Targa Newfoundland 2017 Recap
It's been a month... [Save draft]
It's now been three months since we raced at the Sweet Sixteen edition of Targa Newfoundland. At lot has happened since then - we've completed our 3-3-30 Plan and, in the process, moved across the Atlantic Ocean start a new job in the UK. While it's very late, hopefully you'll find the recap of Targa Newfoundland 2017 below actually is "better late than never".
I arrived in my home town in western Newfoundland on Tuesday, September 5. That gave me a few days before heading across the island to visit family and help with last minute car preparations. There was a little bit of work to do...
Removal of the roof and doors allowed better access to remove seats and sensitive electronics for proper winter storage. The car also sat on some borrowed wheels so the race rubber could be kept above freezing. While the weight savings would have been nice, those all parts needed to go back. Several hours and an alignment check later, the car was ready for its third Targa!
After a short flight on Thursday, I arrived in St. John's. A few hours later, I returned to the airport to meet my new co-driver... for the first time! Martin Cadieux was recommended by a mutual friend and had prior experience in performance rally. All we needed was his name above the door. Check!
We drove the Prologue stages on Friday to test our communications. I had to learn the numerical system for describing corners: 1 being tight, 6 being nearly straight, Martin was extremely flexible in adapting the timing and pace of delivering instructions until we were both comfortable heading into the race.
Registration and technical inspection were scheduled for Saturday. With all of the maintenance and upgrade work Adam has completed for Mimi, we found ourselves through inspection and twiddling our thumbs before lunch - a welcome change from 2016 when we were braving wind and rain in a parking lot to change fluids, replace brake pads / rotors and install decals.
We took the opportunity to upgrade last year's rain gutters by cutting a groove along the top to better capture the water before it streamed into the cockpit.
The Prologue stages on Sunday were not scored, giving both organizers and competitors time to work the kinks out before racing started on Monday. We faced wet conditions on familiar stages through the communities of Flatrock and Bauline. The goal was simply to continue practicing our communications and keep the car between the ditches. Success!
Here's the last Prologue stage - a short hill-climb that was a challenge for the Miata.
Leg 1 took us from St. John's to Clarenville with stages that had traditionally been held during Leg 5. While target times had been relaxed from the prior year, we still found them to be a little challenging. Fortunately, the damp conditions allowed the extra few seconds to ensure we completed all stages with no time penalty.
We had some slight issues with wind noise and Martin's microphone cutting out in the morning. A not-so-elegant, but reasonably effective solution was found.
There was a "brown shorts" moment later in the afternoon on Stage 6 - that video is below. Maybe you can see the bump at 7:00 before we did?
Leg 2 included a number of long stages - all between 25 to 40 km (15 to 25 miles). These stages allowed for some very high speeds and high average speeds. Targa cars are limited by the rules to a maximum speed of 200 km/hr and an average speed for any stage of 140 km/hr. It was the average speed that caused problems on Stage 5 as we had to crawl through the last few meters to avoid a penalty.
As usual, these stages were extremely well run by the local coordinator, JoAnne Brinston. We had a great turnout from the community in Terranceville. But with the light fading, the last stage of the day had to be transited.
We did have some fun running on one of the fast stages, including playing with a Porsche 911 starting at the 8:50 mark.
Leg 3 started with mixed conditions on two stages in Lethbridge and Brooklyn, each run twice. There was a delayed start due to some local residents expressing their displeasure with our activities. We eventually got to race, but the roads were rougher than we'd experienced so far in the week. We completed without time penalties and kept the car intact going into lunch.
After two scrapped stages, the remaining two afternoon stages were run at George's Brook and Burgoynes Cove. These were longer stages and, unfortunately, not as well controlled as one would have hoped. We faced oncoming public vehicles on both stages, really putting a damper on our fun due to the significant risk involved.
At the 2:00 mark on Stage 7, you'll see what we mean...
Leg 4 was also marred by issues. The morning was supposed to consist of 4 stages in Harbour Grace - two run forward and two in reverse. Again, community residents made it known that we were unwelcome and the permission to run stages was revoked by town council.
The afternoon stages were long delayed, but we did race twice in Carbonear. The stages were fun, but the steep hills were not a good match for our Miata. While no car was able to achieve the target time, our penalties were quite a bit bigger than the 500+ hp Mustang we were racing. We fell 48 seconds behind the leaders on the day.
Here the better of our two runs.
The final day of Targa 2017 started with what are traditionally Leg 1 stages - two laps of the John Curran Memorial and a trip from Marysvale into Turks Gut (which makes a great spot to enjoy the rugged Newfoundland scenery). With no time penalties for us or car #101, we remained 48 seconds off the lead after the morning.
With the stages in Cupids cancelled, we had an extended lunch, which gave us time to help Mimi get her game face on for the final stages in Brigus.
The Brigus stages followed the same layout as previous years - a fast run into town, followed by tight turns between picket fences and rock walls. This stage suited the Miata, and while we were able to take advantage and pick up 6-7 seconds on our rivals for each of the three times we ran the stage, it was only enough to cut our deficit in half.
That secured second in Targa Classic - our best result in three years. We were also extremely proud of posting the second fastest time through the Brigus stage of ANY CAR, including the Open Class. Here's that lap.
Thanks to our crew chief, Adam, for the perfectly prepared car. We completed the week with no mechanical issues. And it was a pleasure to have Martin Cadieux as co-driver for 2017.
We're not sure if / when there's another Targa Newfoundland in our future. It won't be 2018. There are, however, many new adventures to be found in motorsport. More to come!
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Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.