Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Leg Three - Thursday, September 29, 2002; Clarenville / Gander

 

“A clean day!”, said Ross Wood of Milton Ontario, Clerk of the Course (“head referee” to stick-and-ball sport fans).

“No bent sheet metal!”

One of the locally-driven Mustangs did take a wee slide into a ditch, but before the navigator could set up the safety triangles to warn following competitors, the driver gunned it, drove the car out of the ditch, and they continued unscathed.

Some serious mechanicals, however. The massively talented and experienced team of Mark Saxby and Martin Rees had brought their massively fast Porsche 911 Turbo all the way from Tasmania for the Targa Newfoundland. About one-quarter of the way into the final stage of the day through the streets of a residential subdivision of Gander, it pooched its motor - initial diagnosis is a valve dropping onto a piston.

As helpful as Newfoundlanders have been to drivers in distress, there aren’t many spare parts for a car like this in Gander.

In his welcoming address to the Targa, the mayor of Gander joked that the cost of cleaning up the oil spill would be about $5,000. Saxby replied, “You’ve got it, if you’ll pay for my motor...”

This is a huge disappointment, for these guys were one of the clear favourites to win this thing. After dinner, they were partying, albeit somewhat sedately, with the other competitors, sad but unbowed.

We hope they’ll be back next year.

The fabulous 1967 Acadian Canso (I only found out after we returned to the mainland that it is NOT a Pontiac - for a few years in the late-60-s, “Acadian” was a Canada-only,  semi-orphan brand of its own, even though it was sold through Pontiac dealerships) two-door sedan, owned by my 15 Sideroad Halton Hills neighbour Jud Buchanan, a car so pretty and so expertly constructed that no description or photograph can do it justice, suffered a blown clutch disc on the way into town.

“It isn’t a racing clutch or anything,” sighed distraught co-driver Peter Wright, a first-time rallier but, like Buchanan, an outstanding racing driver and driving instructor.

“But it is hardly an off-the-Canadian-Tire-shelf part either.”

As of dinner time, they hadn’t completely given up hope of finding a spare, but they’ll surely miss some driving time tomorrow.

Maybe they can take heart from the news about the wonderful 1951 Citroen Traction Avant (the French gangster car), owned by local chaplain Edison Wiltshire and his wife/navigator Marg-O. They had been fighting overheating problems all week; someone in Gander figured out how to re-core a radiator on a 51-year old French car that had never been imported to Canada, and they’re running cool as a dried cod fillet now.

And the 1971 Volvo 142S, owned and driven by Doug Mepham and “naviguessed” by your obedient servant, finally revealed to us the reasons for its intermittent starting problems.

Inaccurate prescriptions thus far included new battery and by-passed ignition switch; turns out Mepham was right in the first place - it was a dodgy solenoid switch.

At lunch, we asked the magical Teralynn, our “CROW” (nickname for Competitor Relations Officer) if she could find someone who could help. She got on the phone to Gander, and everyone told her, “Go see J and J Enterprises” - that’s Glen Granville’s do-it-all contracting and auto-electric business.

Mechanic Darren Bursey greeted us at the final stop of the day, we whipped out the starter (well, “whipped” is a bit of a stretch...), Darren took it back to the shop, found a new solenoid (for a 1971 VOLVO? In Gander Newfoundland?...), and within an hour, we were back in The Show.

Amazing.

Thank you.

 

***

 

There will not be “A” winner in the Targa Newfoundland. There are four separate-but-equal competitions going on simultaneously here, and each will have its own winner.

The “Modern” cars - later models, generally post-1980; “Classics” - generally, post-war; and “Historic” - pre-WW2 cars - all run high-speed stages, but are scored as separate groups.

There are also “Class” wins to be had within each category - a Kia Rio RX-V can’t be expected to run head-to-head with a BMW M-Coupe.

The Fourth category, the “Trials” event, is open to any car. These competitors drive on exactly the same roads and stages, but they are timed for accuracy, not just speed. Their set times are considerably slower than for the performance categories, and they are penalized for being early or late.

Every one of the eleven Trials cars has its own story. Oakville Ontario’s Terry DaSilva read our piece about the Targa Newfoundland in the Wheels  section last December, and decided his 1980 MGB roadster - bought new, and until now only a “summer” car with 23,000 original kilometres on it - was coming to Newfoundland.

His neighbour Rudolf Stohr, was quick to volunteer to co-drive.

The terminally cheerful DaSilva is a physician, and also an ordained deacon in the Catholic church. If his treatments don’t work, he can still be of assistance...

Was he worried that his pampered little car would be overworked in this event?

Reflecting the motto of this event - “We drive them the way they were meant to be drive” - DaSilva said, “If it’s going to die, let it die in glory!”

So far, it hasn’t missed a beat.

It’s the first-ever rally for both gentlemen, and they are learning quickly. “We think we’re coming in to the check points at the right time according to our calculations,” said Stohr, “but we get penalty points and we’re not entirely sure why!”

Still, they are having the time of their lives.

“Today was our best day,” said DaSilva, a comment echoed by several of the Trials competitors.

“The times were a bit harder to achieve, and it is more satisfying when you have to work harder.”

Getting a little competitive, are we, lads?

“I also have an Opel GT,” said DaSilva. “Next year, we’re going to come back and run in the Classics performance category!”

In answer to that question about competitiveness - “Yes.”

There’s a general rule that there are three things any couple planning on sleeping together should not do together: race sailboats, play bridge, or enter car rallies. Just too much pressure.

Geoff Fowlow and Fay Matthews of Arnold’s Cove Newfoundland are putting a fourteen-year marriage on the line in their 1954 Jaguar XK140 roadster. Judging from the smiles on both their faces, the bond is holding.

“We survived Hershey in the mud,” said Fay, referring to the famous Pennsylvania antique car parts swap meet, “so we can do this!”

“Parts of it are very romantic,” added Geoff. “On right-hand corners, Fay slides right over and peers out the window with me...

“She is also my ‘corner-meter’, letting me know how fast we’re going around a bend. First, her fingers dig into the door trim panel. Then she lifts out of the seat - a combination of G-force and terror.

“At a particular threshold, she becomes an audible warning signal. Yellow Alert is usually, ‘Moses in the garden!’, while Red Alert is, ‘OMJ!’ “

(For ‘Come From Aways’, that means “Oh My Jesus!”)

Neither had rallied before, but they will be back.

“Next time we’ll bring the brakes with us!” laughed Geoff.

I guess we’ll have to re-write that general rule...

Harold Quinton and Nick Pratt are running a rare and tasty bright red 1959 MGA Coupe. Any visits from Lord Lucas, the Prince of Darkness?

“The hot lead to the ignition coil fell off this morning and caused a small fire,” said Quinton. “Other than that, no problems...”

(Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?...)

The car turned a very respectable 6:30 time in the tight, twisty Gander street stage this afternoon, completely blowing away the target time and earning penalty points for being too early.

Clearly then, you’re not in the Trials division for a win?

“We should have put a roll cage in it and run the Classic category,” said Quinton.

That competitive thing again...

“My wife is working as a timing official,” said Pratt. “We figured that might give us an advantage!”

“Oh yeah,” smiled Quinton. “We may have to protest one of the times she gave us...”

Another Trials team uninterested in the scoring is  Mike Salter and Richard Paterson. We told you yesterday about the saga of Salter’s lovely 1955 Austin Healey, which was banged up on Day One. He also has a 1965 Morris Mini Cooper, which he had loaned to Van and June Worsdale to run in Trials. After the Healey incident, the Worsdales graciously turned the car back so Salter and Paterson could continue their Targa dream.

“That street stage today was fantastic,” said Salter. “I had so much practice in my younger days being chased by the police...

“Everyone else had trouble with their brakes, but I hardly touched mine. Just threw the car sideways.”

I wished I’d seen that for myself...

“We can go flat out and nobody notices,” noted Paterson.

“We don’t care about the times,” added Salter, “We just go for it.”

“You made ME slow down!” replied his co-driver in mock protest.

Salter and Paterson will turn the car back to the Worsdales for the final run back into St. John’s on Saturday, so they can finish what they started - a classy touch.

One team that IS interested in the scoring of the Trials category is the self-named “Carguide Babes” squad of Sylvie Rainville from Quebec City and Jil McIntosh of Oshawa Ontario. They are piloting a massive Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Rainville is the daughter of the late Jacques Rainville - if I may be allowed a personal note, he was a dear friend of mine and one of the giants of Canadian automotive journalism. His daughter clearly has inherited some of his spirit, talent and charm.

“Was that fun today or WHAT?” she exclaimed, referring to the dash through the streets of Gander.

Isn’t that vehicle a handful in those conditions?

“There’s a lot of body roll, yes,” said Rainville, “but I’m not so much sea-sick, and I brought some Gravol...”

Both women write for various publications within the Carguide empire, but they had never met prior to last Friday.

“We have become a TEAM,” said McIntosh, the upper-case letters clear in her tone of voice.

“Sylvie drives the stages - she is fabulous! - and I do the transits. She brings the speed, I bring the calmness...”

Rainville also brings the laundry - they ran today with her freshly-washed clothes drying in the back seat.

It all seems to be working. The Carguide Babes have zeroed everything so far, and are tied atop the Trials category.

McIntosh is a complete rally rookie, while Rainville had has race driver training, and did a Belgium-to-Morocco rally about ten years ago.

“I think I’m coming back next year - for real,” concluded Rainville.

Not at all, ladies. You are definitely “for real” this year.

***

...proceed to next story

...return to Targa Newfoundland Index page