First - my apologies for being off the blog for a few days. This report will partially explain my absence; the blogging software we use also had a problem with the Mozilla Firefox browser recently, so I have had to resort to Internet Exploder...
In four Targa Newfoundland rallies, I haven't put a mark on our 2004 Mini Cooper S JCW. Still haven't.
In the fifth Targa, I didn't put "a'' mark on the car - more like several million marks, unfortunately.
Coming back from Leading Tickles, I took a 159 km/h bend at about 160 km/h, which launched the car down an embankment and into the trees.
From the damage, it looks like the right front wheel caught in the gravel, dug in, flipped the car end-over-end, and it landed on the upper left rear corner, turning it into a replica of a Mini El Camino.
It then landed wheels-down in a grove of saplings, maybe three cm thick, all too close to a swift-flowing river.
Brian was alert and fine, but because I had obviously been unconscious for a few moments, they decided to take me to the hospital in Grand Falls for evaluation. Apart from the siren making 'way more noise than was necessary, and a hint of nausea, we got there in short order with me in decent shape.
The staff there was quick, efficient, and - as you would expect from Newfoundlanders - friendly.
I was released and driven back to the hotel in Gander.
I feel so badly for having wrecked it, and for having let the team down.
Everyone from Lindsay Duffield, president of BMW Canada, to Stephen McDonnell, head of Mini Canada, to Brian Bourbonniere, crew chief Rob Dexter, our mechanic Mark Krajnac, my fellow competitors, Targa officials, friends and family - they all said variations on "that's racing", and that the car was metal, glass, rubber and plastic - the important thing was that Brian and I were OK.
True enough, I guess.
But our goal was to finish and finish well, and we did not, because I made a mistake.
Among the amazing things we learned from the crash was how strong the car is, augmented for sure by the incredible roll cage that Frank and Dan Sprongl of Four Star Motorsports in Georgetown Ontario built for us. Despite the terrible pounding the car took, the cage didn't budge a bit. The five-point harnesses held. The helmets did their job, although they're toast now (after a biggie like this, a helmet has to be discarded).
Our rally was over 'way too soon. The entire team stayed on to help the finishers celebrate their success.
My heartfelt thanks to so many people. To Brian Bourbonniere, the best right-seat guy in the field, for putting up with me all these years, and for orchestrating my extraction. To Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jen Horsey, for stopping to assist. To the paramedics and staff at Grand Falls Hospital, whose names I sadly did not get. To Rob Dexter, Mark Krajnac and everyone at BMW/MINI Canada, for their unfailing support.
To all the Targa staff, for setting and enforcing safety regulations with respect to equipment, procedures, and on-site medical support staff. As they say, 'human exhaust emissions' happen - the purpose of precautions like these is to turn a potential tragedy into a mere incident.
And thanks to countless fellow competitors, friends and family who sent their best wishes.
I'll be thinking about this for a long, long, time.