Soldier On
Soldier On. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Paul Williams

If you’re following this year’s Targa Newfoundland car rally in September, pay special attention to the silver Acura TL, car number 817. Its driver and co-driver are Master Corporal Jody Mitic and Corporal Andrew Knisley, disabled veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

Mitic and Knisley are committed to raise money for the “Soldier On” fund, which is a trust fund established by Canadian Forces to assist injured soldiers through programs of fitness and sports.

Both Mitic, of Brampton, Ontario, and Knisley, from London, Ontario, received devastating injuries in combat, and wear prosthetic lower limbs. Knisley also suffered significant nerve damage in his right arm and hand.

Soldier On
Soldier On
Soldier On. Click image to enlarge

The two heard about the annual Targa Newfoundland and thought it would be a good way to showcase and raise funds for “Soldier On.” They figured that their own disabilities wouldn’t prevent participation in the event, which would also be a good example for others in similar circumstances. However, raising the registration fee to enter the rally, their inexperience as rally drivers, and the lack of a car to drive would pose some challenges.

But soldiering on is what they do, which is where Major-General (retired) Lewis Mackenzie, a keen rallyist and regular participant in Targa Newfoundland, enters the story. He was approached by Mitic and Knisley for advice on how to go about putting their plan in place.

“Within 10 minutes,” relates Major-General Mackenzie, “I was the team manager. How can you not get inspired by this?”

Mackenzie enlisted Nigel Mortimer, retired Transport Canada executive and winner of his category in the 2004 Targa Newfoundland, for engineering support, and the two of them got on the phone to friends, colleagues and associates in an effort to get the two soldiers prepared.

For a start, Targa Newfoundland quickly stepped up and waived registration fees. And the Motorsports Club of Ottawa — many members of which have competed at the Targa and numerous other races — is providing driving instruction at Calabogie Motorsports Park, just north of Ottawa.

But they still didn’t have a car…

Soldier On
Soldier On. Click image to enlarge

At this point, Honda Canada was approached to see if it would be interested in supplying a vehicle.

Says Richard Jacobs, Public Relations Manager for Honda Canada, “The decision took one hour to make, from the time I was asked, to the time Executive Vice President Jerry Chenkin was consulted, up to the President’s office for final approval, and back down to me to respond in the affirmative. We all thought it was a no-brainer.”

Several other suppliers have contributed to the initiative, providing wheels, tires, timing components, and a roll cage for the vehicle, which otherwise is a showroom stock Acura TL with all-wheel drive.

“Maybe it’s a little heavy for a rally car,” conceded Mr. Jacobs, “But these are big guys… a little Civic wouldn’t do!” Canada’s Acura dealers supplied the 305-horsepower TL which is equipped with paddle-shifters that obviate the need for a foot-operated clutch.

Master Corporal Mitic and Corporal Knisley hope to raise $150,000 for the “Soldier On” fund. Donations can be made at the website by clicking on “Donate to soldier on fund,” and writing “Targa” in the fundraising activity box.

A Facebook page and blog will launch before the event, and the rally, which runs September 11-18, 2010, can be followed at

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