Targa Newfoundland is part street race, part rally race, part insanity. It's a five-day event that begins and ends in St. John's, with competitors racing through 40 stages and three prologues in small communities in eastern Newfoundland.
In the 13th year of Targa Newfoundland, competitor Miles Markovic is writing a daily journal for The Globe and Mail as he and teammate Mark Bovey take on the race in a pickup truck. Photos by Harshad Patil.
The thing to remember about Targa racing is, you don’t win it on the first day. It’s a five-day race. Yesterday marked Leg Three and I woke at the crack of dawn feeling like a bag of bricks. Well, at least until I put my helmet on. Who needs coffee when you have Targa Truck?
Every stage is an adventure in terms of the people you meet, the atmosphere, even the weather changes. The weather in one stage isn’t always the weather you get on the next.
For Charleston and Sweet Bay, the first two stages, the air was crisp and cool. We lined up behind the Porsche, the cute little carrot at the end of a stick for our angry mule to chase. Sure enough we caught and passed him on one of the straights, despite its 30-second lead. The 427 LSX motor has a way of making quick work of straight-line passes. Potholes were the worst part of these two stages; the guy in the little red Miata was afraid of falling into one.
When cars are sent off the line, marshalls radio-up the car and the number like, “Car 86, on track.” For us they say, “Truck six is on track.” A fellow competitor came by with an awesome present -- a lobster trap. We put it into the bed of truck, took pictures, then asked a marshall to carry it back to the arena so we could put it in the bed for the car show later that night. Kids asked to sit in the truck, others climbed into the bed for pictures. People honk their horns and take pictures when we’re filling up for gas in a rare station that carries premium fuel.
The next stage, Trinity, was super short, but what a memorable 3.39 kilometres. Picturesque Trinity is an old, tightly-packed fishing village where tourists buy hand-crafted art and home-made jams. With roads barely wide enough to drive through, Targa tore through like Godzilla with its tail on fire.
I had four pages of notes about this short stage and barely enough time to say, “Hard left!” when, there it was. Mark was in his element though. He threw that tail around all the twisty bits, giggling like a school kid with tickets to a Justin Bieber concert. One hairpin turn was so tight, it looked like we would need a three-point turn but no, with a skillful jab at the ‘go’ pedal the V-8 kicked the back end around. He kicked it out again in an alley so tight, I don’t think we could have opened the doors.
They served lunch in the parish hall. The table was filled with an amazing spread of desserts, from key lime pie to chocolate cakes to the awesome Oreo cookie pudding. We left with two stuffed lobsters from the gift shop and zip-tied one to the tow hook, put the other on the roll cage.
Goose Cover and Bonaventure were next and close by. It had some spectacular drops; in places the truck felt light without leaving the ground. When we stayed away from potholes and big bumps were did well catching up to other competitors.
We did Port Rexton, the last stage, twice. Some bumpy bits had the potential to break something but thankfully the notes were bang on. We managed to pass the Porsche and the day ended with us cementing second place in our division [of four]. The Rogers/Strupp Mustang seems uncatchable right now with only two days of completion left.
Leg three of competition was lobster-themed. Targa organizers called Mark’s technique today “Driving with lobster eyes,” in which a driver uses one eye to look down the road and the other to monitor obstacles to absorb the entire environment and react instantly . Mark managed to hold his line, avoid damaging bumps and put down fast times.
With a roll cage, the truck’s sun visors are removed. We left in the morning driving into the sun and on the route back to the Clarenville Events Centre at the end of the day, we drove into the sun again. Racing is about improvising, so up goes a balaclava tucked into the cage: Targa Truck 1, the sun 0.
At the Events Centre, Targa Truck was treated to a bath. to remove brake dust caked onto the rims. We pampered it with fresh oil and a full brake fluid flush before calling it a night. Today she turned 200,000 kilometres. We’re thinking of buying a cake to celebrate.