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Leg Five - Saturday, September 21, 2002; Clarenville / Bay Bulls / St. John’s

 

It took them a long time, and they came a long way, but Len and Gayle Cattlin have finally won a Targa event.

The Melbourne Australia residents, long-time contenders in the Targa Tasmania which provided the model for the Targa Newfoundland, drove their fabulously prepared 1967 Ford Mustang fastback to  victory in the “Classic” division (for cars built between 1946 and 1976) of the first-ever Targa Newfoundland.

While there is no official “overall” winner of a Targa rally, the division winner with the fewest penalty points is generally accorded top honours.

John and Andrew Lawson from South Yarra Australia, in the 1938 Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia Spyder, didn’t have a lot of competition in the Historic division - they were the only official entrant. (The 1951 Citroen Traction Avant of Edison Wiltshire was re_classified to Historic because it was built using 1930s technology. Wiltshire, the official chaplain of the Targa Newfoundland, earned the nickname “The Faster Pastor”...)

The Lawsons had to overcome a blown piston in the final stages to get to the finish and take the prize.

It’s yet another of the amazing stories that will continue to come out of this event - any other owner of a monumentally valuable automobile such as this would have put it on the trailer; John and Andrew limped home on five cylinders, risking further internal damage to the oily bits, just to complete the challenge.

The Lawsons, who were at the very top of the leader board most of the week, finished 11th overall.

The Modern division was taken by Bill Arnold and Tammy Hull of San Raphael California in a 1999 BMW M-Coupe. They sat 5th the overall standings at week’s end.

Alan and Carolyn Ryall, of Halton Hills (Georgetown) Ontario - the rally capital of the world, as we shall soon see - took top honours in the Trials (time-and-distance) Division in their Subaru Impreza WRX. It’s hard to beat “zero” in rallying - the Ryalls cleared every single stage.

Other notable results included the second-overall finish (and second in Classic) by Lennox McNeely and Jeremy Hill, both of Toronto. McNeely’s Mustang, a 1965 GT fastback, has also run long-distance rallies in South America, and another than went from Finland to Jordan. (Yes, these people are that crazy...).

Completing an all-‘60s-Ford-V8 podium, finishing third overall and third in Classic, was reigning Canadian performance rally champion Tom McGeer of, yes, Halton Hills (Georgetown) Ontario, driving the 1964 Ford Falcon Rally Sprint belonging to his navigator, Mark Williams, from North Potomac, Maryland, USA.

The Falcon was second going into the final day, but the rear brakes locked up on a corner on the very last stage, one designed primarily to show the cars off to the St. John’s finish line crowd. The engine stalled, and the time they lost allowed the McNeely/Hill Mustang to slip ahead of them by mere seconds.

The brake problem stemmed from the crash the car suffered on the demonstration runs prior to the start of the event, when McGeer spun it into a curb, damaging the rear axle. A replacement was scrounged out of a wrecking yard and hastily stuffed into the car to get it back in the rally, but the car was never totally right from that point on. Only the skill and experience of the McGeer/Williams team allowed them to do as well as they did.

But it also points out the essential fact of a Targa rally - it is a long-distance marathon; a mistake early on can cost you later. You never know until you get to the finish line.

Which, sadly, only the front spoiler of Jack MacDonnell’s lovely 1976 Datsun 280Z did. Navigator Carson Rasmussen blames himself for not getting the “caution call” to Jack in time for the hard right-hander in the final day’s third stage; the car slammed head-first into a steel retaining wall.

The popular MacDonnell was taken to hospital overnight for examination; he will undergo an MRI to ensure there is no nerve damage.

Rasmussen was unhurt, and hand-carried the largest piece of the car he could lift across the finish line. The team was awarded finishing medals, but the Targa Trophy, presented to any car which completes all the Targa (high-speed) stages within prescribed time limits, will have eluded their grasp - this time; both men say they will be back.

So where did the valiant 1971 Volvo 142S of Doug Mepham and yours truly place?

Fourth overall, I’m prouder than I probably should be to say; also, fourth in the Classic division, second in the “Limited Modified” Classic class to the Cattlins. It was also the first non-Ford (Volvo is owned by Ford now; it wasn’t when this car was built), first non-V8, first non-American car, first four cylinder, first under 200 hp...

Oh; did I mention that I live in Halton Hills? That our Volvo was built by the Sprongl brothers, in Halton Hills? And that rallymeister Ross Wood is from nearby Milton, also in the Halton region? Something in the water, you suspect?...

It isn’t often that a car can leap two positions on the final day of a long event like this. Saturday dawned with us in sixth. We inherited one place when the Lawsons’ Alfa lost a lot of time due to its engine woes. The Arnold/Hull BMW, ahead of us at km 0.0 this day,  lost just enough time between there and km 493.55 to allow us to squeeze ahead of them too.

But there are no official overall results, right?

Right...

 

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All the competitors were simply stunned by the hospitality of the people of Newfoundland during this event.

But another story shows that Newfoundland doesn’t have a lock on helping others who are in need.

Jud Buchanan (from guess where? Yes; Halton Hills) blew the clutch on his beautiful 1967 Acadian Canso on Thursday, on the way into Gander.

Buchanan’s car is a custom-built piece; there aren’t many off-the-shelf parts that are going to fit, especially off shelves in Gander Newfoundland.

So the Toronto-based director of the “Show Kids You Care” foundation, a primary sponsor of Buchanan’s effort, fetched himself up on the doorstep of Euro Drive Clutches in Burlington Ontario at 8:00 a.m. Friday morning, waited while they custom-made a clutch assembly for the car, drove to the Toronto airport, and put the bits aboard an Air Canada plane bound (eventually) for Gander. Jud’s crew took them from there, fixed the car, and it completed the run back into St. John’s to gain well-deserved finishing medals for Buchanan and co-driver Peter Wright.

 

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In The Star’s print editions over the past year, I have suggested that if you have a car that is set up for rallying, you must try this event. If you don’t have such a car, get one. For the Trials division, you can run any car you want - there was everything from a 1958 Corvette to a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee in there this year.

If you have never run a rally in your life, you won’t be alone - neither had several of the competitors in this year’s Targa Newfoundland.

Check out www.targanewfoundland.com for information on how to enter.

 

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To the organizers and all their staff; to the literally thousands of volunteers who marshalled and scored the event, and organized meals and entertainment for the travelling circus this event proved to be; to the police, ambulance, fire and paramedic crews who helped keep us safe; to the Canadian Forces who provided invaluable communications assistance in the  boonies; to the local and provincial governments, without whose support this could never have happened; mostly, to the people of Newfoundland, who allowed their communities to be disrupted just so we could have some fun - “Thank You” just doesn’t seem to cover it, but it’s all our language can offer...

 

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Results referred to above are, at time of writing, provisional. For detailed official results, log on to www.rallyscoring.com, click on “Rally Results”, then follow the link to Targa Newfoundland 2002.

 

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