Don't like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.
Newfoundland isn't the only place that uses this as its motto.
But it sure applies.
We started in St. John's this morning with the animals walking two-by-two - torrential rain.
The Mini Challenge car with the Toyo Proxes 888 tires wasn't too happy; it skipped and jumped when it hit standing water; this was going to be a long day.
By the time we got to Argentia for the first stage of the day, the rain had mostly stopped, but the road was still wet.
By mid-afternoon in Eastport, it was clear, sunny and 25 degrees.
By six p.m. in Gander, it was horizontal rain again.
Don't like the weather?...
Placentia is probably the most representative of all Targa stages.
First, the town is one of the oldest European settlements in North America - Basque fishermen were catching cod here in the early 1500s.
The stage, our second of the day, runs through some tight, twisty, tiny streets that may date back nearly that far; across a lift bridge that allows deep-sea boats to dock in its harbour; it runs along a huge seawall which keeps the sea at, um, bay (and has collected more than its share of Targa cars over the years - another one this year, as it turns out).
There are some fast bits, some slow bits – and a lot of bumps.
Can’t get more Newfoundland than that.
At the end of the stage, I spotted Steve Millen, easily the best-known new star to join Targa. I had met the New Zealand-born long-time track and off-road racer a couple of years ago at a Nissan press event, and introduced the concept of Targa to him.
He was intrigued enough to investigate the possibility of bringing his Ford GT up last year; cooler heads prevailed, as that car wouldn’t have been well-suited to the rigours of Targa.
But here he is this year, in a monster factory-entered Nissan GT-R, sponsored by Road & Track magazine, and navigated by R&T staffer Mike Monticello, who is a rally neophyte.
“Welcome to Newfoundland!" I said to Millen.
His one-word answer, accompanied by a huge smile, “Fabulous!”
I mentioned yesterday that Marc Lachapelle crashed the factory-entered Subaru WRX STi on the first prologue stage. He was taken to hospital for observation because he was out for a moment, but was released and cleared to continue.
The crew attended to the car on the spot, replacing much of the right-side suspension, brought it back into the city for some body repairs, and it was ready to go this morning.
Marc accepted full responsibility for the crash – the car hit a ‘compression”, snaked sideways and hit a rock. Newfoundland has lots and lots of rocks.
Turns out Keith Townsend, the navigator, was worse-off than Marc. He cracked a rib - I’ve never had one, but I’m told few things are more painful than a cracked rib. And being rocked and rolled in a rally car is not what a cracked rib really needs.
So Stewart Ho climbed in to the right seat. Stewart is already something of a Targa legend as a mechanic, not only wrenching the Subaru factory cars, but helping all and sundry who need help. There is a “service crew” award in Targa; when Stewart and his team don’t win it, they probably still deserve it.
He has never navigated before, certainly not at this level. But he is smart, game, and knows rallying backwards and forwards.
I asked him if Subaru was going to pay him double for fulfilling this role too. “I should be paying them!” he replied.
He and Lachapelle finished the day without incident, so good on all of them.
The strategy between my navigator Brian Bourbonniere and me is I never ask how we have done in a stage, he never tells me, and I have no idea how well we are doing overall (you can find out via the www.targanewfoundland.com web site if you want).
All I get from Brian - if I get anything at all! - is “Good run!
I got several of those today, especially on the Eastport stage, which we ran twice. Smooth pavement, wide-open corners, nothing sneaky - everybody loved this one.
The Placentia and Osprey Trail stages were a lot rougher, and that’s where the race car heritage of our MINI Challenge car becomes a bit of a handicap.
A race car wants to be as low to the ground as possible, and pretty stiff.
A rally car prefers to have a softer set-up, with lots of wheel travel to soak up the bumps.
As Brian said, our car couldn’t be any stiffer if we gave it a Viagra pill the size of a hockey puck.
When we hit a big bump, especially in a corner, the car tends to hop around a lot. This not only loses grip, hence speed, it makes it a bit more of an adventure than we really need.
Frank Sprongl, who prepped our car for rallying, made it as tall and as soft as he could. But his car, the stunning Audi quattro which won our Open division last year, was built as a rally car. He has no problems with the bumps at all.
I found out only on Saturday why we crashed last year.
Well, I fell off the road, is why.
But this piece of road was leading across a “relatively” new bridge. Some years before, they had ploughed in some fill over the old road, paved it, and that was that.
However, they just left the old Armco barrier where it was - which, as it happens, was sticking up by about half a metre, about a metre and a half off the pavement on the shoulder.
When we slid down there, we hit that Armco head-on, which ‘tripped’ the car into a double end-over-end.
The rally organizers told me they visited the site and found my red paint all over that remnant of barrier.
If that Armco had not been there, might I have been able to drive on out and across the bridge?
I don’t know.
Maybe I would have driven right into the river (hey; it wasn’t all that deep).
But we most likely would not have end-O’d.
And when I took my spare glasses (which I use when racing) out of my racing kit bag, I found a pebble in the case. It got in there when we rolled.
I don’t know whether to keep it as a souvenir, or, when we drive past that spot tomorrow, to throw it back. Sort of ‘replace your divots’, sort of thing.