Originally published September 28, 2015 on autoTRADER.ca
St. John’s, Newfoundland – Targa Newfoundland is a week-long rally on the public roads of the friendliest province in Canada. It is a demanding rally, covering over 1,600 kilometres of roads traversing the province through various small towns and communities; the roads are closed and the Targa cars blast through the stages as fast as they possibly can. The premise of a rally is to complete a stage in a faster time than assigned by the rally master for your class of vehicle. Penalty points are awarded to teams that fail to finish a stage within the scheduled time, the premise being the team with the least amount of points by week’s end wins the rally.
Although the official rally is six days (five competitive days plus a practice/prologue day), my adventure was much longer, a full 14 days away from home as we drove from Ottawa to St. John’s and back. Our team was small and consisted of one 1967 CAV GT40 – a near exact replica of the 1967 Ford GT that was a four-time Le Mans winner in 1966, ‘67, ‘68 and ‘69 – our crew chief and head mechanic Christian (Freak) Lalande, driver and car owner Mark McDonald and myself, James Bergeron, as Navigator.
When we arrived in St. John’s and unloaded the GT40, we discovered a problem with the car and it set the tone for the following week as the adventure of the GT40 at Targa Newfoundland unfolded. The rough roads on the journey down seemed to have done some damage to the electrical cut-off switch in the car. As we turned the switch, sometimes the car would start, sometimes it would not – it was a little worrisome as the week would be grueling and to arrive and already have problems was not the warm fuzzy feeling we wanted to have as we prepared for a long week ahead.
Day 0: Registration and Odometer check
Saturday, September 12th – We moved into the Jack Byrne arena in St. John’s, our car was tech inspected with only some minor changes required (tow hook and new belts) and we were confident we could get out and do an odometer check to ensure that our rally computer was in sync with the rally master’s odometer. By 3 pm we were ready to go out and check that odometer and Mark and I were out on the road for our first ride as official Targa Newfoundland competitors for 2015.
We hopped into the GT40 and were ready to go… but it wouldn’t start – no spark. After fiddling with the power cut-off switch for a few minutes she fired up and we headed out of the parking lot. It was then that I noticed that our odometer was no longer working. Oh great, this is not a good start, we had problems with this before we left Ottawa but thought we had solved them. After about 20 minutes of debug and repair we were up and ready to go for our odometer check and off we went down the Trans-Canada highway for a short 20-km loop before returning back to the arena. Halfway back, the car started to sputter and die; we assumed it was the electrical switch and pulled off the highway and played with it for awhile. After a few minutes I commented that the fuel pumps didn’t sound quite right, perhaps we ran out of fuel? An embarrassing moment in our adventure, but now we knew that when the fuel gauge says half a tank it’s really actually empty – good to know….