|The 2011 Targa Newfoundland
|August 30, 2011 - The Targa Miata, ready for the Targa.|
Now, how about the strategy for the race? One thing to remember is that the Targa is an endurance event. As another competitor has pointed out, you can't win the race on a single corner but you can lose it. You have to get to the end. Also, the winner isn't the fastest car, it's the one with the least number of penalties. That's important to remember. You have to go fast enough to minimize your penalties, but slow enough to survive. Walking that fine line is a real challenge.
A refresher in how the race works. Each stage is given a minimum base time or an average speed, if you like to look at it that way. If you complete the stage over this time or at a lower average speed, then you are penalized. If you finish faster than the minimum, then you don't get any penalties. It doesn't make any difference if you crossed the line right on time or if you came in two minutes early, all that matters is the 0 penalty points. The times get more aggressive and difficult to beat as the week goes on. Nobody will finish the race without penalties, the organizers make sure of that.
There's also the Trophy time, which is the base time plus 40%. If you finish every stage under this time, then you get a Targa plate. It's a reward for consistent speed, and I'm happy to say there's one hanging on my wall from 2008.
We've made some bold statements about winning the whole thing, but really the goal is to run a clean race. Last year, every single Open division car had problems of one sort or another that kept them from finishing a stage. This means big penalties. If someone in that class had kept it together enough to get a Targa plate, they also would have won the division. Heck, the Open division winner only managed to get the steering wheel of his car to the finish line!
So our goal for this race is to finish, get a Targa plate and pick up fewer penalties than our competition. The last is partly up to them, of course, and we're definitely going to have to push as hard as we can and still finish. We'll have a better idea of how hard that will be after the first couple of days.
|September 6, 2011 - Did you know that the Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world?|
Over 40 feet on the day we rolled through. That's high enough that you have to put training wheels on your boat so it won't fall over when docked. And yes, in case you're wondering - we're in Newfoundland now.
I had two hard deadlines on the trip out: pick Janel up in Cleveland, where she was going to fly after working in Pasco, WA all week. Then meet our ferry across to the island on Monday night. These were non-negotiable times. So Jim (Janel's father) and I drove hard for two days to reach Cleveland. We then pushed hard for another day, putting us near Portland, ME right on schedule. The idea was to give us a full day's buffer just in case things went wrong - a mechanical failure with the truck, trailer problems, difficulties at the border, etc. As we got closer, we had lots of time in hand so we took the scenic route through Maine and New Brunswick - thus the picture of boats. Even then, we rolled into the ferry docks with about 10 hours to spare. Mission accomplished!
Now that we're in St. John's, the rest of the crew will be arriving over the next few days. Meanwhile, we're enjoying our favorite seafood restaurant and recuperating from nearly a week in the truck.
|September 6, 2011 - The video project is on!|
Thanks to a lot of pre-ordered DVDs and posters, Adam Costa's raised enough money to bring extra crew. This means more footage and a better final product. It's not too late to order a copy. Everyone involved is pretty excited about this. Also exciting is the fact that Adam has released some raw footage from the Summer Camp, including both the Targa Miata and Nancy on the track and Bill talking about the upcoming race. This was before he went all lumberjack and was removed from the driver's seat by a log acting in self-defense.
Big noise from a little car
|September 7, 2011 - A bit of sightseeing for the team as members start to arrive.|
From left, we have Zach Bowman, Brandon Fitch, Keith Tanner and Jim Rinderle. Janel Tanner is behind the camera. We spent the day running various errands such as changing the oil in the trusty tow vehicle and picking up an extra tarp for use when servicing the cars. Then everyone went out for a big dinner to bond as a team. Zach's going to fit in just fine.
Tomorrow morning, Brandon and Zach go to Targa school to learn the ins and outs (and lefts and rights) of the event while Keith and Janel do a few more jobs and get their heads into race mode.
|September 8, 2011 - So, what's in the parking lot of your Holiday Inn?|
Yes, that's a Murcielago and a Maserati MC12 parked beside a mere Ferrari 430. The Enzo is down at the Comfort Inn as part of the Targa school. All of these cars are running in the Touring division, which means they are in the same class as Brandon and Zach. This is possibly the only time a Miata has ever taken on a MC12 in direct timed competition.
As for the Targa Miata, it's changed from a very fast car to an extremely fast car. I took it for a quick run down the road and made an involuntary comment the first time I hit full throttle. I'm going to go do a bit more tuning later this afternoon to tweak the zones I couldn't reach at altitude, as it's running a bit rich in those areas. And of course, with all this power, the forecast is for rain.
|September 9, 2011 - Looking for updates on the race?|
Here are where you can find various members of our team posting.
Zach's Autoblog posts
Adam Costa's Kickstarter feed
Official results and entry list
and of course, this site.
Zach and Brandon spent the day running practice stages while Keith and Janel re-familiarized themselves with the Newfoundland roads and the car's different personality. The last members of the service crew come in tonight and then it all begins tomorrow morning.
It looks like the supercars are running in the newly created "Hot Tour" group instead of competing. It's pretty obvious from looking at them that they'd be leaving expensive carbon fiber shards all over the island if they tried to take all the stages at speed - the low speed bump in front of the hotel is about all the Enzo can handle. So they'll be running the closed stages, but without timing and likely limited to the same speed levels as Grand Touring cars are. So we'll get to watch (and hear!) them being driven properly without having to worry about seeing them get destroyed.
|September 10, 2011 - Zach and Brandon report having a good time on the practice stage yesterday.|
They seem to be bonding quite well as a team and are having fun. It wasn't completely without problems, though - their Terratrip started showing signs of a weak signal at speed. That should be easily solved with some adjustment of the sender.
Not everyone's problems are so easily solved, however. This Audi failed to execute a corner and needs some suspension work. There also used to be a very large intercooler and (one would assume) a radiator in front of the engine. Ouch! This is one of the other Open class cars, and let's hope it's the biggest drama they have all week.
|September 10, 2011 - Targa car parking.|
The only way to get a picture of the supercars without a mob in front is to take it first thing in the morning. Even at 11pm, they were surrounded by gawkers and there was a lot of traffic in the parking lot as every gearhead in town descended on the hotel to check them out. Both the Lamborghini and the Enzo are heavily modified, so there's some real firepower here. They sound like it, too - the Enzo sounds more like a piece of industrial equipment than a car.
The front corner of the lot has turned into unofficial Targa parking, with a Mustang and a Kia joining the two Miatas and the exotics. I figured it was the safest place in town to park, nobody would look twice at our little Miata. Today, we're moving on to scrutineering and the cars will spend the next week tucked away inside at night.
Everyone from the team has arrived, underscoring just what a big effort this has become. Trying to find a restaurant that can seat a dozen people on a Friday night is not easy!
|September 10, 2011 - Zach, hard at work studying his navigation.|
|September 10, 2011 - This was pretty much the standard view of the Targa Miata all day.|
With the hood open, it's a crowd-stopper. Lots of questions about how nose-heavy it is and comments about shoehorns. It should be a big hit on the stages.
The day was fairly low-key. We registered, breezed through technical inspection and spent the day doing light service work such as filling camelbaks and cleaning glass. Janel and Zach sequestered themselves to do their homework and work through the route books, translating the symbols and notes into what they'll be reading to their respective drivers. Lots of homework. Meanwhile, I spent the day talking to visitors and other drivers. We also took a very useful driver/codriver navigation class that was poorly attended by other teams - that's their loss. Mark Williams, who gave the class, mentioned that he'd seen some of our videos from last time and was really impressed with Janel's navigation.
Brandon continued to do battle with the Terratrip's moody speed sensor, finally solving the problem by swapping out the driveshaft nuts with some bigger ones for a stronger signal. Fairly late at night, he and Zach headed out to do the calibration and reported success.
|September 10, 2011 - We're not the only Miatas in the race.|
Team Hammerhead is back with their two cars, taking on Brandon and Zach in Grand Touring. One of the Hammerhead cars is guaranteed a class win by simply finishing, as they're the sole entry in Grand Touring Unequipped - that means they don't have a rally computer. The other is running in Grand Touring Equipped, just like Brandon and Zach.
|September 10, 2011 - Here's our big competition in Open.|
Jim Kenzie and Brian Bonniere have won the event three times, including last year. There's also a twin-turbo Supra driven by Andre Comrie Picard which should be quite quick, and Jim pointed out a Honda Civic with a modified Type R engine that is worth watching. The cool thing is that all the other competitors are super friendly and helpful. It's something I remember from last time, and that I really enjoy about this event.
Tomorrow, we run the first Prologue stages. These aren't scored as part of the event, but are used as shakedown for both the teams and the timing crews. We'll be running fast but leaving a big, big margin of error. You can't win the Targa on the Prologue, but you sure can lose it by crashing. Janel and I will both feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable once we've made it through those stages at higher speeds - it'll help us get rid of the jitters.
|September 11, 2011 - Meet the full team.|
From left: Zach Bowman, Brandon Fitch, Tom Tanner, Laura Tanner, Jim Rinderle, Trevor Holt (kneeling), Keith Tanner, Janel Tanner, Sam Sharp. We're all posed in front of a Miata. Really. It seems like a lot of people - and sometimes, it is! - but it's really handy to always have someone available to check out of the hotel or go pick up some batteries while the others work on the cars. Plus it's a family affair. Besides the obvious Tanner group, Jim Rinderle is Janel's father.
|September 11, 2011 - The last time we saw this Nissan, it was upside down on the final stage of the 2008 race.|
And it's back! Great news. Unfortunately, while the Audi was back together this morning and displaying quite a bit of creativity in fabrication, it doesn't appear to have run any stages today. That doesn't matter at all in the race results, but it's also not listed for start tomorrow. I hope we see it.
|September 11, 2011 - So, how did it go?|
To keep the suspense to a minimum, very well. Both Janel and I were a bit nervous pulling up to the start line of Flatrock, even though it was a stage we'd run twice at legal speeds while checking out the car. But it's been three years since we ran a stage at speed. For me, I got a big shot of adrenaline about the time I hit second gear after a gentle start. I also spied one of our camera crew by the side of the road and remembered what I was supposed to be doing.
I was quite cautious on the first bit, taking things a bit carefully on the corners as I felt out the car. There are some real consequences to the first part of this stage, and it's taken a few scalps over the years. The car felt good, although the approach speeds were higher than before! Once we turned into the woods and away from the ocean, I put the hammer down. And this car has quite a hammer. After the stage, I was talking to a couple of other experienced drivers and they asked how the car was "up the hill". Hill? I asked a few questions and found out that the wooded section was uphill the whole 3 km or so. I'd never noticed. I lifted because my speed was high enough (we maxed out at 177), but the car shrugged off gravity. Just after that conversation, we ran over the same road again as part of a transit and I realized they were right. It IS uphill all the way! Not that you could tell from the way the car pulled. It is a rocket, and it seems to be propelled by sheer noise. The video is going to be epic.
Janel was a bit shaky from adrenaline after the run and I was giddy. What a rush.
|September 11, 2011 - After Flatrock, we stopped for lunch at a local school for our first meet-and-greet.|
And we got to meet lots of Targa fans. This is Stephen Strickland and family, who are part of the reason we're here. We've been lucky enough to meet a number of our supporters, the people who made this whole race possible.
|September 11, 2011 - Another stop before the second and third stages.|
These were run through Torbay, which is a town stage that alternates fast roads with tight corners. I remember from 2008 that this was an eye-opener about the speed in close quarters. I actually remembered it quite well from last time, so I was less worried. And it went well. The car is still super-fast and I'm getting a better handle on exactly how tight a "medium right" corner is. They seem slower than I remember, but that could simply be due to the speed between the corners. Just like 2008, we finished the second run through the stage right on the tail of the car that started 30s in front of us. That's got to be a good sign. On that run, we hit 160 kmh. In someone's neighborhood.
So, how did we do? Well, these stages aren't scored at all. They're for shakedown. But we are given base times, which we used as a sanity check to get an idea of how we should sit in the class. And we beat our base time by approximately 17 seconds in all three cases. When the times were published by the end of the day, we tied for third on the first stage and fourth on the second. The times for the third stage don't appear to be printed yet. So we've got the speed, and we can afford to be cautious where we need to be cautious and make up for it on the easier sections. Excellent.
|September 11, 2011 - Brandon and Zach had a busy day.|
Navigating for Grand Touring is not an easy job, and it kept Zach fully occupied. The good news is that the Terratrip woes are behind them, so they don't have to worry about their equipment. Zach spent the evening working on his route books with Janel, so hopefully things will go more smoothly tomorrow.
A squealing noise on startup was getting a bit worse, so Brandon and Trevor dove into the engine to replace the idlers and the serpentine belt. We'd brought along spares just in case, and when everything was buttoned up the noise was gone. So that was worthwhile. Trevor is a great addition to the team. He doesn't just solve problems, he anticipates them and makes sure they won't happen.
|September 12, 2011 - Time to start the race.|
After an early start, we hit Holyrood for our first stage. It's not a long one, but it was quick enough in spots to give us a good workout. I'm still getting used to just how quickly the car will power down the straights, and it's sometimes a conscious effort to push that throttle all the way down. Still, it worked out well as we zeroed the stage.
The car felt a bit floaty at speed over the rougher pavement. So at the first service stop, I added a few clicks of rebound damping both front and rear.
Then it was on to Conception Harbour. We pulled up to the start line to find that it was marked as Condition 2 under clear skies. Odd. There was also a report of gravel on the road for 2 km in the middle. In retrospect, that explains the condition downgrade. I recognized a good portion of the stage as the old Conception/Colliers stage that we ran on the last day in 2008. That time, it was memorable due to a short stretch of oddly cratered pavement. We skipped that this time, but it was still enough to confirm that the shocks were working much better and the car felt good on the narrow uneven pavement. It's almost a point-and-squirt driving style, as I can't carry the speed through the corners I could last time due to the downgraded tire requirements and I carry a lot more speed on the straights.
We did see our first off. I came around a corner to see a triangle, followed quickly by the crew brandishing the OK sign. Shortly after was a corner covered in gravel, then skidmarks, then the back of a Subaru far off in the woods. Oops. We found out later the car has just a bent wheel, so everything's good for future stages. We did end up taking 5 seconds of penalties on the stage unfortunately. We were not the only ones.
|September 12, 2011 - Yes, we're shooting video.|
This should give some pretty good visuals! You may have to wait for that, sleep is more important than uploading video.
After a short break, we took on Marysvale. This is a rough stage in the second half with lots of crests - typical of the roads in this area, it seems. There's a notorious jump/compression combo that claimed a Porsche fairly dramatically years ago, so I treat it with respect. Before we got there, though, we hit a dip hard enough to bottom out the chassis on the pavement hard. The actual "Porsche killer" (that's what we called it in the pace notes) seems to have been replaced with 30 meters of gravel, which was exciting in itself. We zeroed it.
After a short stop, it was on to Southern Harbour In. This was fairly quick and cresty (that's what it was called in the route books!) and it kept me working fairly hard. On some medium left-right-left sweepers, I was able to work the car's balance quite nicely - it's a good, friendly tool, which is exactly what we need. The car feels great. A bit more familiarity with the stages would make it easier to carry a bit more speed through the stage, but it was good enough to let us zero. And that's all that matters.
Then we stopped for lunch with some absolutely fantastic cod. Mmm.
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