Our intrepid MINI Challenge race car, bedecked with (most of) our winnings from the 2010 Targa Newfoundland.
The big wooden one on the trailer is for winning the Open division (in the early years, this was known as the 'Panamericana' division, hence the wording on the trophy). I'm very proud to say that our names will be on the little filler-in plaques for the third time in six years.
Then from left to right: the 'keeper' trophy for the Sirius manufacturers' competition; the stainless steel 'frisbee' for finishing first in our group (the ribboned medal hanging from it is our finisher's medal); the 'keeper' for the Jerry Churchill International team win; and the 'permanent' Sirius President's Cup.
Ironically, the one trophy missing is the Kenzie Cup for top marque score. There was a tie this year between Mini and Porsche, there weren't enough cups to go around, and somehow I managed to end up without one!
No worries. We don't do this for the hardware, although it is nice to have.
All thanks to the team:
On the far left, Jacques Fournier, mechanic extraordinaire. He not only kept our car in perfect form throughout - it was WAXED on Friday morning! - but he also helped out several other teams. He re-built the clutch on an American rookie's Mini the night before the event began, and also helped re-build the brakes on a Subaru at the end of the Harbour Mille stage.
Next is Brian Bourbonniere, who has been my co-driver in Targa ever since my assigned navigator in Year Three had, um, a 'digestive crisis'. Brian was part of the service crew for the Subaru squad that year, and when they offered his services and noted he was a four-time Nova Scotia provincial champion rally navigator, I pointed to the right seat and said, "Please, sit right down here!" He is simply the best co-driver in the field - he even reads my breathing through the intercom!
You may recognize the guy next to the driver's door.
On the far right is Alain Lauziere, who was our team manager this year. Having Alain prepare a car for me to drive is like Michael Schumacher preparing a car for Jean Todt to drive - Alain is the top Mini racer in the country, having won a couple of Castrol Touring Car championships in Minis over the past few years. He acquired the remains of the Cooper S JCW I threw into the woods at Targa two years ago, and salvaged some of its parts for a second race car, so its DNA lives on.
Thanks too to Mini for building and supplying such a terrific little car. The addition of an Australian-made Drummond Motor Sport rally suspension this year made all the difference.
Thanks as well to Buckley Insurance Brokers of Newmarket for their substantial support, and to Hugo Boss Canada whose support ensured we were the best-dressed team OUTSIDE the car.
And to Yokohama: the ADVAN Neova AD08 tires gave nice progressive grip in the wet - we only got wheelspin in first and second gears this year, as opposed to all six gears last year - and were predictable and grippy in the dry too. Equally important, they withstood the terrific pounding tires always take on some of the rougher stages of the event.
And a HUGE thank you to all of you who followed our progress via the blog, Facebook and Twitter this year. Cell phone reception, at least with Rogers, is non-existent once you're off the Avalon peninsula, and Internet access is dubious in some of the hotels we stay in on the road, so we couldn't always stay 100 per cent au courant, let alone find the time to respond to comments or make personal replies to every e-mail message.
The Internet wasn't working in the St. John's airport Sunday either, which is when I was planning on filing this last installment. What with trying to get caught up with a week's worth of work and recovering from a Targa-long head cold (next year, I'm going to seek sponsorship from Fisherman's Friend cough drops) it's taken me this long to git 'er done.
A few final notes:
It turns out that contrary to what I said a few days ago, our left half-shaft did not break - it just popped out of the hub, leaving a foot-long steel pipe flailing around in the snug engine room of a rally car. This is not conducive to the long-term health of other components, and it appears to have ventilated the transmission casing. Why it popped out at that point, we're still not sure. It was on a flat surface, under relatively low-stress driving conditions because we basically just had to cruise around on the four-way flashers for five more km to win our Division.
At the moment, we suspect a circlip that is supposed to hold the shaft in place may have broken or come adrift when we hit a BIG 'yump' on the previous stage. But when you consider the absolute pounding the car absorbed over the week, it seems so strange it would happen here. But that stage - 'Brigus' - is infamous for catching people out. It's almost the Bermuda Triangle of Targa.
As for us being able to still win our division when the car did not drive across the finish line, the rules of Targa state that if ANY part of the car crosses the finish line, you are classified as a finisher. We have a quick-release steering wheel, so I quickly released it, took a cab down to the finish line and walked across the line (we did consider taking the cab across the line...).
Rally scoring rules are somewhat arcane. But the bottom line is, we missed fewer stages and incurred fewer penalty points than any other competitor in the Open Division. We don't make the rules; we just abide by them.
We certainly hope to be back next year for the Tenth Anniversary of Targa Newfoundland - to defend ALL our titles.