Targa Miata
September 16, 2008 - Notes, put down fairly quickly after a long day. There's a Mini curse.
Five arrived, two remain and one of those has had an off already. Eek. One of the retirements was mechanical and I'm hoping we'll see it tomorrow. Jim Kenzie, a previous overall winner, balled his car up on the Leading Tickles stage today. There haven't been all that many crashes, really. More cars have retired (or at least failed to finish a stage) due to mechanical reasons.
Stage 1, Appleton: It was starting to rain lightly, just enough to make me sweep the wipers once in a while. There was a dry spot where the car in front had been sitting when I rolled into the starting position. I had big wheelspin on launch, so I took it a bit easy through the stage. This cost us, as we took about a 4 second penalty. If the conditions had been downgraded to Condition 2, we would have come in a second early. Unfortunately we got the worst of them, so we'll have to take the penalty. Oh well.
Stage 2, Lewisporte: Condition 2. It was wet, so I tried to take it easy on the lauch...and stalled the car. Embarassing! I lost 7 seconds by the time it fired up, but we managed to make it all up through the tight course.
Stage 3, Point Leamington. A loooong 30+ km run out to the town, then back. Condition 2, heavy rain at times. We caught and passed the monster Corvette. There was one sketchy moment where I had to use all of the road, but no more. It was a long right, and I was too fast. I had to balance braking and cornering, and the rear tires were making that scraping noise as they hung on with fingernails. We lost 6 seconds overall on the stage, a few due to a short delay in getting past the Corvette. The driver of that car was very impressed with our speed in the rain. Turns out the Miata does pretty well in those conditions, and a highly powered vintage Corvette does not.
Stage 4, Leading Tickles. The same road, run in reverse. Faster (about 117 kmh average) and light rain. We caught and passed the Vette, and almost caught the Mini in front before we hit the SRZ. No problems in the fast sections at all, but a square left after the SRZ almost caught us out as I was thinking too slow. No harm done, but we got to slide towards the ditch for a bit. Hit 190 kmh on this stage. The car was great, sucking up any imperfections. Following the Vette really showed off our ability to eat up the road. I had the inside wheels in the air at one point and the car didn't care at all. It's a Miata. We zeroed the stage, coming in 14 seconds under our required time.
Stage 5, Bobby's Cove: Fast run out to oyster farm. We beat the Open Class time. Long, fast flowing road, very fun. Consistent speed, unlike the variations on LT. Stop for mussels, freshly harvested that morning. Yum.
Stage 6, Pleasantview: Back again. Faster. I think we passed a 30 km/h sign doing 150 km/h. Heh heh heh.
Stage 7, Glenwood. Amazingly rough. The car was pounded hard all the way through. There was a lot of chaos, one turn had most people overshooting with locked up brakes. We made it through, but it cost us about 22 seconds in penalties. I don't think it would be possible to zero it. Not a big fan of the pounding, personally.
Stage 8, Gander. Yeeee-hah. It's a 5-6 minute autocross through a subdivision. Smooth and easy to see corners, with the sidewalks packed with spectators. After a couple of corners, I realized that I was trying to drive it wrong, and it was an autocross. And I'm an autocrosser, and I'm driving a Miata. So the attack was on. Janel had to hold on to the door handle with one hand and brace her notes with the same one so she could read them because the transitions were so violent. I was laughing like an idiot. We took a bunch of penalties - it's impossible to zero the stage, but we took a big chunk out of the Corvette in front of us. I was hoping to catch him!

Thoughts: The car is acting like a Miata, and has all the right dance moves. It's stable enough that I can brake on fast corner entry without the rear getting squirrily, and it's absorbing everything really well. Fast, rough roads are awesome. The engine is pulling hard right to redline. On Leading Tickles, I was running between 4500 and 7000 rpm in 4th and the car was just perfect. It's small enough that I can choose my lines in corners to avoid pavement problems, which was really helpful on the Leading Tickles and Point Leamington stages. The brake balance is good. It's just as it should be. The only problem is bottoming out the chassis in some really really rough spots. Really, I should probably not be trying to go quite that quickly! Still, the impacts are being handled by the rear subframe brace and it's taking the abuse so nothing else has to. The reinforced frame rails have taken one little hit too - nothing important has been touches. So far, everyone's been quite impressed with our speed. I think we were the fastest novices yesterday, I'm not sure. It does look as if I built a pretty good car and made some good design choices, though. We're making small changes to it such as a bit of padding here and there, and rerouting the intercom cables - but nothing major. If we ever do this again, though, we're bringing a better video camera. We've lost several stages because it's had some sort of problem. It's a bit frustrating.

Rallies engender a certain camaderie between competitors. Because there's no way for one competitor to really cause a problem for another on the stage, everyone's friendly. Nobody wants to win because a competitor broke down, that's no fun. And we have the common enemy of the road. So everybody helps everyone else whenever possible. The pro teams have an army of helpers that swarm over the car when it comes in to service, but it doesn't seem to make things any more fun for the pro drivers. It would be nice not to have to work until 9 pm checking the car over, though.

Greenspond, one of the more memorable stages of the event, has been cancelled tomorrow. The rumour is that there's a funeral, and we do run right past the church. That's a shame for both us and the subject of the funeral, but that's life in small towns. The locals are doing us the favour of letting us close down their roads to race, so we can't complain in a situation like this.
entry 557 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - Janel displays the glamor of auto racing.
She is very proud of the fit of her race suit, she feels it flatters her figure nicely. Someday all the cool kids will wear baggy Nomex.
entry 558 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - This is the parking section for cars with pointy noses.
With a very non-pointy nose thrown in for comparison.
entry 559 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - I loved the juxtaposition of the fast car and the buoys for mussel farming.
It's a great contrast.
entry 560 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - That's the Corvette that we were chasing all day.
It emits a stupendous amount of noise and no shortage of toxic fumes and looks just amazing.
entry 561 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - Mmm, fresh mussels!
They were harvested that morning and were still steaming from being boiled when we ate them. They don't get much fresher than that.
entry 562 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - Waiting to start the rough Glenwood stage.
We went to a short "meet and greet" right after this, and it was the friendliest place we've seen so far. Janel was particularly impressed with the homemade cupcakes, not that there's been a shortage of excellent baking! If this race keeps up, we're going to have to get bigger driving suits.
entry 563 - tags: leg 2
September 16, 2008 - Janel and I go over the notes for the next stage before setting off to make sure we agree on the description of each corner.
It also helps if I can see some of the really frantic or unusual sections so I can build a mental picture of where it goes. Some stages have lots of instructions, some have little.
Janel's getting very good at delivering the notes. We have to have a lot of trust in each other, and there's no question that trying to drive many of these stages blind would lead to either slower times, a huge accident or both. The in-town stages are especially important, as there's a lot of navigation involved through the maze of streets. Out on the open road, I need to know when the road does something odd around the next blind bend. It's a big rush for both of us, and after the Gander stage we were both laughing like crazy.
entry 564 - tags: leg 2
October 14, 2008 - Now this is what I'd expected the Targa to be like all along.
I'm thinking it's Point Leamington, fairly early on. We're moving pretty fast, judging by the fact the hood is starting to lift. I could see it bulging in the middle at about 160 kmh.
Photo by Ralph Saulnier.
entry 628 - tags: leg 2