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Globe Drive Targa Newfoundland: Rattling the dishes as we race through towns

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.

Just, wow: Have you ever waltzed with a road before?

Targa Truck continued to take on the cars at Targa Newfoundland.

The day started cool with warming later. The first of eight planned stages, North Harbour, was short and bumpy off the start but smoothed up the further we went into it. Targa Truck roared through, likely rattling the dishes in the houses it past along the way.

They served breakfast at the end of the North Harbour stage in a community centre. This hall is a perfectly-preserved, immaculately-kept time capsule from 1978 – panelled walls, amazing pictures and memorabilia everywhere. It’s doesn’t ‘feel’ authentic because it just is authentic.

Every one serving us thought our name was ‘dear’. “Here’s your eggs, dear.” “Would you like some more coffee, dear?” Can’t remember ever being dear’d so many times. It’s so charming and delightful when they do it, you feel like you’re part of their extended family. I just wanted to hug them all.

After filling our bellies, we turned our cars around and raced through the stage again but in the opposite direction. Now the bumpy bits were on the exit instead of by the start.

The Harbour Mille course was next. So many crests. It felt whenever you crested a hill there was a springboard on the other side trying to throw the truck into the air.

Next, we pit-stopped at a place called Vern’s Toy Shop. It’s less toy shop and more of a man cave for the man who has immaculate taste and a need for everything that is awesome. At every corner there was another perfect example of an amazing piece of automotive history.

Then a 100-kilometre transit to the next stage called Boat Harbour. But before I get into the stage notes, I have to say something about these drives to the stages. Wow. Just wow. The cruise along the Trans-Canada Highway bends and curves and twists. It carves its way through amazing rock formations and still, serene lakes. There are trees that must have grown bent from the wind constantly blowing in the same direction. You turn another corner and there’s the shore, scattered with gorgeous cottages and the ocean as its backdrop. It’s breathtaking.

Back to racing. The Boat Harbour was my favourite stage of the day. The road, epic: long sweeping turns, high-speed sections, dips, crests… it’s like the road has a mind of its own and you’re not entire sure what to expect around the next bend. Just when you think you’ve found a rhythm it switches on you. It’s so playful. Have you ever waltzed with a road before? We did on Boat Harbour.

Petite Forte, the stage back to the starting line was cancelled to save time and we drove like normal people instead of hooligans. It’s amazing what you miss when you’re travelling at 170 km/h. What a stunning drive. When this adventure is all said and done, Mark and I are going to have to watch all Go-Pro videos of the runs to fully appreciate the scenery missed the first time through.

Harbour Mille was the next stage. A couple of dips caught Targa Truck pure in the chin a few times. You feel the front of the truck bottom out and smack its underbelly into the pavement.

We ate lunch at an amazing fire hall, complete with flame decor on the panelled back wall. We ate home roasted turkey and trimmings. The ladies in the kitchen were so delightful; I could have watched them chat, argue and laugh for the rest of the day and would have been perfectly content.

We raced down Harbour Mille in the opposite direction to the Black River stage and Garden Cove. Both stages took their toll on the truck. Just before the finish at Black River the truck bottomed out hard on a steep downhill and dip.

The end of Garden Cove was bumpy and resembled the pitted surface of the moon in places. East Coast weather is harsh and the roads seem to take the brunt of it.

Our tow-hook bolts backed out on the highway and we had to return to pick it up and reinstall it. The front bumper bolts loosened from the hits to the chin. A nut and bolt check after the event proved productive. We tightened down the upper shock mount bolts and an axle U-joint bolt. This truck is tough as nails though.

We tried a few techniques today that really seem to help Targa Truck around the course faster. The Targa Truck is a workhorse of a machine plain and simple. And like any good workhorse, it needs to be told what to do. You cannot beat around the bush with this thing because of the long wheelbase. Light trail braking into corners planted the car front end and kept the wheels down over bumpy turn-ins. Exiting we planted the rear with more aggressive throttle out. By never coasting and constantly moving the weight around we started to squeeze a lot more grip out of our tires.

And the times? They started to fall. We beat the Porsche 911 in five of the seven stages today, moving us up from third to second place in our division. There’s still a Mustang with a very solid lead on us. But today is another day and this is a five-day event. Let’s see what happens.

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