September 17, 2003
Report from Targa Newfoundland
By Paul Williams
Paul Williams with the Mini Cooper S. Behind is the John Cooper Works modified Mini with Jim Kenzie at the wheel.
Gander, NF – The Targa Newfoundland began its competition stages today in St. John’s, with a field of 60 cars competing in the five-day, 2200 km road rally.
Monday’s seven stages (and the eight transits connecting them) covered 438 km and introduced drivers and navigators to spectacular scenery around Newfoundland’s Conception Bay, and challenging roads in the area.
In the rally stages, towns like St. Philips and Seal Cove were completely closed to public traffic as the rally cars sped through. Arguably the most interesting stage was in Bay Roberts, where over 12 km of the town’s narrow streets, winding lanes and back roads were transformed into a fast-paced, closed circuit.
Spectators lined the roads cheering on their favourite teams all along the rally route.
Monday’s Prologue casualties, a 1965 Ford Mustang fastback and a 1939 Jaguar replica were both repaired, and able to participate in Tuesday’s stages. Vehicle casualties on Tuesday included a Cobra replica and a modified Honda Civic, both of which succumbed to the twists and turns of the route. Unfortunately the occupants of the Honda Civic required medical attention, prompting a driver’s meeting early Wednesday as a response to the crashes.
At the end of the day, several competitors, especially those running older vehicles were seen making repairs. Among others, the Austin Healey, Porsche 944 and Volvo 142 required mechanical attention.
The Mini Cooper S, co-driven by CanadianDriver’s Paul Williams and the National Post’s Brian Harper completed its stages without incident. The second factory Mini, a John Cooper Works modified car driven by journalists Jim Kenzie and Gabriel Gelinas, also ran without incident. The drivers felt that the car could easily exceed the 200 km/h Targa limit and were careful not to be penalized for this.
Wednesday sees the rally becoming more challenging as the route passes through Leading Tickles, Botwood and Norris Arm. The weather continues to surprise, with sunny days and temperatures in the high twenties.
Newfoundland residents insist that this is normal for the island.