Targa Newfoundland 2010

We’re back! Ed Millman, Suzanne and I are currently in St. John’s Newfoundland preparing for the upcoming Targa event that starts this Sunday. I will try to update this blog each evening as the event unfolds so for those that are interested, click on this story to follow our progress through what we now affectionately refer to as “The Ironman of Motorsports”.

Willy 2009

First a note about daily results. Like last year, the best page on the TargaNewfoundland.com website for current results is at Targa Newfoundland Results

…and a bit of history since last year’s event. After a winter of rebuilding Willy’s motor from the catastrophic meltdown on Day 2 of last year’s event along with myriad minor tweaks resulting from the lessons learned during that event, we loaded Willy on a train in Vancouver, BC about a month ago for his journey to Newfoundland. …no, this year there wasn’t a cross-country journey with “The Enterprise” (our motorhome) hauling the trailer – a full month away from home and 9000+ miles was enough – instead we opted to ship the car by train/truck and ourselves by Air Canada.

We picked up the car on Thursday and spent the day prepping, plotting and planning. Tomorrow, Friday, Ed and I will do some practicing and make sure Willy is fully sorted. Saturday is registration and tech day and Sunday, the event begins.

Weather right now looks like a mix of showers and sunshine. …however, this is Newfoundland, so the forecast changes daily. Ed and I both hoping for rain on at least 2 of the 5 days as this could help us quite a bit with the competition. …we’ll see…

The rules have changed quite a bit this year and there are now three main divisions – classic, modern and open. This should help eliminate the noise a lot of competitors were making about bias in the handicapping. For those that want more details on this years rules, please visit: Targa Newfoundland Rules and click on the link there.

Sunday – Prologue

Today was prologue day and it was a wet and very windy! Just how I like it! We started off with a driver’s meeting and the obligatory breathalizer test. The Remax center on Day 1:

Targa 2010 - ReMax Center

And Ed and I before the action:

Targa 2010 - Sunday Prologue

Around noon, we fired up and headed down to the waterfront in St John’s where they have the start/finish line right outside The Keg restaurant. We were queued up behind last year’s winners Adrienne Hughes and Roy Hopkins who this year have been handed the keys to a 1971 Dodge Dart sponsored by the factory – quite a departure from Woodstock – the 1969 BMW 2002 that they have been running previously in Targa (and winning). Right before the start:

Targa 2010 Start

From the start we headed up to the first stage of the event called “Flatrock” – a coastal village near St John’s. This stage will not count for points, but is kind of a “warm up” for the event. It was cold, windy and rainy and the now infamous “Suburu Corner” that has claimed – well – a lot of Suburu’s in the past got a vintage Camaro this year that spun and hit the wall (not much damage). So the record and mythology of this first stage remains unbroken.

After this stage, we had lunch at a local elementary school, a “meet and greet” at another spot in Flatrock and then back to the “Confederate Building” near the ReMax center for some laps around an untimed circuit for final practice before the event. Willy performed great and we did well today – although it didn’t count.

Tomorrow will is a big day and we have a 5:30 AM wake up call so we can check out of the Holiday Inn here in St John’s and head up to Gander. We start our transit at 7:30 AM to our first stage 56 kilometers from here. …and weather is looking very soggy and windy. Great!

Monday – Day 1

Our first day of 8 stages began a bit soggy. As I have said many times, this is actually what we like and helps our type of car and suits my abilities. We sailed through the first several stages with some good margins below the “targa times” and “zero’d” the stages (i.e. no penalties – the ultimate goal).

The third stage was scrubbed due to a timing issue and the fourth stage was pretty amazing and a new one this year – a run into Southern Harbour and back out. During this stage a 1971 Datsun 240Z in our class went off in a dramatic way. He took out some type of water tank. We’re not sure if he’ll be back but thankfully the driver and his co-driver are OK. A Suburu also had an off but should be back tomorrow. All this happened in front of us so we’ll be interested in seeing the in-car video as time allows.

Another car in our class in a Ford Escort Mk 1 had a problem with a tire that eventually came off the wheel in the 7th stage. After trying to run on the rim to finish the short stage, the wheel came apart and he was forced to stop. Tough luck for Paul and Carroll. We really like them and they had a pretty good shot this year. …but this is just day 1 – a lot more can happen.

Ed and I finished with no penalties and at the top of our classic division – but again, it’s early.

Check the Targa Newfoundland website for results if interested.

No time for pictures right now but will try to get a few up tomorrow.

Tuesday – Day 2

It’s almost midnight and we have been up since 5 AM. We have a early wake up call, so this post will be brief. We stayed “clean” all day long until the last few stages of the day in Gander where most take points. We knew we would take some points here but a drama unfolded with an alternator issue that kept Ed and I hopping on our last transit to Gander after a very successful day. We had planned a fuel stop in Gander but the emergency issue kept us busy and we were able to find some help just minutes before the Gander stage – however – the unplanned “issue” distracted us from getting fuel. We made the first Gander stage within minutes. As we ran this “in-town” stage, we started missing on critical straights and were slowed to a crawl in sections as the fuel starved motor coughed and tried to keep up. ….we took 16 seconds as a result. We had to queue up afterwards but deviated, found a few liters of fuel, and made it to the second Gander stage – ran with just 8 seconds penalty (about where we expected) and finished out our day.

A few days later, we found this on YouTube taken during one of the Gander stages:

We are still in the top 3 in our division (I think – the results have not been posted) but we’re left with a very positive feeling about making it through a day that we did not make last year due to our blown engine. …in fact, another competitor in our division did have a blown engine and their week is most likely over. …something we know a lot about…. We are still in it and still running. We took a few points, but some savvy footwork on our part has kept us in the running. …there is a lot more to report, but that will need to be left for later when we actually have some time to write about it.

In the meantime, Wednesday and a 5 AM wake up call if fast approaching. A lot can happen in a day here.

Wednesday – Day 3

We made it! …through Day 3…. Yes, apologies are in order – no pictures – yet. But to those who have been here, you get it. For those that haven’t, suffice it to say that besides the 5 – 6 hours of sleep we get, every minute is preperation, transiting, racing, waiting, racing, waiting, transiting, etc. etc. etc. Our days are full! Right now, I need sleep – but wanted to post a brief note that we are alive, Willy is still running (albeit tired, wrung hard and put away wet, and sometimes needing a little more TLC then we can give him).

We are in Clarenville and celebrating the fact that we may not be winning our class, but far ahead of expectations. We had 9 stages of amazing stuff today. We took a few points – but far less then anticipated. There are two days left and this is when the competition really begins. Many cars in our class are out. …either crashed out or mechanicals. It’s down to a Camaro, a 911 and ourselves surviving in 3rd place. We had no grand illusions of winning this, but our goal of a Targa plate are looking good. …just two more days…

Today’s highlights were a Suburu that crashed into a house, sheared their foundation, and ended up holding up the house with their roll cage. The owners are away – what a surprise when they return!  A comptitor tries to help out: 

Suburu Day Over

…yeah, he was just messing around and looking for a Kodak moment – a classic!  Of course the homeowner will be fully compensated.  …but the day is over for these guys.

Roy and Adrienne in their Dodge had an off and they bent their frame substantially, but after some creative work by Glen and his crew at Open Road Motorsports, they are back on the road. Another interesting note was our 29 K run to Gooseberry Cove. A “local” in a Neon decided he was going to race in our event and somehow ended up on course (behind us) and had some fun with a few Targa cars. ….he then disappeared and the run back was scrubbed. …I have to admit, I was impressed with this guy’s creativity in getting on course and “playing with the big boys” – after which he just vanished. We managed to beat this stage with just seconds and Willy saw 184 KPH during one long stretch – no, not a straight stretch – nothing is straight here – but I just kept my foot in it and trusted Ed’s calls on countless blind crests – and our momentum built. Hairy, somewhat “crazy”, a horrible road that bounced us side to side within inches of gravel, rocks, trees and other obstacles – but that’s Targa! You want a real experience of driving at the limits on real roads with major elevation changes, off camber corners and distractions we just don’t see in our “safe” world of road racing? Come out here! It’s an experience I will savor and relive for years.

So – again – pictures coming. But thought I would share the fact that we are alive, in the “hunt” for at least a podium finish – and frankly, just having the time of our lives. …now for some much needed sleep.

Thursday – Day 4

This morning was an early start and we would be departing Clarenville and eventually ending up in Marystown 12 hours later. One of the longest days in the event and mechianical issues are keeping service crews up until the wee hours.

We started out with a run into Boat Harbour – a fast long stretch of road ending in yet another beautiful harbor town. The weather was decent although showers were predicted. Ed and I had a great run this stage and had 30 seconds “in the bank” (ahead of targa time) a few clicks from the finish when the engine noise started to increase. Within a few seconds the noise was deafening and we knew we had lost our exhaust. We carried on to the finish and looked under the car to discover that a weld on the header after the collector had failed.

This is where Ed’s mechanical skills come into play. Within 15 minutes he had a 6′ section of exhaust that was dragging on the road out and in the trunk. We secured it and started talking about how we would survive Targa with a noise that may prevent me from hearing his instructions in the car during a stage.

As we worked through the next few stages, our competitors gave us the “nosiest car of the field” award and all eyes seemed to turn towards our car wherever we were. Kind of funny if it weren’t for the carbon monoxide spewing into the car making Ed and I sick – especially during the 30 – 45 minute transits in-between stages. We appreciated the vents I had installed in the roof prior to painting Willy a few years back. Wide open, they shoved a great deal of air into the car and it was the difference between making the day and not.

We had some great stages today and quite a few town stages in Marystown, Garnish and Fortune. We were beating our expectations on times despite our communication issues. Ed and really bonded as a team today as we worked through a very difficult problems.

Some in-car video from Marystown – although Ed’s instructions are clear in the video, I heard only about 50% of it due to the noise:

I was really looking forward to the second to the last stage – Frenchman’s Cover. This is the stage Fish and I saw a few years back that had committed me to the event. It includes challenging twisty and fast roads, into one of the most difficult in-town sections in the event (besides one on Friday) and back onto another fast twisty section to the finish. We were still solidly in third place and we knew that we would get the exhaust fixed tonight – so all would be good tomorrow.

About 5 kilometers into the stage doing about 165 KPH I smelled something and Ed yelled “OIL!”. I looked down to see that the floorboard was covered in oil and immediately shut down the engine. We coasted to a safe spot off the road, jumped out to display the “OK” sign to the next car, put out our triangles and went to work seeing if we could fix whatever just happened.

As it turns out, we had installed an Acusump over the winter and a fitting that is part of the plumbing routing the oil to the acusump behind Ed’s seat had failed. It was a 90 degree ANS fitting mounted above my pedals and pointing Ed’s direction. The braided hose had simply been pushed out and we lost about 4 quarts of oil within seconds before shutting down that made a mess of everything in the front of the car. Our shoes and legs of our racing outfits were soaked. It was going to be a long clean up.

We were both incredibly disappointed as we were now a DNF on the stage with little hope of making the next stage. Our crew found us after the stage and we improvised a fix where we plugged up the hose from the engine to the acusump (an old school fix using a bolt and a clamp to cap the hose). We put in about 4 quarts of oil and thankfully the motor started immediately and sounded fine. We transited to Marystown.

Tonight, our crew will be fixing the exhaust, cleaning up the interior and working on myriad other little things to keep Willy on the road Friday. It will be a long night for them.

For our competitors, there was mechanical carnage with many other cars as well. One local in a 911 hit a fire hydrant in a town stage so our crew helped him fit a wrong sized radiator to the car to get him through the rest of the event. Another local car lost an engine. …and there were many others with broken suspension parts – and other issues. It was a mad scramble in Marystown with what seemed like half the field of cars up on jacks. Have I mentioned Targa is tough on cars?

Friday – Day 5

Our final day in the event and Willy is back together! Today would be only 6 stages with lots of transit time ending at the finish line in St John’s. We headed to the first stage of the day called “Little Bay East”. Our strategy today was to keep the car running and short shift (shift earlier to keep the revs down) to minimize any motor issues that might crop up from the oil starvation yesterday.

The stage is yet another twisty series of road around a bay with some deviations through a few little burgs to keep things interesting. It was a long one – 26 Kilometers. There were many elevation changes and lots of blind crest. Interesting, challenging and difficult – just another stage in Targa! About two clicks from the end of the stage the motor started losing power and getting “off song”. I looked at the oil pressure gauge and knew we were in trouble as it was slowly creeping to zero. Targa was over for us.

We pulled off the road and went through the now familiar routine of displaying our “OK” sign, setting up triangles, etc. We caught a ride into the town at the end of the road with the sweep vehicle since the next stage would be going the opposite direction. Our crew wouldn’t be there since it was a “dead-end turn around stage” so we would have to wait until the next stage back out was over to get to them and come up with a plan on how to tow Willy back to St. John’s.

As a side-note, on the way out, a touring car Miata had rolled off a corner. The drivers were OK, but there car was totalled. A sad way to go out on the last day.

When we got back to the start finish line (basically next to a gas station at an intersection in a very small town. We started working out a solution for how we would get Willy to St John’s. This is a long story I’ll expound on later, but as we learned that the only flatbed truck around was busy and that the closest trailer was at a U-Haul place 2 hours away, I started asking some locals if they knew of anyone that had some type of trailer. Amazingly one couple watching the event said that “yeah, there’s one right over there” (pointing to an empty field). We walk around to the field and there is a beautiful open trailer. He drove over to the owners house, found him, asked if we could rent it and came back to say that he would not rent it – but would tow our car to St John’s. …it just happened to be his day off, he had a great truck and trailer and his rate was half of what the tow companies would charge. …oh yeah – and he could be ready to go in 15 minutes. …only in Newfoundland!

We had caught Suzanne on her mobile 15 minutes earlier and she was only 20 minutes away – so when she showed up with our van we headed back to Little Bay East to pick up Willy with our new best friends Andrew and Chester.

We made it back to St. John’s an hour before the finish. Andrew had agreed that he would meet us down at the pier where the finish line was. He would drive Willy with Ed and I on the trailer through the finish line and then drop the car off at the Holiday Inn. These guys were awesome!

The other good news is that to be a “finisher” in Targa you must complete 75% of the event. Since today was only 6 stages and the other four days had 8 – 9 stages, we had actually completed 80% of the events. So we paraded across the line, got our finishers medallions and the party began.

Our run across the finish line:

Targa 2010 - Friday at Finish


Targa 2010 Finish Line


Ed and I with our well deserved hardware:

Ed and Jack Medals

My wife Suzanne was a real trooper and very much a part of the team.  We couldn’t have done this event without her.  She put together her own account of Targa with a lot of photos and it can be found by clicking here: Targa Newfoundland 2010 – Suzanne’s Perspective

Finally, I would like to share some letters that were delivered to me from Sandy Grade School in Sandy, Oregon. Mrs. Vermaas’ 1st grade and Mrs. Espenel’s 5th grade classes were following our adventure and several of the students had questions and sent us invitations to come speak at their school. Although logistically this will be a challenge, I will be trying to answer some of their questions via email. Their letters are priceless and I have scanned them for those interested in taking a look. See: Sandy Grade School Letters

17 comments to Targa Newfoundland 2010

  • Sue Calvert

    GO WILLY!!!

    Ed – There will be a Group B car (and some others) at Maryhill for sure.

  • Fish

    Nice to see the blog up and running. I’m guessing the wifi is working in the lounge.

  • Sue Calvert

    Congratulations on a great Day One!

  • Jaon

    I’m counting on you guys, put a BMW on the podium! (No pressure). Wish Bert, Rick, and I were there this year! Keep up the clean driving.

  • Mike & Gretchen Jones

    Hey, we’re with you guys all the way. Go Willy!!
    (See you at Maryhill?)

  • Jason

    Sorry, typo. That last message was from Jason, but I’m sure you figured that out.

  • Arthur

    Keeping our fingers crossed! Good work.
    All the Best, A

  • Lesley Vermaas

    Mrs. Vermaas’ 1st grade and Mrs. Espenel’s 5th grade at Sandy Grade School have been following Targa Newfoundland and your blog everyday:) we are cheering for you! Good luck and go fast!!
    We have lots of questions for you and can’t wait to see some video footage:)

  • Marla

    Hey guys,
    It was nice to meet you guys the other night in Gander.
    Good luck and be safe. Love the Blog on your adventure.


  • Lesley Vermaas

    Mrs. Vermaas’ 1st grade and Mrs. Espenel’s 5th grade class at Sandy Grade School are tracking you everyday!! We are reading your blog tracking Targa Newfoundland and enjoying Suzanne’s e-mails:)
    We want you to know we are with you in spirit and hope all goes well:) Good luck and go man go!
    We have lots of questions for you when you return!

  • Fish

    How’s he doing? I heard – not literally (almost) from here – that Willy has a cracked header. By the way… looking at the web address, what’s a Flyin Grubber? <(

  • Ches

    glad we could help u guys out and get u across the finish line.

  • Hi, really enjoyed your blog during 2010 event. Maybe the most complete news available and I live in St. John’s! It was fascinating hearing of your trials and tribulations. Love the 02, used to own a 73 tii when I was in vancouver and have been following the 02’s in Targa since the beginning. Great shot of your car with the fans in the background on the TNL facebook page.

    See you next year. James.

  • Mike

    Way cool Thanks a lot for sharing As a long time 02 nut i really enjoyed this Congrats on a great time with a great car

  • David Bever

    Wow!! I feel like I was there with you! Great narration and what an opportunity to be involved in such an event. Good Job and we’ll see you at the Love Shack soon!!

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>