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.
Targa Newfoundland is a rare experience that anyone with a motorsports background should to try at least once . How rare is it? With only 35 cars competing in this event, more people will climb to the peak of Mt. Everest this week than will compete in a Targa race.
To finish first in Targa Newfoundland, first you must finish. On average, 30 per cent of cars that enter Targa on Monday aren’t there on Friday to Friday to finish. There are 1800 km of winding Newfoundland roads to navigate, with 40 stages of competition in five days. . It is a test of man, machinery and resolve . By day five, all the cars, drivers and co-drivers have been through a lot, with supplies of duct tape and zip ties running short – and tempers too.
Targa is a test of stamina, equipment and driver. Day five is the endurance part of the journey.
Everyone showed up to the first stage with different strategies. Some have been pacing themselves and planed to push their equipment and skill to the absolute limit. Some limped damaged cars through the course, just trying to survive to the final leg.
North West Brook was the first stage of the day and first thing in the morning. The course correction for the day show that 8 km has been taken off the start of the stage, meaning 8 km need to be removed from my course notes. Cutting time off routes meant math needed to be done. As a writer, I did what I usually do when it comes to solving math problems – I found someone smarter than me and copied their notes.
After Hodges Cove we had a one-hour transition to the next stages. The race suit came off and I spent that glorious hour strapped to a race seat in my underpants. I’ve worn this race suit every day for the last five days, so the less I wear it the better I feel.
The Fresh Water stages were after that. It’s an amazing town stage. First time through we hit the bridge a little harder than planned and Targa Truck took a short flying lesson.
En route to Brigus the transmission started to whine and crank. We limped our way to the service centre and tried to figure out what it was, feeling gutted we might not make it to the final stages this late in the game. A bolt holding the differential gear onto the driveshaft had backed out. In 20 minutes of mad panic, we removed the axle, tightened the bold and reattached everything before heading on to the last two stages with a minute to spare.
The first run through Brigus was amazing. We raced through backyards, side streets and neighbourhoods. First pass through, in the chicane Targa Truck’s rear end got loose and we almost landed in a nice lady’s living room. The second run through was better. We raced through the finish, getting high fives and thumbs up everywhere.
Before driving back to St. John’s for the ceremony and dinner we drove through the last stage to find our skid marks through the chicane. It was hard to believe we raced through these narrow streets.
Newfoundland is a rough land sculpted by rocks, wind, trees and ocean. It’s a harsh climate, the weather changes constantly, but it hasn’t hardened the people living there. They welcomed us , and make us feel part of their family. They let us tear up their streets , then asked us to come back next year. Amazing.
Targa Truck not only stayed together for the whole five days of competition, it also finished second place in classic and we plated – meaning we hit assigned numbers for every course. And we did it our first time out in the first truck to run in Targa Newfoundland.