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Targa 2008 Wrap up


Despite all of the trials and tribulations that we had over the course of the week, we managed to be fast enough in the stages that we raced to come third in the Open Class, up from 5th last year. This is quite a feat given the competition in the event. So, we may not have won a Targa plate this year, but we made the podium in the most challenging class of the event. Amazing!

It is Monday and all of the teams are heading home after an epic Targa 2008. We have survived 6 days of racing only barely and 3 nights out on George Street (which may have been more demanding than the race).

There are too many stories to tell, but we hope that you got a flavour of our experience.

You should also know that without the support and encouragement of a wide range of people, this simply wouldn't be possible:

  • To our sponsors, your financial support is essential to getting us to the event in the first place. We thank you for backing us and look forward to your continued support in the future.

  • To our support crew who worked tirelessly and sleeplessly every night to keep us safe and on the road, this event would have ended on Day 1 without you. A number of other teams should thank you as well as we know that you lent your skills to help a number of our fellow racers. We thank you for your commitment and talent and look forward to giving you our support at Tall Pines. Although we will be sure not to touch your car!

  • To Pacione, Team Subaru, The Valley Tire Team and a wide range of other individuals too numerous to count, thanks for helping us everything ranging from race gas to parts we didn't have. Without your help we wouldn't have made it past Day 2 of the race. We experienced the spirit of Targa first hand. It was a major group effort to get us over the finish line.

  • To our fans who came out in droves to cheer us on, thanks for your support. It is a lot of fun for us to provide some entertainment for you.

  • To our families, it was great to have so many of you come out and see us this year. We are glad that you could enjoy some of the race and see some of Newfoundland. It is an amazing place and a one of a kind event.

Once we get home and lick our wounds a bit, we will pull some video and pictures together and post them for you to see some visuals of our experience.

Day 4 and 5: All Thumbs


If you have been following along with us, you will be wondering if it can possibly get worse after Day 3.

Well, you won't believe it, but it did.

Day 4: Thumbs down

Heading into Day 4 we had survived the fire, but lost our steering. We were also worried about our gear box.

Without power steering the car takes inhuman strength to turn a corner and we had about 250 corners to make over the next 2 days.

One of the fast stages in the morning took us into the fishing village of Garnish for a series of diabolical acute corners up/down hills through town. We made it about 75% of the way through town when the car transitioned from gravel to pavement snapping the wheel back in Richard's hands. During the violent snap back, the wheel made contact with Richard's left thumb clearly braking it. I heard the crack loudly and clearly. However, it didn't even slow us down. Rich sucked it up and finished the corners before heading out on the high speed section. We made good time and only took a few seconds on the stage.

Heading into Fortune we met Laura from our crew and taped up the thumb with a tongue depressor for support. We headed to the short in town stage before lunch intending to limp through with the broken digit.

We were fast off the line and powered through the first corner. On the next acute left turn the wheel snapped back and broke the thumb again! Ouch. We kept going and in the next straightaway one of our intercooler pipes came loose robbing us of all of our power. We had to idle through the rest of the stage and didn't make our Trophy time for the first time in 2 years. A clamp that we had tightened the stage before came loose again. After all the battles we had fought, a fire, no steering, bad gearbox, over heating, and a broken thumb, the thing that knocked us down was a $0.25 pipe clamp. Unbelievable.

At least we finished the stage and were still in 2nd place in the Open Class.

After lunch, and a fix to the clamp with the help of some of our fellow competitors we repeated Fortune and did much better second time around. The rest of the stages on Day 4 were just a matter of surviving without power steering. We had managed to locate a possible replacement steering rack from another team so Rich was dreaming about Day 5 with his steering back. We rocketed through Marystown for the last stage of the day and were happy to get to the pits with only a twice broken thumb.

The crowds at Marystown are large and love Targa. We were swarmed by Red Bull and DC lovers and spent a long time giving out cards and talking to people that knew more about our car than we did! Then we got the bad news. The replacement steering rack wouldn't fit. We would face Day 5 without any power steering. That was a big blow as Rich was dead tired from fighting the car through 9 stages on Day 4.

At least the team had come up with one innovation, the Burton Thumb Protector (TM). They had taped up the hole in the steering wheel so that it would not snap back and hit is thumb anymore. We would put it to the test on Friday.

Day 5: Almost made it.

Day 5 starts with a long transit and then two fast flowy stages before lunch. We did well in these early stages as turning at speed isn't too much of an issue. After lunch, was a different story. The stage in Brigus is a demon consisting of a series of small laneways at acute angles to one another often blind turns on the crest of hills.

We were both sure that the car wouldn't make a few of the turns and we were correct. At the first acute left, the steering snapped back so violently that we a) didn't make the turn and hit the wall on the outside of the turn, and b) Rich broke his thumb for the third time. We bounced out of that laneway onto a long stretch before a tricky turn onto a laneway and a narrow wooden bridge. Rich couldn't make the turn so we launched off the course down about 10 feet into a gravel parking lot through a fence. We did a quick handbrake turn and launched back onto the course narrowly missing the fence on the other side.

2 turns later the car stalled and wouldn't start again on stage. The marshalls rolled us to the side after some confusion and let the other cars through. We were done in Brigus, at least we thought so at the time.

We got on the phone and tried a few things including removing a sensor. With the offending sensor removed we couldn't make boost, but at least we could get the car moving. We missed the next stage in Marysvale by 1 minute (bummer because there is a good jump there) and proceeded to the second to last stage. The car was running slow, but at least we could make the final stages and finish the race.

We ran the next stage at a snails pace for us, but still made our Trophy time. It was hilarious to be going so slowly. We both laughed at how easy the race is at the lower speeds that most of the cars can manage. We like it much better going mach 3.

In the long transit to the last stage Richard had an epiphany that maybe a turbo pipe had come loose in our little off-course excursion. We checked, with the help of the Fourstar team and sure enough, the outbound intercooler pipe had pulled off. We repaired it and were back to full power.
We blazed through the last stage and were glad to be done. What a battle.

Day 3: More shakin' less bakin'


We're back and still shiny side up. It is Day 3 and we have survived the morning. We are in the middle of a 200 km transit after lunch, so I am using the time to write a little about our last 2 days.

Let me catch you up.

We started Day 2 a little down after making a couple of mistakes on the first and last stage of Day 1. Those mistakes moved us up in the order with the slower cars. Not good. We were sure to catch a few cars so we exercised our right to move back a few cars and found a team we were comfortable behind. We knew that we would catch him, but that he would be easy to pass.

The day started well with a few fast stages. We cleared them easily and headed to our nemesis, two long stages (30 k and 25 k). Last year we took almost 2:30 of penalty on these 2 alone. This year we intended on doing much better. The issue is that on these stages we needed to average over 150 kph to make the time. That, and it was raining!

We raced hard and cleared the way out to Leading Tickles (yes a real place). The car and Richard were amazing with a little help from the gps. We also managed to reach another of our goals, namely beating a few of the professional teams.

After a great lunch of Moose stew and local berry pie we climbed one of the local hills to get a 360 degree view of amazing north Atlantic coastal scenery. On the way out we were doing well but the engine started to really heat up and our power drop off. We caught Judd late in the stage and hd to do some fancy driving to stay ahead. Lots of late corners and brakes. We survived, but the car was clearly not right. We were able to find a hole in the exhaust that robbed us of our turbo's boost. It couldn't be fixed in time for the next stage so we forged on.

We drove the next 2 stages cleanly and then had a break during which we planned how to fix the hole. While we were waiting for the next stage Richard and Lance removed our skid plate and we found another team with a welder. We ran the stage, zoomed to the support truck and wrapped the broken pipe with a piece of scrap steel and some pipe clamps. It couldn't be welded.

The next stage at Glenwood was short and fast, we drove well but took a little time. As soon as we finished the stage smoke started rolling out from under the hood. Sure enough we were on fire. Nuwan acted quickly, grabbed the extinguisher and got it out. The plastic fans and housings had melted because of the high engine temperature caused by the broken pipe. Uh oh.

Instead of quitting, we decided to run Gander, one of our favorite stages and the last one of the day. It is a very popular stage with lots of spectators. Imagine driving as fast as you can through a subdivision!

There was a pretty good chance we would be on fire at some point in the stage so Laura handed me the fire extinguisher just in case. As she did the pin fell out at my feet. Whle trying to get it back in I managed to set it off in the car!

Rich drove hard in Gander and only manged to miss one turn (it was getting dark and he is blind at night). As we were catching up to Lance and Guilio near the end of the stage apparently we were on fire (so the spectators tell us). There were 2 ft flames out the back of the car!

We finished the stage and executed a rolling manoever to open the hood and hit it with the extinguisher. Very exciting. Basically all of the wiring and plastic in the front of the car was incinerated. Luckily it was the last stage of the day. We limped the car back to our pits with me running beside it armed with the extinguisher.

We grabbed a beer and headed through the woods to watch the last few cars finish the stage. Very cool to watch from the sidelines.

We were able to procure enough parts to get the car back together, so we left it in the hands of our crew and crashed for the night. They managed to get us going again by 5:30 am and then were on the road again at 7 am. Tough night.

Day 3. The car is running cool now, but a new issue has shown up. Our gear box is pooched. We have run 4 stages so far, 2 clean, 2 with a bit of time. Yesterday's problems are behind us, but the tranny is killing us. It is a war of attrition now. Will it last, should we swap it tonight? Time will tell. There is lots of racing left.

As Day 3 wore on the tranny got worse and worse, but Rich got better at managing it. We had a great stage long stage which we cleared by over 45 seconds. Very fast. Unfortunately, Steve and Paul weren't so lucky. They crashed their Mustang, flipped it end over end, hitting a van in the process. They were both OK, but shaken up. The end of the race for them.

On the next stage, basically a reverse of the way out, we managed to face trial #4 of the race (so far we have battled fire, transmission, heat) the loss of our steering. At 200 kph we managed to lose the ability to turn left. Kind of important. But, do we quit, no way. Frank passed us in the Group B Audi and we followed him home fighting every corner for over 20 km at speeds up around 180 kph. And, against all odds we cleaned the stage!

We rolled up into Clarenville, a fast in town stage, without the ability to turn left. With no other option, we elected to run it. Rich battled the car, but didn't let up. It was ugly, but we managed to finish and beat the time by 2 seconds. Crazy!

It turns out that the fire cooked our power steering fluid and the rack, as well as our transmission fluid. The good news is that we have our tranny back, but we are operating on manual steering for the next 2 days. Wish us luck!

Prologue and Day 1 Update


Our Targa started this year with 3 Prologues on Sunday. Prologues are practice stages that are not scored in any way, but used so that the teams can work out the bugs before racing starts. The first leg in Torbay was fast and the car showed just how powerful it really is. We were able to get close to 200 kph up the last hill and were heading into every corner much more quickly than last year.

We ran the next stage twice to test our narrow windy gravel covered road skills. The first pass through Rich pushed pretty hard and set a great time.

On the second pass, feeling confident, he decides to "slow down" and practice our communications a bit more. We ran the stage and checked the time to find that we actually went faster!

So much for slowing down.

In the final analysis, the car is a beast. It sends us into corners much more quickly and eats road faster than last year by a significant margin. I don't even bother calling corners less than 200 m out as they come up so fast I can't get the instruction out before the corner is upon us.

Day 1 starts early at 7:00 with a long transit to Placentia and our first race stage of 2008. In 2007 we managed to go off road on this stage so this time around we have prepared the stage by watching stage video and reviewing the route book and instructions in detail. We blazed through the first half of the stage and came quickly upon the acute right turn that gave us trouble, and guess what, we blew past it this year as well! In an attempt to get back to the turn Richard turned off and managed to get us off the road balanced on the belly pan of the car. It took us 5 attempts to rock the car back onto the road. By that time our engine had overheated and the car wouldn't generate any power. We limped across the finish and lost 38 seconds of time. Bummer!

The rest of the day went well up until the last stage.

The second stage was cancelled when a mini managed to find the ditch at high speed. The occupants had to be cut out, but noone was hurt. This was the same team that went into the same ditch last year. Apparently everyone is having trouble at the same places as last year.

Our next three stages were blazing fast and we cleaned them all with no problem. Did I mention that the car is fast! However, we did notice that that the car was running hotter and hotter over the day. By the time we reached the last stage, the temperatures were way too high. We removed the hood scoop and some other pieces to increase airflow to the engine.

The last stage has a very acute right turn about halfway through that caused us trouble last year. We raced the first part of the stage well and hit the acute hard. Rich used the new hydraulic parking brake spun us full 180 degrees (a bit too far) and popped the clutch. We stalled and it took 3 attempts to get back going. All with a big crowd and the TV cameras rolling! Crap.

We got back going and finished with another 13 seconds of penalty time. Ugly.

We will be well back in the pack today and have to come from behind.

More when we finish day 2.

Targa 2008 - Road to the Rock


The Gumball STI has landed and we made it to The Rock!!....after twenty-three.
arduous non-stop, hours on
the road with race car and support trailer in tow,
we managed to narrowly
miss the 9am North Sydney ferry by seconds and watched it leave us behind from within the ferry terminal docking area.

While en route we have had
a few white-knuckled close
calls, coming within inches of tractor trailers, aggressive road rage drivers, and one very large Newfoundland moose at four am in the morning.

With the team vehicle is now safely approaching St. John's there was an undeniable feeling that we were now getting close to beginning our week long high-speed motorsport adventure.

With the final push to St. John's behind and a successful meet up with our support crew it's onto registration, race car tech, and final preparations.

The hard work done in advance of the race has paid of and the Gumball STI is well prepared for the many adventures that lay ahead.

Ivano and Nuwan turn their support expertise on to replacing gas caps with nice shiny bling bling. More importantly they extend a hand to Lance and Gulio's team and do an emergency turbo swap to replace a blown turbo.

Tomorrow is the prologue stage and the last time to stretch the Gumball STI's legs before the grueling race stages begin on Monday.

With a tough day behind us, the support crew turns to getting to know the locals and the BT girls come in for a welcome meet and greet.

All in all it's been a successful road to Targa and soon it begins.

August 2008 update - Race Prep


On the road to Targa there are many pot holes. I think we hit all of them this month. Although, it appears that we are not alone! Lance and Guilio seem to be having a similar run of luck on their new car.

The saga of our "simple" upgrade to the car continued. After installing our custom turbo from Cosworth, our team at Fourstar realized there was a problem and managed to isolate it to a faulty housing. Who knows how they did it. Most mere mortals would have given up before finding a valve that wouldn't seat properly.

Armed with a new housing Frank went back to work, but still couldn't get the car up to power. Back on the horn to Cosworth and the engineer there realized that there was an error in their calculations. They built us the wrong turbo! They scrambled the jets and sent us a new one. Now the clock was ticking.

In goes the third turbo and now we are talking. This turbo is a monster. Huge torque and HP, so much so that it was too much for the piping Frank built. New pipes later and we have ourselves a car that has around 460 hp at the crank.

Now it was time to get the beast on the track for a test. We head to Mosport DDT for a day of lapping and learning how to drive the car again with all of the new HP. The day was blazing hot and started out well. While the car was cool it performed very well, rocketing up through the gears like they were butter. However, we realized that there was a problem pretty quickly. The car started to reach temperatures of over 110 degrees C and started to lose power and act very strangely. So much so, that we had to pack it up and head back to Fourstar after only a few laps.

It turns out that the car needs to stay below 100 degrees to operate and over that, the ECU starts shutting things down to preserve itself. We installed a race radiator and a new thermostat, end of problem. The car is ready to race, but are we?

In other news, we have been slaving away on our race trailer to get it ready for the event. It is now fully pimped out with upgraded electrical, a new generator, rewired surround sound, digital projector, video monitors etc. We are ready to kick back in style and enjoy the post-race activities this year.

Richard has also invested some serious hours in cleaning up the A/V inside the car. Our good friends at East Hamilton Radio wired proper circuits for our multiple cameras, installed the new Alpine GPS, moved the invertor to the trunk etc. Hopefully we won't have any camera or audio issues like we did last year.

On Wednesday AM Richard starts the big drive to North Sydney NS to catch the Ferry on Thurs. AM. It looked like he was going to be driving out alone, but is now being joined by Stick our good friend and crew chief for Lance and Giulio's car. It is a full 22 hrs and they are hoping to drive straight through to make the ferry on Thurs. AM. We will see them there as we are flying in this year.

It is hard to believe, but this time next week, we will be racing!