|September 22, 2008 - So, the race is over.|
It's time for a bit of analysis. What worked and what didn't? What would I change?
Ergonomically, the car was great. A bit small when it came to helmet wrangling on the transits, but if we had time we'd stick them in the trunk. The Backsaver pads in the seats get a big and hearty thumbs up, as they were comfortable all week long.
The Camelbaks were a big plus. We were sipping on them the entire time, and the hydration helped keep some of the fatigue at bay.
Having snacks in the car - goldfish crackers, tubes of honey, granola bars and often an apple or banana - made a big difference as well. It's a tip that we picked up from the California Rally School, and it kept us both in a better mood as well as more able to concentrate.
One thing that we definitely missed was transit headsets. We wore earplugs on long transits to keep the noise from wearing us down, but that meant we didn't get much chance to talk other than shouted conversation.
entry 603 - tags: post-race, ergonomics
|September 22, 2008 - How did the suspension work?|
On smooth stages, it was a joy. The car worked perfectly, giving me enough stability for confidence but remaining nimble enough to deal with surprises. I was able to adjust my line through corners without surprises, late braking didn't upset the car and I even ended up with some fairly high-speed trail braking by accident. In those situations, I could feel the tail getting light, but it never bit me.
On moderate bumps, the travel was good. We were able to soak up some big imperfections, especially on the high speed stuff. We could always put the power down.
The rough stuff - it's difficult to describe just how rough some of the stages are. The fact that on at least two occasions, we went over sharp speed bumps that weren't even in the notes is probably a good indication. For those stages, I needed better bumpstops, stiffer rear springs and more ride height. The Subaru guys were running gravel suspension, if that's any indication. The front end of the car worked really nicely, it was just the rear that wanted a bit more. Also, at full compression in the rear we were planting the rear subframe brace into the pavement so we actually had a bit too much compression travel for this sort of behaviour.
I raised the car a bit over the course of the week, but I was hesitant to go too far in case I damaged the high-speed behaviour. I'm going to keep working on this so I can find out how to make it work better. But holy cow, those were some big hits. The car never got upset and the chassis was protected enough to prevent any damage, but I usually have a bit more mechanical sympathy than that. I did get a report from my uncle Rob that while I was grounding out at times, it wasn't as bad as some of the other cars.
The shocks did gave us a scare early on as we discovered we'd blown right through the bumpstops and damaged the seals. The non-pressurised design of the shocks kept them from losing performance in this case, though.
entry 604 - tags: post-race, suspension
|September 22, 2008 - Over the entire course of the race, the car never surprised me.|
Not once. I never had to wrestle with it or deal with wayward behaviour. It simply did what I asked and always gave me an option in case I wanted to do something else.
In short, it was a Miata.
That left me free to concentrate on Janel's instructions and the road. I can't emphasize how important that was - it's why others commented on how smooth we looked. The car simply didn't have any bad habits. More than a year of constant testing and thousands of miles at race speeds in this and other Miatas were a real benefit, as the car's handling is second nature to me and heck, they flatter any driver.
entry 605 - tags: post-race.suspension, testing
|September 22, 2008 - The drivetrain worked out well.|
The engine was flexible enough that even when I lost the top 2500 rpm of the rev range, I was still able to make good time. It used almost no oil over 2200 km of driving including 500+ km of full-throttle stages. More power would have been nice, but I think that's the lament of every driver.
I launched the car with smoking tires every single time and there were no problems. I did misjudge the start a couple of times and left the line with lots of clutch slip instead of tire smoke, but the clutch took it without complaint.
The misfire? Well, I'll figure out what it was shortly. I did discover yesterday that one of the wires to the intake air temperature sensor is broken. There was about 8" of unsupported wire leading up to the sensor, and the vibration and pounding made this about 6" too much. I'll fix it when I get a chance and see if that solves the problem.
entry 606 - tags: post-race, engine
|September 22, 2008 - The brakes were perfect all week.|
Nice and powerful but easy to modulate. Of course, Miatas are easy on brakes. The Challenger was not, and this cost them dearly when the rotors taco'd at the beginning of the long and fast Leading Tickles stage. I didn't even have to bleed my brakes. That's the result of a light car that's fast in the corners and (relatively) slow in the straights, of course.
The adjustable proportioning valve did come into play over the week, as I'd adjust the bias to get a different behaviour under certain conditions.
entry 607 - tags: post-race, brakes
|September 22, 2008 - The Toyos worked out well.|
The RA-1, of course, is a very friendly tire that doesn't surprise the driver at the limit. I drove well within those limits over the week, with a couple of exceptions where I took advantage of every bit of grip available to me.
In the wet, the car was great. It's almost a shame we didn't have more wet stages, as it turned out that we were very competitive under those conditions. I don't have much wet weather racing experience (and all of that came over the course of the Targa!) so I was quite reassured at how well the car worked there.
The R888 tires might have been stickier and I certainly saw them on a number of cars. Tire wear wasn't an issue for us at all, so they'd be a good option. I'd want to know how they work in deep water first though.
entry 608 - tags: post-race, tires
|September 26, 2008 - I think I solved the misfire issue that appeared near the end of the race.|
As I discovered right after the race, a wire to the air intake temperature sensor had broken. I patched that up today - a very temporary fix, but one that was good enough for testing - and the car seems healed. It'll pull hard to redline in at least three gears, which is something it would not do on the last stages. So we'll call that a success then.
It's a real testament to the flexibility of the engine that losing 2500 rpm of my rev range wasn't a crippling blow. Yes, the car was a bit slower getting up to speed. But I was able to drive around it, and we zeroed one stage and took a 2 second penalty on another like this. Compared to the penalties on day 3, that's nothing.
entry 612 - tags: engine, post-race
|September 28, 2008 - The culprit.|
The broken wire in this connector - which quickly became two broken wires when I poked at it - appears to be the cause of the misfire.
entry 614 - tags: engine, post-race
|September 28, 2008 - A bit of excitement on the way home.|
Coming off the Newfoundland ferry, I heard a few odd clunks from the trailer. At the next fuel stop, I kicked a wheel and it moved. That's not good. A peek underneath showed that a rear spring hanger had ripped off. Probably the road coming into Argentia.
Rural areas are where you want to have this kind of failure. A couple of quick inquiries sent us to Lloyd's fantastic shop in the woods, surrounded by forestry equipment and other industrial stuff. Perfect. They fixed up the broken hanger carefully and well, and found a similar crack on the other side. We lost a few hours of travel time, but no harm was done.
entry 615 - tags: post-race, trailer
|June 17, 2009 - I saw a copy of the Targa show that was aired on Speed today.|
Before, I'd only seen it on the DVD the show producers sent me. Interesting, it's got different narration. Same script (with a few changes like saying our car was "chuckable" instead of "tossable") but a British accent. Interesting. I'm not sure which I like better. I certainly didn't expect a change.
Speaking of the actual race, the route for next year has been announced. Clarenville is no longer an overnight stop and they're going to run Brigus twice, amongst other changes. There's even an exhibition run in St. Johns. That would be fun.
One nice touch, the organizers have published a sample route book. I'm very glad to see this. We managed to borrow one to preview so we had an idea what to expect, but not everyone might have managed the same.
Prologue 2009 route book.
entry 684 - tags: race, tv
|September 13, 2010 - New video!|
I've put up a clear lap of the High Plains Raceway. I have a few more with me chasing down various cars, and I may put them up later. Janel's the one who got in the best scraps anyhow!
There were some truly delicious cars at the track day. The green 260Z in the foreground looked great. The 635CSi hiding behind it is one of my favorite car designs, but I have yet to convince Janel of its inherent goodness.
entry 764 - tags: video, high plains raceway
|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.
entry 937 - tags: targa, 2011 race, exotics, tuning
|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.
entry 938 - tags: race, preparation
|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.
entry 939 - tags: 2011 race, practice
|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!
entry 940 - tags: 2011 race, exotics
|September 10, 2011 - Zach, hard at work studying his navigation.|
Zach, hard at work studying his navigation.
entry 941 - tags: 2011 race
|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.
entry 942 - tags: 2011 race, terratrip, odometer
|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.
entry 943 - tags: 2011 race, hammerheads
|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.
entry 944 - tags: 2011 race
|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.
entry 945 - tags: 2011 race
|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.
entry 946 - tags: 2011 race
|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.
entry 947 - tags: 2011 race, prologue, Flatrock
|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.
entry 948 - tags: 2011 race, prologue, supporters
|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.
entry 949 - tags: 2011 race, prologue, Torbay
|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.
entry 950 - tags: 2011 race, crew
|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.
entry 953 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Holyrood, Conception Harbour
|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.
entry 955 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Southern Harbour, Marysvale
|September 12, 2011 - Southern Harbour Out was the same stage as Southern Harbour In, but we were heading out instead of in.|
Easy enough to understand. A Subaru was smoking dramatically when he went to launch a couple of cars ahead of us, looking like a blown head gasket. When it was our turn, we found him sitting by the side of the road about 200m into the stage. Safe and sound, just broken. Our target time for the way out was faster, so we pressed on over the crests and came across another stricken car near the end. This time, it was actually parked in the water! The driver was waving the OK sign so we kept going, but it was a pretty dramatic finish.
A correction - we took one second of penalties on Southern Harbour In. We zeroed it (with a faster time) on the way out.
To follow up on the water car - apparently, on the way out of the stage, my big Dodge and Jim got pressed into service to yank it out! The car took some damage on the way into the drink, so it won't be back for the rest of the race.
entry 956 - tags: 2011 race, Southern Harbour
|September 12, 2011 - Now for North West Brook.|
When we drove this stage in 2008, it was fast, rough enough to be interesting and we hit a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, a funeral service meant that 10 km had to be trimmed off the end, but we still got 20 km of some very high speeds. The Targa class has a 200 km/h overall speed limit, and we did manage to kiss it and have to lift off. Did I mention it's a FAST stage?
And what a great stage. Big long sections without any instructions, so it's just the driver and the road. This makes Janel a bit nervous, and she made the mistake of looking up as we approached a crest at 200 km/h. That got her attention.
Due to the high speeds, she can feel a difference in how I'm driving the car. The acceleration is much stronger, and when I'm approaching something unknown such as a crest I'll lift. With the older engine, I wouldn't have to drop as much speed to get comfortable with the upcoming challenge because I wasn't going as fast. So she's noticing a lot more acceleration and deceleration, and she's still getting comfortable with the sensations.
At 200 km/h (120 mph), stuff is happening pretty fast. On a racetrack, that doesn't really sound like a whole lot. But throw in a road with a lot of patches on patches and bumps and dips and blind corners, and it's very fast.
At the end, we were treated with absolutely gorgeous views. Wow.
entry 957 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, North West Brook
|September 12, 2011 - Our trip in to North West brook was very quick.|
Quick enough that we were 30 seconds ahead of our minimum average speed of 124 km/h at one point. I backed off, but needless to say we zeroed it. Remember, it's not the fastest car that wins. It's the one with the least penalties. I think we came across the line about 10 seconds early.
We lined up for the return trip, called Southport. I was looking forward to it - roads like this are like catnip to a driver, even if they do carry a high pucker factor - and Janel was starting to warm up to the idea. The car was working well, with just one point where we bottomed out. Quite a bit better from our 2008 visit.
Unfortunately, while we were lined up to start, the ambulance had to take off to take care of a local. It was going to take 30 minutes to bring in another ambulance, so the stage was scrapped for the remaining cars. Instead of a high speed run, we got to follow a marshal in a Corolla through the closed stretch of pavement. It was still quick, but less than 2/3 of the pace we would have carried. The saddest part was waving to all the people camped out on the side of the road to watch. They missed the chance to see the fastest cars go through other than in a noisy parade. I did try to give them some gratuitous acceleration noise just because.
This cancellation, combined with the shortening of the previous stage and an earlier one that was also truncated for a funeral, meant that we only got about half of the stage miles that had originally been planned. That's a shame. Still, it was a good day.
entry 958 - tags: 2011 race, Southport
|September 12, 2011 - Time for a long transit to Gander, where we parked for the night.|
The transit headsets I put together are a godsend, making life much better in a loud car.
It was a good day. We didn't get through it without penalties, which is usually a requirement for a good finish. But as it turns out, none of the Open cars did manage to clear it. Our 6 seconds of penalties put us in fourth in the division. The big Challenger that showed up in 2008 is leading with two seconds, followed by a BMW M3 (3 seconds) and the Civic (5 seconds). We're in a good place. We're being cautious and not taking big risks, and we're only 4 seconds behind the division leader.
Attrition is taking its toll already. The Audi is running, but it's not healthy and has 28 minutes of penalties. The Subaru with the blown head gasket was involved in another mishap after the head gasket failure and will not be returning. Jim Kenzie in his MINI is suffering from electrical problems and missed a stage today, which will give him approximately 8 minutes of penalties.
Our car is holding up well. The fuel economy is much better when we're not idling constantly. The skid plates did their job on the big hit in Marysvale. I can see skid marks on them, but nothing is damaged underneath. Perfect. There's a bit of oil consumption but nothing that can't be managed. And the weather is so far, so good. So it's been a good day.
entry 959 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, results
|September 12, 2011 - The un-fun part of being a navigator.|
While the cars were being checked over, Janel hid herself away to do her homework. This is why she's such a good navigator. She goes over every stage several times and writes down every word she's going to say. She's almost completely infallible on the stage and this is why I can have the confidence I need to go powering over the road.
Tomorrow's going to be a lot of fun. We're running Port Leamington out and back, which was one of my best stages in 2008. We run Bobby's Cove and back twice, which is a very fast, smooth and fantastic stage that I loved in 2008. Then twice through Gander. Three of my favorite stages in the entire race, back to back to back to back. This is going to be fantastic.
entry 960 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, navigation
|September 12, 2011 - Zach and his homework.|
He's got a lot more of it to do, and the surprising change to Condition 2 for the second stage today really messed with his calculations. He's learning fast, but it's been a challenging and frustrating few days. This isn't quite what he expected! However, despite the learning curve, he and Brandon are currently penalty-free and tied for first with two other teams. It doesn't get any better than that.
Brandon reports that the pace is good - fast enough to be fun, but without the risk of a Miata/tree incident.
entry 961 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Nancy, Zach, Brandon
|September 13, 2011 - Brandon, hard at work.|
This shot is from Gordon the official event photographer, and he's pretty good at posting daily updates. You can see them here: http://www.gordonsleigh.com/v/Motorsports/Targa/Daily2011/.
There's one new rule this year: anyone spotted cutting corners and throwing gravel on to the road gets a 30 second penalty. On the second stage yesterday, it was pretty hard to tell where the road started on some corners thanks to the gravel present when we went through, but I believe that was a pre-existing condition!
I forgot to mention some extra drama for our team yesterday. As we pulled up to the start line for Southern Harbour In, my intercom cut out. 20 seconds of frantic messing about followed to fix the intermittent connection and I managed to get it sorted, but it got Janel all tense. Looking at the video, I was distracted as well. We took some steps to secure the wires to prevent it from happening again, but it sure wasn't a good way to start a stage.
entry 962 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Southern Harbour In, Brandon, gravel
|September 13, 2011 - Talking over strategy.|
Janel's is fairly simple: don't crash. Mine's not far off that. 80 cars were originally entered in the event. 66 made it to the start line of the Prologue for various reasons, including blown engines long before the race started. Unfortunately, Paul Horton's delicious Mk1 Escort was amongst those. Tomorrow, 60 cars are listed for start. A couple are back from the dead, such as the Audi 80 Avant that had such a bad start at the school. But others are gone, and a few of the remaining ones are looking a bit rocky.
The supercars are not part of the competition. They're running in a new class called "Hot Tour". It's a bit of an experiment on the part of the organizers, and is basically a group of cars escorted through the closed stages before the Touring class goes out. They're not just crawling through, but the speeds are kept in check somewhat by the lead car. They haven't done every stage either, but I'm not sure whose decision that was. Most notably, they missed the long, fast, bumpy North West Brook stage. The Saleen S7 is refusing to run properly so it's been put on the trailer. Still, you can't miss the Enzo as it goes whooping by.
I know Jim Kenzie's crew was working hard on resurrecting the MINI last night. Jim reported to us that the security system was now starting to give problems as part of his cascading failures, and he seems to be longing for the days of points and condensers while using satellite phones to download wiring diagrams off the internet. The not-inconsiderable resources of a factory-backed team are being thrown at the recalcitrant little car.
Both he and Stan Hartling with the Lotus Exige got lucky when the last stage was scratched yesterday, as they won't take any penalties. The Lotus is suffering some sort of electrical bug (no, really!) that's affecting the drive-by-wire throttle. Stan managed to zero all the stages we ran yesterday, but celebrated loudly when that last one was cut.
entry 963 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, MINI, attrition
|September 13, 2011 - And away we go for day 2.|
I've been looking forward to this, three of my favorite stages run one after the other. Despite initially pessimistic weather forecasts, the day was absolutely gorgeous.
We started off with Appleton, which is a moderately tight city stage. I had fresh, unscrubbed tires on the back so the car was a bit tail-happy, but a slightly higher cold pressure gave me more grip overall. I might have played a bit too much with oversteer, coming close to dropping an outside tire into the ditch - but it was all good. We zeroed it comfortably.
Then it was on to Bobby's Cove. I loved this one last time, it's quick and smooth. And it still is. Except this time, I had some horsepower! We went past a 30 km/h speed limit sign at 179 km/h. I love it. We zeroed it again, coming in about 9 seconds early. Comfortable. And so much fun.
After a very pleasant wait in the sunshine for the last cars to come through, the circus turned around and took another shot at it. This time, it was called Pleasantview. Our target speed was again a 130 km/h average, which is as fast as the Targa organizers ever specify. So it was back just as fast as we went, and it was just as much fun. Again, zeroed.
entry 964 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Appleton, Bobby's Cove, Pleasantview
|September 13, 2011 - Now for the fun stuff.|
Point Leamington. Back in 2008, this was quite possibly my favorite stage. It's rough enough to really work the car, but not destroy it. It's twisty. It's fast. It's challenging. It's absolutely fantastic. And we have the perfect car for it.
The AFCO suspension really shines on this. The road is covered with depressions, dips, patched patches and all sorts of damage. But no matter what, the car would simply not get upset. I was running at the top end of fourth gear and sometimes fifth and just loving it. On the video, you can hear me ask Janel for a time check and she replies "30 seconds ahead", meaning we're well over our base time. Right then, we came over a crest and there was a car at the side of the road with no triangles and no OK sign visible. Heck, no crew.
So we stopped, I grabbed our triangle and ran back to see what was going on. Turns out the crew was okay, they were just hiding in the woods to stay away from the cars whipping by at 200 km/h. So I ran back and put up our triangle before the crest so it was visible and convinced the crew that placing the OK sign flat on the back of the car wasn't a good plan.
We got back into the car and pulled back on to the stage. It's clear in the rules that you will never be penalized for stopping to help a competitor, so we knew that our big time penalty would probably be stricken. So there was no pressure at all. Still, I drove fast enough that we would have been penalty-free for the last half anyhow. So that was good. A fun stage with a little interruption in the middle.
Turns out the car was out of gas. We'd just had a chance to fill up, so I can't explain it. But there you go.
The picture is actually from yesterday. But it's a good picture from Zach.
entry 965 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Point Leamington, gas
|September 13, 2011 - Lunchtime.|
Does this look pleasant? It should. That's moose stew.
entry 966 - tags: 2011 race, day 2
|September 13, 2011 - There's been a lot of work done to a lot of cars over the past 24 hours.|
The supercharged Exige dropped a valve and underwent an emergency engine transplant. I've heard that the replacement engine is from a Pontiac Vibe. It fired up for the first time at 8 am and they just barely made it on to the stage in time to avoid any penalties. Obviously, a couple of parts were left for later! Until the last couple of stages of the day, they were still penalty-free. Amazing work.
A Porsche that ended up in the drink yesterday got a new left front corner and showed up missing a fender and a splitter, but running. Good work there.
Unfortunately, not all work was successful. Despite going to great lengths - pulling a brand new MINI off a dealer lot, for example, Jim Kenzie's crew was unable to get his car running again. So he's out.
entry 967 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Lotus Exige, MINI, Kenzie
|September 13, 2011 - After our yummy moose-flavored lunch in the home of the Newfoundland giant squid, we headed back down the road.|
And it's just as good in the other direction. The car was flying, propelled by sheer sonic energy and sucking up the worst the road could dish out. When we got up to 30 seconds ahead of our base time without taking a lot of risks, I backed off. Remember, a zero is a zero. And it's amazing how much harder it was to stay focused when you do that. My brain tried to go into holiday mode, even though we were still hoofing down a bumpy road at 160 km/h. On this stage, Janel had to warn me a couple of times about our maximum speed.
So much fun.
Then it was back out to the Bobby's Cove/Pleasantview stage again for a second run. Yup, just as quick and just as fun as before. Man, what a great day. And all full of zeros.
entry 968 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Glover's Harbor, Pleasantview, Bobby's Cove
|September 13, 2011 - Gander.|
One of the highlights of the event. Why? Because it's every commuter's fantasy. An entire subdivision is shut down and we get to go mental, constantly turning left and right at every intersection. There's no way I could retrace our steps, and I swear we should have crossed over our tracks several times. Just five minutes of sheer madness and a very big workout for the driver, the navigator and the brakes.
The first time through, I took full advantage of my ability to throttle steer. The balance of the car was perfect, even to the point of letting me get loose under braking and come into a corner already a bit sideways with lots of powerslides coming out. It was so busy I was having trouble processing Janel's calls, as she sometimes would call one when I was just approaching the previous. They were very tight. We took something like 14 seconds of penalties, which is very good for Gander.
The second time through, I realized that if that had been an autocross, it would have been a spectacular but slow run. So I decided to drive it properly. Janel also changed her pacing and only fed me the next corner when I was through the previous one. The result was a time that was 8 seconds faster - although our base time was also faster. So we took 17 seconds of penalties. Again, very good for Gander.
entry 969 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Gander
|September 13, 2011 - We weren't completely free of technical difficulties over the day.|
Just as I crossed the finish line of Pleasantview the first time, I felt the engine go a flat at 6000 rpm. We stopped for gas and the car seemed to be running fine, but it now had a check engine light. We had the long and fast Point Leamington stage ahead before I could get to our service truck, and nobody seemed to have an OBD-II scanner on hand. So we decided to just go for it. It felt like a coil.
The car worked fine through the long stage, even turning off the light until after the stop to help the Subaru. When we plugged in the scanner, it identified the #1 coil as the problem. Odd, that's the same one I changed back at the Summer Camp. I talked it over with Maxime Vadeboncoeur (who we competed against in 2008) and we decided it was heatsoaked. I started using lower engine rpms on the stages at that point and the problem didn't return. Still, I changed it for a spare when we got to our service at the end of the day. I also pulled the heatshield from my air intake, which was trapping heat on that coil. Hopefully the replacement will no longer have a problem. There are no LS1 coils in Gander right now, but we'll have another spare one tomorrow morning thanks to some hard work by Trevor and a local parts store employee.
In the picture, Trevor is also replacing the windshield washer reservoir. We melted the hose.
The biggest problem is that our video camera seems to have fried. There was a wiring fault that started with the intercom power adapter and ended up playing havoc with the USB power that ran the camera. That's all fixed, but I can't seem to get the camera to power on. Such a shame, we didn't get Gander. AGAIN. We'll find a way to get some sort of camera of our own in the car tomorrow. It was working perfectly up to this point, too. My videos are my biggest souvenir of the event, and it's so frustrating to lose them.
entry 970 - tags: 2011 race, coil, video
|September 13, 2011 - Zach and Brandon are Grand Touring superstars.|
Despite their rocky start tomorrow, they've hit their stride and zeroed the entire day. Yes, they're tied for the lead with a couple of other cars. Fantastic work. It's a different kind of race than we're running, but it's still full of adrenaline and close attention to detail. Anyone who thinks that Grand Touring is the soft option needs to give it a try. Fantastic work on their part.
entry 971 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Zach, Brandon
|September 13, 2011 - As for us, we're in the lead.|
And it's from doing exactly what we planned to do. Running a clean, consistent race and letting attrition take a big toll. The Civic that was running just ahead of us yesterday failed to finish all of the stages today. I don't know why, but it does mean they've fallen a long way back. The BMW and the Challenger both zeroed most of the day, but the BMW took just over 60 seconds of penalties on Gander and the Challenger took 48. We took 31, which puts us in first place in our division! It's still a long way to go, but for now I'm really pleased.
On Point Leamington last year, I drove as fast as I could and took 6 seconds of penalties with with my slower base time. This time, I had a good margin for error and still managed to come in far ahead of my time. It's a good place to be, right where I wanted. We're not the fastest car on the road, but we have the least number of penalties.
entry 972 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, results
|September 14, 2011 - A great start to day 3: two fast, simple and fairly short stages.|
They were fairly easy zeros for us, although we were moving pretty fast to do it. Fast enough that a new problem with the car manifested itself. The hood was lifting dramatically at 200 km/h. Some of the adhesive holding the remaining underhood bracing had let go. The temporary fix was some hockey tape holding the lip down, which worked. The more permanent fix was a few more rivets. Hey, race cars like rivets, right?
We did have a bit of a problem. This area of Newfoundland doesn't have a lot of gas stations that carry premium fuel. And those that do, didn't have any. We ended up pumping regular fuel into the tank and topping it up with octane enhancer. Not ideal, but Steve at V8R Spec anticipated this and our engine is slightly lower compression than his usual motor.
On to Musgrave Harbour. And our first penalties of the day. It's a fairly smooth run through town (new pavement since last time) with a quick detour around a school. I made a navigational error and misjudged the entrance to the detour, but luckily I misjudged it early so it only cost us a short moment of indecision before I spotted the right spot and leapt towards it. The detour was fun with lots of gravel and we danced around it pretty well. By the end of the stage, we'd picked up 5 seconds. Not bad, really. Especially in retrospect.
Here's what I said about Musgrave Harbour in 2008:
"Terrible. Rough and bouncy with a speed bump in the middle. Very hard on the car, and on our penalties. 31 seconds late. Not fun at all. We finished on the Corvette's butt."
It's been repaved! The roads are generally much better this year. What's missing is that one stage every day that had me fearing for the safety of the car. The suspension's also working extremely well. The skid plates have come in to play a couple of times, but very rarely. They've done their job well.
entry 973 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Main Point, Fredrickton, Musgrave Harbour
|September 14, 2011 - Now, Valleyfield.|
Shortly after we started, I recognized this as being a portion of a much longer stage from 2008, called New-Wes-Valley in that form. It was a stage on which we took substantial penalties as well. Here's what I said before:
"A great stage. All of the square corners were actually fairly fast and it would be possible to carry more speed. Still, it was a fun one. Part of the fun of a first-time Targa run is seeing all these stages for the first time. Would it be as thrilling if I could recognize things? We were 43 seconds late so there was obviously a lot more speed available. Still, what a blast. "
Now, I've always had a pretty good memory for corners. It might be from autocross, it might just be the way I'm wired. And I DID recognize things. With the call "Over blind crest into square left at T" and a few visual cues, I was able to recognize one particular junction that got a lot wider. That let me carry more speed over the crest, set up for the expected gravel in the road and come out much faster than before. Janel was also doing a spectacular job of calling the corners and crests, and I had just enough visibility to really let the car romp. We came up on this 911 with an unbelievable closing speed and just tore past him. We'd been given a very aggressive 130 km/h target speed and we beat it. I started just howling with laughter after we crossed the line. It was exhilarating.
The next stage was Wesleyville, the continuation of the same stage. Not quite as fast and certainly more complex and tighter, but we managed to zero it.
entry 974 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Valleyfield, Wesleyville
|September 14, 2011 - On to Greenspond.|
This is one of the classic Targa stages, and one that we didn't get to run in 2008 due to a funeral. I'd been looking forward to it with a mix of fear and anticipation, as it's narrow, exposed and has the craziest corners. Last night, I watched a video of a car running through the stage to get an idea of how it worked.
Good plan. I was able to recognize every corner - including the real weirdos - and this made a big difference to our time. What also made a big difference was the fact that we're driving one of the smallest cars in the race. There's one spot in Greenspond where you have to ascent a steep grade that's only about 3/4 of a lane wide, and it has a grass bank on one side with a guardrail on the other. Oh, and gravel on the road that's been kicked up. Not a place for wheelspin or a wayward tail, so I had to judge the throttle just right. This spot is so steep I was really wondering if I should be in first gear instead of second when I approached it.
There was one car off on the outside of a sharp corner (and displaying an OK sign), but I also recognized it as the effective end of the hard part, with a full two lanes running up a hill out of town. Well, this car doesn't care about hills so the big hammer went down and we thundered away. We came across the line with a 7 second penalty. That's pretty darn good for Greenspond, even the supercharged Exige with Stan Hartling driving took a penalty there.
The big green Challenger driven by Rob Pacione was the first place Open car on Day 1, and we only got ahead on Day 2 after he was a bit slower around Gander. I asked him how he dealt with Greenspond, and he said it was like walking a tightrope. He also really liked the V8 Miata, although his well-known Dodge sure gets a lot of attention from kids.
Next up was Port Blandford. On a 5 km, 130 km/h stage, we had one instruction: "jump into medium left". Obviously, this was one left to the drivers. About two turns in, I recognized the stage as one we ran in 2008 with no instructions - and in the other direction. In fact, there was one crest on that stage that I particularly remembered, as it was one I came over thinking "this would be an easy place to get off if you lifted..." and saw a set of tracks going into the woods with a Targa car at the end of them. I realized that the jump would be that crest. We pedaled down the stage pretty quick, but thanks to a bit of tentativeness on my part over the jump (wouldn't you?) we came across the line 1 second late. Still, not bad. And quick.
entry 975 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Greenspond, Port Blandford
|September 14, 2011 - Time for yet another of the classics.|
Clarenville. We got some attention on this stage last time as we caught a Corvette, giving a nice David and Goliath story for the TV crews. It's a quick town stage with some really odd sections. Again, my memory served me well. The course has changed slightly since last time, but I was able to recognize the two main sections that had been stitched together, giving an added dimension to Janel's pace notes.
The first time through, we were going pretty well until right near the end. We came over a crest into a left turn at an intersection, and we were too fast. I locked up the wheels and had a brief episode of target fixation on the oncoming curb before coming to my senses and getting the car rotated. First gear and a V8 will let you do that, and we came tearing across the line about 6 seconds early. Perfect.
For the second run, I knew where I could pick up a bit more speed and I definitely knew where I should get rid of a bit more. Our target time was about 7 seconds faster, but between more speed in the opening section and a lack of drama at that one corner I was able to come in 5 seconds early. The car's set up with a bit of extra rear brake bias to make it really easy to rotate into a corner (all rally drivers hate understeer) and that helped me set up for the narrow, tight corner. That plus the knowledge it was there the second time!
So there's a mistake, but not one with any consequences. We've had a couple of little moments at various points, but nothing has bitten us yet. Overall, we're still running fast but conservatively.
entry 976 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Clarenville
|September 14, 2011 - The results are posted!|
Janel and I knew we'd taken 13 seconds in penalties, and we were 13 seconds ahead of the Challenger last night. So even if he'd zeroed everything, we'd be tied. Well, he didn't. We were the fastest Open Class car through Greenspond, and the stages that bit us also bit others. The end result is that we extended our lead to 21 seconds ahead of Rob's Challenger. There was much rejoicing. It's still a long couple of days to go with many opportunities to either take penalties or worse. Rob's got a long history in the event at the top level, and experience is worth a lot. But no matter what, we're overjoyed with how things stand right now. We'll keep driving to our level and hope that this awe-inspiring little car has what it takes to stay ahead.
Into the Clarenville arena nice and early, and time for a car wash first. There's basically a car show every night as we work on the cars and talk to the locals, and we always make sure the cars are nice and clean.
The forecast for tomorrow looks like it could be wet. There are some tight little stages that will do us well, but also some very fast open ones with aggressive times as the competition ramps up. As always, it's more important to get home than it is to avoid penalties!
entry 977 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, results
|September 14, 2011 - Up on the stands in Clarenville for an inspection, I found a nick in one of my front brake lines.|
I cut part of the plastic cover off and was able to determine that the stainless sheath was untouched - the only damage was to the plastic. That's not a structural part of the line, so I'll leave it alone. I wrapped the area in tape to give it another dose of initial protection. Based on the damage, I think it was a passing encounter with a rock.
entry 978 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, brakes
|September 14, 2011 - The cars are starting to show signs of wear.|
This Porsche Turbo, for example, took a short swim in shallow water and tangled with a boulder on the way. A lot of work overnight and it was back up and running the next day, although the aerodynamics may not be as Stuttgart intended. Another Porsche appears to have one fender made primarily of duct tape, and we've dodged the odd MINI part lying in the road. It's a tough race, and it's going to get tougher tomorrow.
A number of cars are out due to engine problems, including a very well-driven Civic that was our direct competition as well as a truly terrifying Mustang.
entry 979 - tags: 2011 race, attrition
|September 14, 2011 - Brandon and Zach have extended their streak and are in a three-way tie for first.|
We're going to send Zach home smarter than we got him, as he's monitoring about nineteen different things at once. We had no idea what we were doing to him when we invited him to take the right seat in this car. It's a difficult, non-stop job, and very different from a Targa-class navigator. There, the work is less complex but mistakes carry much higher consequences.
Here, Brandon poses for the camera as Zach tries to make him pay attention to something important.
entry 980 - tags: 2011 race, Brandon, Zach, day 3
|September 15, 2011 - Most of my reports are about how the V8 Targa Miata is doing.|
That's because I'm fully immersed in it. We don't get to see Brandon and Zach much on the stages because they run right at the front of the pack due to their excellent accuracy and we run closer to the back due to our speed. With 56 cars running at 30 second intervals and a 5 minute buffer between the Targa and Grand Touring classes, that means we're nearly a half hour apart. By the time we arrive at a stage or a service stop, they're gone. Zach is posting to Autoblog so you can hear his side of the story. It's a bit delayed due to the publishing procedures at the mothership, but it'll show up.
As always, the Targa isn't one big story. With 56 cars, there are 56 epic adventures being written. You're only reading two.
entry 981 - tags: 2011 race, Autoblog, updates, Zach, Brandon
|September 15, 2011 - Well, we had some good fun in the sun.|
We woke up this morning to a light drizzle, which changed to a heavy rain then heavy fog as we worked through a very long transit. By the time we got to the start line, it was damp and foggy. So the conditions were downgraded to Condition 2. That means the base speeds are a bit slower. Not a lot slower, but a bit slower. We took off on a very long (25 km!), very fast (130 km/h in clear conditions) stage, feeling out the car's behavior in the wet. It's just a Miata, of course, until you get on to the throttle hard. But I wanted to get a feel for these tires in the wet - and it was slippery at first. We had to cross a few wooden bridges on the way and they were like greased ice.
Luckily, we were caught and passed by Richard Burton in his Gumball STi. Luckily? Yes. Because right when he passed us, we went into a fog bank. Now, he runs a GPS in his car along with the rally computer. This lets him get an idea of what way the road goes ahead of time, instead of waiting for it to be visible. And when he passed us, we went into an area of heavy fog. So I just played "follow the taillights". I could see what way his car was moving, and that let me run a bit faster. Thanks to his help, we came across the line a bit ahead of time and zeroed the stage.
This was a pretty fun stage. Smooth and fast. And hard to see!
entry 982 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Boat Harbour
|September 15, 2011 - I suspect that Boat Harbour is a very pretty area.|
But we didn't get to see all that much of it as we lined up to run back. And as we rolled up to the start line, we were informed that the Targa class cars were going to run under Condition 1. Still looked pretty foggy to me, but that was the rule. So we had to go faster. 130 km/h average for 25 km. That's a long time.
Once again, the STi caught up. It took him a bit longer this time, but every time we came to a blind crest I had to back off until I could see what was going on. Sometimes that was just a bright yellow center line disappearing into the fog. Richard's magic GPS let him carry more speed - so once again I glommed on to his bumper and watched his roof over the crest. My plan worked, and we once again zeroed the stage. Success!
entry 983 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Petite Forte
|September 15, 2011 - Here's what Janel gets to see of the Targa Newfoundland.|
At least, of the competitive stages. And my apologies, we took one second of penalties on Petite Forte.
Our next stage was Mooring Cove. It's a fun roller coaster of a stage, with lots of blind crests and tight corners at a relatively low speed. We romped through it and came through one second late.
Now for Marystown. This is a hugely popular stage, and spectators line the bridges to watch the cars tear underneath. It's like being on a WRC stage. Unfortunately, we didn't get to run it as there was a fairly big accident. Nobody was hurt, but we did learn that a Ferrari Enzo will float. Seriously. So for us, it was a transit.
entry 984 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Mooring Cove, Marystown
|September 15, 2011 - Time for Garnish.|
This is a fast, fast stage with a very rough road. It starts off with crests (or "cresty" as it says in the routebooks, which I find to be a very amusing word), gets bumpy, then takes a detour into the small fishing town of Garnish where it becomes extremely rough, then back on to bumpy for another fast section to the end. We were catching air in fourth gear over the crests and really testing the limits of the suspension both on compression and droop. What a fantastic little car. We did punish the skid plates somewhat as you can imagine, and the rear finally buckled under pressure and bent enough to contact the exhaust. No real problem other than a big of vibration - and more importantly, no damage to anything important. If the plate hadn't been there, it would have been our exhaust and diff. We came in 29 seconds late, partly due to our lack of GPS and partly due to my self-preservation instinct on the hammered pavement. 200 km/h is pretty fast when the car's being thrown around like that.
Garnish was followed by a very short lunch, as we had to get back on schedule after the marine Enzo shenanigans. Two runs through Fortune, which is a tight town stage that's like a mini Gander. It works well for us, and we came through with 2 seconds of penalties the first time. The second time, I was faster but we had a tighter time and I think we picked up four. But that doesn't matter, because there was another accident that shut the stage down and that meant no scores for anyone.
So we headed back out to the Garnish course for a run in the other direction, named Frenchmans Cove. Long, fast, bumpy. Going through the town, I ended up using first gear and the handbrake to get around some of the corners and it worked very well. We were still suffering from a lack of GPS on the long cresty bits, which both of our main competitors in Open were using. Still, we were only 4 seconds behind the fastest car in the division and holding on to our lead. It was an exhausting run through the stage, both due to the physical battering and the mental stamina to drive that fast on that pavement for so long. There's no Miata in the world that could have done it faster.
entry 985 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Garnish, Frenchmans Cove, Fortune, skid plates
|September 15, 2011 - And there goes our lead, as well as our hope for a Targa plate.|
On the second run through Marystown, we were running hard and doing pretty well. We'd cleared the hardest parts of the course and were hammering through one of the fastest sections when we made a hard right on a short downhill section, ready to howl under one of the bridges. And the car lost power. We were going fast enough that it took me a moment to figure out just what had happened. We had enough momentum to coast up the hill to a wide spot as I tried to get the car to refire, but to no avail. I pulled off the course in a safe place and we scrambled to get the triangles out and display the OK sign so nobody had to stop. Mission accomplished.
With the car safe and Janel signalling the passing vehicles (do we go past that fast? Holy cow!) I started to try and diagnose it. Nothing wrong underhood that I could see. And no fuel pump noise. Now, I'd been worried about the fuel pump in the past, but it was behaving itself. But when I heard it wasn't running, I assumed it was the pump. I checked a couple of wires but couldn't find anything obvious. So we gave up and watched the last few cars go by. There went our Targa plate, and we were pulled into the overnight stop on a rope.
We'd been running really well - Janel reports that we were about 4 seconds behind our base time when we stopped, and the best time in our class was a 34 second penalty. We were only a kilometer or so from the end. But that's how it goes.
When we got back to the arena, Brandon and I tore into the car. No power at the fuel pump. Odd. No power at the fuel pump relay. Odder. Brandon reported he could hear the main relay clicking over when I cycled the key, and could even feel it. But we swapped it out anyhow, just to see - and the beast awoke with a roar. We'd lost the main relay. The stock, unmodified Mazda main relay.
Now, if you call FM for tech support and you tell me that your Miata just stopped and won't restart, I'll usually tell you to check the main relay. I even had one in the car just in case. But I was so sure it was the fuel pump that I just stopped trying when I didn't hear it running. My bad. Had I identified the relay sooner, we may have been able to get running and get home without incurring the maximum 5 minute penalty. Or maybe not, the fact that it was clicking would have been a problem, and we still would have had to get reloaded into the car. Since we were running near the rear of the pack, I'm not sure we could have done this before the Road Open car arrived.
Did I mention that we did this right in front of a bridge full of spectators and our camera crew? Nicely done. We did provide a bit of entertainment when I had to pantomime to Janel that her OK sign was upside down, which was greatly appreciated by our audience.
So we'll be back in the competition tomorrow. Despite the rumors we heard that we rolled twice and were stuck upside down in a ditch, it was a simple mechanical fault that had nothing to do with the car's modifications. Usually that relay fails when the car is turned off, rarely does it let go while driving. So at least it wasn't an error on our part.
Tomorrow, we have serious weather on the way. Serious. It's going to be a fight to survive. Time to get to bed, it's late.
entry 986 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Marystown
|September 16, 2011 - We've got quite a storm coming, by all accounts.|
Lots of rain and 25-35 mph winds. Waking up this morning, it looks like a little bit of the former and a good bunch of the latter are already here. It's survival time, especially since we're all running on tires that have seen four days of escalating competition. In our case, I've been preparing for this and have a set of very good rubber ready to put on. My rear tires from yesterday were only intended to end until the end of yesterday, so I was able to abuse them. Now I have lots of tread depth to deal with the treacherous conditions. One thing about the roads in Newfoundland is that they have some big grooves in them from truck traffic, and those grooves become rivers that like to hydroplane cars.
The big story on the internet is, of course, the Enzo. But for us, it was part of a demonstration class and was a bit of a sideshow. More important is the condition of the rest of the fleet. The M3 that is currently leading Open division had a cracked oil pan yesterday and barely made it home - but managed to do so without losing significant time or lunching the engine. The supercharged Exige snapped a halfshaft and missed three or four stages. All the cars are starting to look a big rough. Other than the electrical fault, we're looking pretty good. Janel and I are operating on fairly low sleep so crew management has become an issue, but I think we'll be okay today.
One stage today has been canceled, turning a long transit into a killer: 250 km. In the rain. Yuk. More importantly, we start the day with two long, fast stages that will be the last high speed test of the car and crew. Again, our priority is to bring it home.
entry 987 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, attrition, weather
|September 16, 2011 - This stage looks even narrower as you're driving it.|
If you're looking for pictures of the marine Enzo, check out Gordon Sleigh's gallery. He managed to catch it going in and being recovered. Lots of other great shots of the cars racing as well.
There was an injured spectator in one of the incidents yesterday. I don't know any details, but we're all hoping it's minor. Nobody wants this to happen, and there is a veritable army of volunteers to make the course as safe as possible. It's the first spectator injury in the event's 10 year anniversary.
entry 988 - tags: 2011 race, Enzo, day 4
|September 16, 2011 - Last year, Hurricane Igor rocked the Burin Penninsula just after the Targa was over.|
It was the reason so many of the roads in the area were freshly paved, for example. And here we were, facing another. So the organizers made the decision to scrap the first two stages of the day, a pair of high-speed, long runs through isolated areas. Every competitor I talked to was relieved, including myself. The downside was that this meant a long, long transit to the first stage. And it was a nasty one. Deep standing water, heavy rain and very high winds. Both Janel and I were quite happy not to be actually racing.
Part of the plan was for us to have breakfast at the little town of Harbour Mille before we turned around and raced back. I don't know the population of Harbour Mille, but it's probably just a few hundred at most. Unfortunately, they didn't get the word that the stages were canceled and they went ahead and prepared a feast for us. A few people such as 2/3 of our film crew did make the trip so it wasn't completely wasted, but that's a shame.
We did learn that a Maserati MC12 will throw a very impressive rooster tail from the diffuser at 100 km/h, though. The Lamborghini Murchilago, not so much.
entry 989 - tags: 2011 race, day 5, hurricane, Harbour Mille, Little Bay East
|September 16, 2011 - The Harbour Grace stage had already been canceled for undisclosed reasons, so we started the day just after lunch on the tight Carbonear stage.|
Thanks to the canceled stages, we were at lunch very early. So we took the opportunity to take a quick tour of the stage, enough to get our bearings and program my memory. It's got some tight spots, so we're glad we did. The first run was in the dry and listed as Condition 1, but by the end we had our wipers on. Still, we were the fastest of the Open Class cars. Everyone took significant penalties. There was one exciting moment where an unmarked crest in the road turned out to be a mid-corner jump. We dealt with it, but it did add a bit of drama.
For the second run, conditions had degraded. And then it got ugly. Really ugly. About the time we hit the first turn, the hurricane arrived. Visibility dropped to near zero. I had to identify turns by spotting landmarks, such as a mailbox just on the inside of a tight left corner that I could use as an apex marker. All the way through, I just kept thinking "bring it home". Speed was not important. By the end, we took a massive 1:39 in penalties, nearly a full minute longer than our last run. The cars running earlier in the pack weren't affected, and cars that had been 30 seconds slower than us were 30 seconds faster thanks to the weather change.
After that, we moved on to Brigus. This is another of the classics, and we get to run it twice this year. The first time, we were informed that we were running in Condition 3. We were warned of standing water, poor visibility and dangerous turns. This in a stage that is very narrow to begin with. So we tip-toed through the course cautiously. Still, I somehow found space to hit 100 km/h. On the second run through, we were told that we were in Condition Targa. This means the Targa time (40% slower than base time) was our base time. In other words, real slow. We easily zeroed that one as we were actually faster due to improved conditions over the previous run.
And that was it. Targa 2011 was over. We lined up in a big Targa jam and tried to parade in to St. John's for the ceremonial finish. We did manage to get all the Miatas in line together, and managed to cross the line just as the PA system went down. Kinda summed up the day, really.
entry 990 - tags: 2011 race, Brigus, Carbonear, finish
|September 16, 2011 - Brandon and Zach, tired and happy at the finish.|
A couple of small mistakes yesterday caused them to pick up 14 penalty points, which unfortunately pushed them to 5th overall in the preliminary results. An excellent result for a first-time team, and two mistakes over five days of demanding competition is a pretty good record! You'll be able to read more on Autoblog when Zach's report is published there.
entry 991 - tags: 2011 race, results, Zach, Brandon
|September 16, 2011 - The final results have not yet been released for the Open class.|
According to my understanding of the rules, we have finished third. It all depends on if one car is counted as a finisher. We were 4:59 behind the winners...and we took that 5:00 penalty for the bad main relay. Sigh. Still, it tells me we could run with the big boys. We got to the end of the week safe and with a car that had proven to be pretty darn reliable. We changed an ignition coil on Day 2 to prevent a problem and identified why it may have been weak. And then the bone stock original Mazda main relay let us down. Otherwise, it took an incredible amount of abuse on fast, rough roads. The predictable handling and excellent suspension let me take full advantage of the huge power. It was actually quite shocking that, even in the wet, I could give it nearly full throttle in first gear if I got moving without breaking the tires free. Bystanders reported that I was coming off the line as well as many of the Subarus in the wet. Overall, everyone said the car looked very well planted and a number of teams were quite complimentary on how well it was set up. We also got a few comments on how the two of us were packed into the car.
I think it was a surprise to a lot of people, and we've proven the car has the ability to win the whole shebang even with a less experienced crew. Maybe someday we'll get a chance to come back and give it another shot.
Our goals were to finish, to bring home a Targa plate and hopefully place well. We managed the first, just missed the second and did fairly well on the third. Both of our biggest challengers failed to make the finish line.
More details later once the results of a number of inquiries (rally-speak for "requests for corrections") have been addressed.
entry 992 - tags: 2011 race, results
|September 18, 2011 - The final results have been posted, and we're third overall in the Open division.|
Excellent. During the (very long) awards banquet, we got a lot of compliments from our competitors both on the car and our performance.
We managed to squeak out third place by one whole second in the end. The Toyota Corolla (AE86) that was fourth had been slower all week, and was running much further ahead in the pack. He missed the hurricane in Carbonear, and a full minute of our lead evaporated on that one short stage as we sloshed through the monsoon - a stage where we'd been 30 seconds faster than the Corolla just 40 minutes before. We got lucky there, but I think the results are appropriate. There were a lot of inquiries about that downpour, as it affected some competitors far more than others. It didn't end up making any difference to our division but it sure could have.
Would we have preferred to win the whole thing? Of course. We got unlucky with that main relay failure. But we led the event for several days and showed that our little beastie could really move. We didn't make any major errors and most importantly, brought it home safe, sound and healthy. Mission accomplished.
entry 993 - tags: 2011 race, results
|September 18, 2011 - Brandon and Zach took home some hardware as well.|
They finished 5th in the fairly well populated Grand Touring class. But they placed better than any other novice team, and that combined with their great attitude won them the Grace Cup Novice Award. It was a real surprise - they didn't even know it existed - and there were a lot of big grins at our table.
There have been some questions about what happened with the scoring in our division. We were initially listed as fourth, behind the Subaru STi of Mike Davenport. Well, Mike's Modern-class car broke on the first day. He got lucky - thanks to that cancelled stage, he didn't miss any stages. But the car wasn't going to come back. Richard Burton had a spare car on hand, so he loaned it to Mike. Yes, Mike managed to borrow an Open-class car from another competitor - how cool is that? He rejoined at the beginning of day 2 and ran with our class.
Targa Newfoundland looks for ways to let people drive. It's one of the refreshing aspects about the event, they look for solutions instead of looking for problems. But you can't just swap over to a new car with a fresh engine, fresh tires and fresh suspension without penalties.
Effectively, if you do this, your car is penalized as if it did not start competing until it hit the stage. So Mike's scoring should have reflected a complete day of missed stages (5 minute penalty) plus the maximum time attained by anyone in his division for each of those stages. It's basically as if Mike never drove that first day - although he did get to keep his times towards his Targa plate.
During the rally, these penalties were not being applied due to a miscommunication between the scoring team and the event organizers. Once that was cleared up, those extra penalties (approximately 13 minutes worth) dropped him from 4th to 6th.
There was also a lot going on with the Modern class results. I don't know the details and I won't speculate, but the second-place car was disqualified. At the banquet, the final results were still up in the air. Matt Oldford took home the first place award again, and rightfully so.
entry 994 - tags: 2011 race, Brandon, Zach, scoring, results
|September 22, 2011 - Race videos.|
I've been gradually working my way through what in-car footage I have at the moment, and uploading them to my YouTube channel. There are still a few to come. Due to the untimely demise of the camera, there are some gaps in the coverage, but more videos will be added over the next few weeks.
entry 995 - tags: video, 2011 race
|September 30, 2011 - Romping through Gander.|
This is the first time through, when I was basically acting like a hooligan. A hooligan with a big grin.
This is the first of a number of photos from Gordon Sleigh, the official event photographer. So we're going to take a few steps back through the race here. Note the red tape. You'll see both red and yellow tape in the background of a number of the pictures. Red tape denotes a potential impact area, and spectators are kept free of the red tape zones.
entry 997 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Gander
|September 30, 2011 - Exploring the limits of suspension travel in Gander.|
The notes for this stage warn about bumps on the inside of corners where the drains are. And they're right! There's a much better looking version of this shot, taken just before I hit the bump, but this one's just so dramatic. I'm happy to report that the car was not upset in the least by this behavior, and the next shot in the sequence shows it carrying on happily. And people wonder why I spend so much time working on suspension travel. I was able to do things like this without any concern about upsetting the car.
According to Zach, there are something like 29 turns in this stage - and I suspect that he left out the dozen or so that weren't marked, but that were parts of a suburban crescent. Even without those, that means an average of one 90 turn every 10 seconds for 5 minutes. No wonder it's so exhausting.
entry 998 - tags: 2011 race, day 2, Gander, suspension
|September 30, 2011 - The "driver/codriver communication class" from the first day of the race.|
As you can see, the Flyin' Miata team paid close attention but it was a remarkably poorly attended class. The others in the room were mostly the supercar owners. More teams should take part in this class, it's very worthwhile.
entry 999 - tags: 2011 race, class
|September 30, 2011 - Stampeding through Greenspond.|
This was a remarkable stage, and we're just coming up through the most remarkable part of it. I've got my head lifted as high as I can, trying to see over the hood of the Miata as we come out of a steep climb and get ready for a hard right turn.
The car looks so industrial in this shot. The black tape is holding the hood down at higher speeds, and you can see some of the undercar skid protection silhouetted against the dust.
entry 1000 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Greenspond
|September 30, 2011 - Splashing through Brigus.|
entry 1001 - tags: 2011 race, day 5, Brigus
|September 30, 2011 - I took it easy over the bridge in Brigus, as I knew we didn't need the speed.|
More importantly, I knew we were going to land on a greasy wet wooden bridge. Until you've driven one of these, you have no idea just how unbelievably slippery they are. With enough speed, we could have cleared the whole thing. But there was no reason.
Still, as you can see, we did manage to lift off. I had no idea until I saw this picture. The landing was smooth as silk.
entry 1002 - tags: 2011 race, day 5, Brigus
|September 30, 2011 - The two cars at the end of the race.|
Both are in fine shape - more on that later - and didn't require the massive interventions required to get some of the other cars to the end. They sucked up everything we threw at them. Nancy, the 2006, is running all off-the-shelf parts from Flyin' Miata including the Stage 2 suspension kit. Even though he'd driven it quite a bit during development, Brandon was really impressed with how it held up and dealt with the poor road surfaces. The only adjustment he made was to stiffen up the shocks slightly to suit his taste.
The Targa Miata was a star. Many of the other drivers thought I was nuts trying to wrestle a V8 Miata through the race, assuming it would be a beast to control. Of course, it was nothing of the sort. The big engine was the most obvious change to the car when compared to 2008, but the changes in the chassis also meant that the car was more competent at the higher speeds. Big bumps in particular were handled very well, and the skid plates underneath meant that I had nothing to fear if we did ground out. What a great tool.
entry 1003 - tags: 2011 race
|September 30, 2011 - Brandon and Zach's office.|
The tape with numbers on it are to remind the crew what the average speed for a given stage should be. The spare ones on the door are both souvenirs and spares in case another stage uses the same speed. The two egg timers are a Day 2 addition, one counting up and the other counting down. This way Zach knows if they're running on time. There's a pre-stage checklist on the dashboard as well.
Moving over to Brandon's side, you'll see red tape on the speedo to remind him of the overall speed limit. He's also got a GPS mounted to the dash as a backup to the Terratrip, showing average speed. It's a different sort of cockpit than we have in the Targa Miata, fine-tuned for a different purpose.
It should be pointed out that, after competing in the Targa, I drove this car home from Ottawa to Colorado because the space in the trailer was taken up by another car. Race numbers, interior additions and all. The fact that it's a real car with cruise control and A/C made it a lot more comfortable than you might expect - these Targa cars work in the real world too. Although they do attract a bit of attention to be sure.
entry 1004 - tags: 2011 race, ergonomics, Brandon, Zach
|September 30, 2011 - Overall, the car is in excellent shape.|
The rear subframe brace took the worst beating, which wasn't a surprise. Ground clearance back there is at a bit of a premium and my experience in 2008 was that the back was the most likely place to hit. The skid plate/brace did exactly what it was supposed to do and protected the important bits.
Elsewhere, there's very little sign that the car just finished such an ordeal. In fact, all we need to do is bang the rear skid plate into shape and we could run another week. Even the tires would be good for a few more days of racing. We replaced a coil that had heatsoak problems due to my heat shielding, had a video camera die (and lost a GoPro off the roof at speed) and of course lost the main relay. But overall, the car proved itself to be a strong and reliable tool with a huge turn of speed. By contrast, I was speaking to one of the MINI drivers after the event and he had a big list of problems to fix. For example, both of his front upper strut mounts were damaged and he'd replaced them once or twice already during the race. We had no similar concerns.
I've also been thinking about The Relay. At the time it happened, I felt that I should have been able to fix it on the side of the road and rejoin the race without the DNF for one stage. However, it wouldn't have made any difference in the end. By the time we'd extricated ourselves from the car, set up the triangles and OK sign, instantly diagnosed the problem, reloaded ourselves and rejoined the stage, we would have lost too much time to catch the Challenger and the M3 that finished ahead of us.
entry 1006 - tags: impact protection, skid plate, post-race
|October 6, 2011 - Transit in the rain.|
Heading from the final stage to the finish line in a light drizzle, photo by Zach Bowman who was quite entertaining as he hung out of the window of the other Miata.
entry 1007 - tags: 2011 race, day 5
|January 24, 2012 - Targa 2011 videos are online!|
Not every stage - yet - but there are 19 videos from the race uploaded to the Targamiata.com video page as well as the Targa Miata YouTube channel. Bumpercam, roofcam, crewcam and even the classic in-car shot. The patch from Janel's intercom means excellent audio in most of the in-car clips, so you can really hear what she's saying as well as the hollering of the big engine. More videos are gradually being added when I have a spare minute here and there.
The DVD project is well underway. Adam is working on it, and has plans to make one final trip to meet up with Janel, Brandon and myself to do some followup interviews. I'm really looking forward to the final result.
entry 1013 - tags: video, 2011, race