When Belleville-based public relations consultant Doug Mepham and myself completed the five-day Targa Tasmania car rally back in the spring of 2001, we mused on the impossibility of doing anything like that in North America.
Have the police close down public roads and tell you to drive faster?
But Doug dropped a bug (actually, my Wheels story on Targa Tasmania) in the metaphorical ear of St. John's Newfoundland motorsport enthusiast Bob Giannou, he took the idea to the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and eighteen months and a huge pile of work later, we had our first Targa Newfoundland.
Next week, we'll be running our tenth.
Targa Newfoundland is, among other things, the most fun you can have in a car with your clothes on.
On top of the thrill of driving performance cars 'the way they were meant to be driven' to use one of the event's mottoes, you see some of Canada's most spectacular scenery (although often at a pace which prevents you from enjoying it much) and meet without doubt Canada's most colourful and friendly citizens.
Many of your fellow competitors - from Newfoundland, from RoC (Rest of Canada), from the US, from Europe, from the Turks and Caicos Islands, from Australia, from darn-near everywhere - become life-long friends too.
We even had one wedding at Targa.
Not to mention (although I will) that Targa brings some six to ten millions of tourism dollars to the province, at a time when most everyone else has gone home - the timing of Targa coincides with the year's last ferry back from Argentia near St. John's to Nova Scotia.
For the ninth year in a row, I'll be competing in a MINI (Mepham and I did Year One in his 1971 Volvo 123 GT, the same car we ran Tasmania).
For the seventh year in a row, my navigator will be Brian Bourbonniere from Lawrencetown Nova Scotia, without doubt (in my mind anyway) the best co-driver in the event.
The guy reads my mood through my breathing in the headsets in our helmets, fer cryin' out loud.
We'll be in the same MINI Challenge race car which took us to victory in the Open Division last year (our third such victory in six years). Crew Chief Alain Lauziere has fixed the transmission mount which allowed our driveshaft to part company with the hub on the second-last stage of last year's event, so when we win again this year (ahem...) it won't be by me carrying the steering wheel across the finish line.
If for no other reason than due to our less-than-conventional finish last year, you now must actually DRIVE across the line to qualify for a placing.
Hey - we don't make the rules; we just bend them.
And then they change them.
If you are a motorsport participant at any level, Targa Newfoundland must BECOME your Bucket List for next year.
Yes, it is that cool.
But compared to a season of racing just about anything else, in just about any other series, it's cheap at twice the price.
If you can't get down this year to see the event for yourself, you can follow our team's progress on this blog. I'll be posting as often as the somewhat dodgy Internet access in the hinterlands of The Rock and my sleep schedule allow.
To follow us and everybody else, check out Targa's own website.
We'll also let you know when the TV Special will be airing - probably some time in January 2012.