheels. That ended the McGeer/Williams effort for the day, but hopefully not the rally. The body damage was minimal, but a rumored broken rear axle could keep the team up very late making repairs.

Jud Buchanan's Acadian Canso Demonstration
Jud Buchanan's Acadian Canso The crowd mills prior to the Demonstration
There were no other incidents, and the remaining cars made it back to Mile One Stadium for some TLC and close-up viewing by the public. Most were bathed then locked up for the night, while others were given some last minute attention.

Organizers had scheduled a barbecue at a local restaurant, just one more item on the seemingly full schedule for the rally competitors and workers.

Action really begins on Monday with the Prologue stages. Results on these two stages will help organizers seed the drivers based on their ability. The first is 8.95 km, the second 6.77 km. In between is a two hour lunch break at Beachy Cove School.


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