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Article by Steve Carrick, Co-Driver for Last Ditch Racing's Targa Effort!

Stories on the event by Jim Kenzie (

Article by Jim Kenzie mentioning us specifically ( (including official results)

Targa...Targa Newfoundland...

Those were the words that I wouldn't let enter into my conscience willingly prior to heading North to the Rallye Defi-St. Agathe. I had viewed the Targa site earlier in the year and was interested, but knew that I would not be able to enter my lowly Subaru Impreza rally car in the race because it was not, "historically significant." Although, the more I thought about it, the Subaru Impreza is very significant in the history of rallying. No matter...I wasn't going to Targa anyway.

Prior to leaving for Defi, I received an e-mail from the Defi rally organizers explaining that the winners of each class would win a free entry into Targa Newfoundland. Dave Getchell, one of my team members, joked prior to leaving, "we're going to win an entry to Targa!"
Defi went well, with us taking third in the P-3 class. Missed the Targa entry! Not surprising at all as the P-3 competition was fierce. As we watched the award presentation ceremony, we were shocked to hear our names called to receive, "First American Team," trophies. Then, when all the class winners had been presented with their Targa entry awards, we heard our names called again! We were sitting outside, and I wasn't quite sure what it was for. Dave told me, "You won an entry to Targa!"

It was bittersweet. Targa was the very next weekend. I had no vacation time left and work would not let me leave for 12 days. It was an honor to win the entry, but a shame we couldn't use it. The 10 hour drive back to Maine proved to be ample time to concoct all sorts of schemes about getting to Targa. We had some good laughs, and I shelved the idea as quite impossible.

Needless to say, my brain wouldn't quit. I arrived home and surprised my wife with the trophy and then really floored her with the Targa entry news. Her supportive reply was, "You didn't really win an entry to Targa, did you!?" That night, I told her I was actually thinking about trying to make the race. Sharon was quite skeptical that I could throw something together just three short days. So was I....

As one friend once told me: "When you mention something, it's as good as done already!" I walked into work on Monday and showed them the trophy from Defi and then told them about Targa a bit later. There was much discussion about how they could let me go off to joust windmills when I had just returned to work! Needless to say, the romantic vision and the actual fact that this chance at Targa might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not lost on my co-workers who told me to go and do my best. "We'll be okay," they said. In my office, I knew better, but I wanted to do them proud and validate their confidence in me.

I needed a crew and a co-driver. Maygen couldn't co-drive due to school committments. "I'd be kicked out," she said. The crew couldn't go. Dave and Eric schemed and weighed their entire professional and financial well-being versus the adventure. Sadly, reality would not budge for them.

I called Mike at and said, "I'm going to Newfoundland and need some stuff." I rattled off a laundry list of parts and they arrived within two days. I purchased an entire spare drivetrain for the car from the local junk yard and bought some Falken Zeiks tires locally. They were the only tire I could find that would fit! Not much of a decision process there! I pulled the rally tires off the car and mounted the Ronal rims shod with the Falken's and that was the extent of the car preparation for Targa.

Almost two solid days of numerous discussions with potential co-drivers all over the US and in the UK. Two were very close, but couldn't pull it together on such short notice. I felt sick. I had scrambled. Work had let me go(and I though that was going to be the stumbling block!), and now it looked as if I was staying home unless someone called to jump in the right seat. I called my wife multiple times from work-"Any calls," I'd ask. "Sorry, none..."

I called Bob Giannou, head of the Targa organization. I explained that I could come, but had no crew and no co-driver. Without pause, Bob said, "Just come and we'll make it happen." Just what I needed-another eternal optimist like myself! I got some Canadian cash, a map of the Canadian Maritimes and headed North after work on Thursday night to make the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia on Friday noon.

I drove....and then I drove some more. I was exhauste after a full day at work and an 8 hour drive. I stopped at no less than four hotel/motels. No vacancy I was told. So, I continued North through the night. The drive was uneventful except for a skunk that became part of the underside of the truck and an orange muscle car that passed me on the Trans-Canada at about 110mph. "I wonder if he's going to Targa....."

I finally had to pull over and sleep. It was about 5AM and I was loosing the battle to hold onto the waking world(and the truck and trailer combo for that matter). The early morning delivery trucks on Cape Breton Island were out and quite unhappy that this slow vehicle and trailer were interfering with their schedule. I pulled into the parking lot of St. Mary's church and set my alarm for 07:30, hoping to be awake and gone before any children arrived as it looked as if the church also had a school.

Waking to the grating noise from the travel alarm, I felt decidely dumb and not quite fresh anymore. I continued to North Sydney, joining the early morning school buses and commuters. The ferry terminal was obvious and I arrived at the gate obviously before the woman working there had had her morning coffee. I gave her my name and told her I had a reservation. She was quite dismayed that I was not scheduled as a commercial vehicle, and repeated that numerous times, finally giving up and saying, "well, that's just not right." She must have grasped the fact that at that point in my trip I had no faculties to discuss the matter further.

She then told me the good news. The ferry had been delayed by the recent storm, Gustav, and would now leave at 24:00 instead of 12:00. Hmmmm...what to do for nearly sixteen hours? A combination of Canadian Tire, the bank, some impromptu video diary, magazines and naps made up the day. Other teams trickled in and everyone started to talk with each other.

We boarded the ferry after midnight and then most of us went to find our assigned bunks in the dormitory areas of the ship. I woke at 06:00, quite upset with myself for not being able to sleep further. I headed to the cafeteria, where I was the only customer, and had breakfast. My body made me return to the bunk after for a few more hours shut-eye.

Returning to the cafeteria, I found Mark Williams and Dough Mepham guiding the rally participants through an impromptu meeting about rally procedure and timing. Mark was in his element and despite his concise and clear explanations, had perplexed expressions on everyone's face by the time he was done.

Arriving in Argentia, we were greeted by other Targa participants who had arrived ahead of us as well as local car enthusiasts who had brought their vintage autos down to the pier. Led by a police escort, we transited to St. John's to the Mile One stadium in the heart of town. The route to St. John's was lined with local well-wishers and a very bright rainbow was a very nice addition to the scenery!

Despite being surrounded by people with smiling faces and their awesome automitive machinery, I nonetheless felt quite alone. What had I done?! I was unloading the car from the trailer, no one to guide me out, a multitude of spare parts I couldn't possibly install myself. Install?! How would I even get the parts to where the car would be during the week away from the city?! My head hurt. I was tired and needed food, shower and more sleep-in what order I wasn't quite sure.

A photographer took a picture of the front of the car as soon as it was off the trailer. I drove the car into the stadium and parked and then went to register. I found Bob Giannou and realized immediately that he had the charisma necessary to pull together an event of this magnitude. I explained to him I still did not have a co-driver. "Not a problem, we'll find someone." I met Ross Wood and he said, "You found a co-driver, right?" "Nope," I said. "Shit," was the appriate reply from Ross. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Bob walked up to me and handed me his cell phone. Having just met him, I thought this gesture quite odd. "Who is it?," I asked. "Your co-driver." "Hello?, who's this?," I asked. "This is Scott Giannou, Bob's son. I'm here with someone that might be able to co-drive." Another voice comes on the phone. "Hello? This is Steve, Steve Carrick." I knew that Steve must have been already briefed on my plight, and I told him I'd be most pleased if he would join me by taking the right seat in Steel Tulip. Scott comes on the phone, "We're at the Grapevine, a bar on George Street. Hop in a cab and come down!"

I decide to take my chances navigating St. John's on my own and find the Grapevine in short order. I'm soon informed that St. John's has the most pubs per capita of any North American city. George Street is known far and wide. Steve is not what I expected. I really didn't expect anything, but Steve was older than his voice let on. Turns out Steve is a rally driver, having campaigned a Ford Cortina in the 80's in the CARS series. He tells me he's never co-driven, but is happy to give it a shot. Trying to muster some energy and look as happy as I now feel, I welcome Steve as the newest member of Last Ditch Racing.

Sunday is a demonstration day for the locals and we all head out to the stage. This is an opportunity for fans to see the cars, teams to drive them and workers to get used to the protocol of a rally. I had seen Tom McGeer earlier in the morning and jokingly said, "So, Mark is going to let you break his car?!" I must have jinxed him as he put the Ford Falcon on the driver's side after sliding and hitting a curb. Repair was apparently an all night affair with stories yet to be told...

The odometer wasn't working, but Steve and I really didn't need it. The car handled like a go-kart. I had never driven it at any kind of speed on tarmac, and never on the Falken tires. I wondered if my dirt rally skills would apply. They did, but not in all situations as I would find later in the week.

We fixed the odometer that night and Steve was very pleased to finally have something to do in the right seat instead of look out the window. The Prologue stages were two stages run for the purpose of establishing a start order. I think everyone was nervous, but the rain made some more so. Having the AWD(all wheel drive) of the Subaru was comforting. We we placed in Group 8, a stock modern car catgory. Fellow class members included a Dodge Viper, a Porsche 911 Turbo AWD, and two Ford Mustangs, one with a large Paxton supercharger. Our 110bhp Subaru 1.8L non-turbo was in very fast company indeed!

The prologue went well for us, and I was driving as hard as I could. Still somewhat tired from the travel, we headed to the hotel for dinner and sleep. The next day, there were congratulations from Jim Kenzie as I tried to make sense of the start list posted. We were listed third from bottom, with cars that were obviously faster than ours listed above. Jim must have seen a lack of joy on my face and reminded me that the start order was reversed and that we were third overall after the Prologue stages! Despite some obvious pride, I searched for some explanation as to why we had done so well, or why others had not been as quick. I could find none, except perhaps that people were trying for a specific start order. We had obviously, "spanked it," a phrase that would permeate our discussions during the week to come.

The next four days were a blur, and I apologize for my lack of explicit detail in the text that follows.

After the first day, it became apparent to Steve that he could no longer have his usual AM coffee and evening beer due. We both found that riding all day in a rally car poses some biological challenges!

Everywhere we went, there were locals. Standing on the side of the road, waving. I've never waved or honked my horn so much! The day of the prologue, we stopped at the Beach Cove Elementary school for lunch and the experience was beyond words. The children were standing in the rain, cheering each car as they arrived. They had each made a flag with popsical stick post and construction paper. Steve was taken aback by the experience and wasn't quite sure how to approach the children. Having two young boys the same age as some of the school children, I got down on one knee in front of the line of children, asking them about their flags and showing them which car was ours. Looking to my right and left, many other drivers were doing the same was beautiful to see the looks on the driver's and children's faces.

The next four days, there were some high points. We soon found that the little Subaru had a terminal velocity about 115mph-going downhill with a tailwind! On one particularly long stage, Len Cattlin in his yellow Mustang, passed us like we were standing still! Steve exclaimed, "That's not fair!,' and I chuckled as Len disappeared over the next crest.

On a stage going to Leading Tickles, Steve gave me the instruction-"Medium right over crest." I set up to the right side of the road, and when we came over the crest, we saw the medium right, but it was after an easy left! The tires on Steve's side of the road were on the gravel shoulder, and the rear of the car starting going right. I corrected and tried to keep my foot in the gas. We saw a guardrail on the left side of the road and a cliff wall on the right. Time seemed to slow as we spun and ended up in the deep ditch on the right. We could hear the exclaimations of the marshalls and fans. As soon as we stopped, I was cranking the car. It started and I found we couldn't drive out, I backed further into the ditch and then put it in gear. The little Subaru clawed out of the ditch! We drove the last kilometer or so on a flat front tire and missed our base time by 2 seconds!

Needless to say, Steve and I were thankful to have an opportunity to get out at Leading Tickles and have lunch. The stark beauty was incredible. The Atlantic Ocean crashed against towering cliffs. Breathtaking...

The rest of the stages were uneventful(thankfully), and we struggled on each to make the base time for the class. Other competitors in much faster cars were successful at getting the base times lowered for our class so that they could have more of a challenge. Steve and I looked at each other as it was announced that the base times would be changed and knew we'd be hard-pressed to complete the next couple of days' stages within our base times. We were in loss management mode. Changing our spare tire resulted in a 1 minute penalty which dropped us in the standings.

Gander. Wow! What a stage! If only I had a rally WRX! In Gander, the last stage of the day, we raced one stage through a subdivision. It seemed like an endless stage of 90 degree left and right turns. We were informed that the town had even removed the fire hydrants to allow us to race a bit safer! Talk about accomodation! One of the local mustangs left in front of us, laying two black lines of rubber as it left. The crowd at the start line was thrilled! They encouraged us to do the same, but alas, Steel Tulip did not have the power to spin all four tires.

After the first turns, I got into a rhythm and found that by steering and then applying a bit of break, Tulip's rear would break loose and slide around the turn. Steve had decided to simply call the corners as left or rights instead of trying to use the odometer. The turns were so close that there he wouldn't have time to look! Fans lined the entire route and it was simply fantastic. Left, then right, then again and squealing in what must have been delight! At the end of the staged, we pulled into the FTC(finish time control) and the smell of burnt brake linings wafted into the cabin. Steve and I must've have looked like two little boys with shit-eating grins on our faces!

The crowd at the Gander auditorium was large, and although tired, I decided to stay and talk with the public about the car. The kids all wanted to know if our fire-bottle was NOS, and I had to explain that none of the cars in the Targa had NOS. After seeing one young boy with his face as close to the window as he could, I asked him if he wanted to sit in the car. He couldn't believe I was offering! Soon after, a line formed, and picture after picture was taken of children and adults in the car! The smiles were worth the delay in getting some much needed sleep!

Each night at the various arenas the cars were parked at, Steve would ask, "Shouldn't we be doing something to the car?" Most other teams had their cars up on jackstands and were doing something or other. Without a crew, and with all our spare parts in St. John's, I replied, "No sense checking because we can't fix anything!"

The event wrapped up on the Irish Loop, and everyone raved about the fish chowder there! We then convoyed back to St. George Street in St. John's and everyone pulled themselves out of their cars and found much needed refreshment! The front spoiler of the Datsun was in the lineup, that being the only part that could be there after being stopped by a steel sea wall earlier in the day. Ralph and others pushed the Toyota Celica rally car to the lineup to the cheers of many.

How did we do!? Well, we finished first in our class, besting the Mustangs, Viper and AWD Porsche Turbo. The beauty of AWD!

There were some dramatic retirements, and some fantastic stories of persevering in the face of what seemed insurmountable odds. Those I leave for those that experienced them to tell. For Steve and I, we take many memories from Newfoundland, and hope to return again, be it as competitors or tourists. The faces of the children at Beachy Cove will never be forgotten.

A very special thank you to our sponsors and others: who supplied last minute spares and rims.

AMSOIL synthetic lubricants(

Maygen McCarty and the Last Ditch Racing team(Eirc Wages, Margaret Michaels and Dave Getchell). Without you, I wouldn't have had this wonderful opporunity! Thank You!

The person that loaned us a coat hanger for our exhaust! It worked like a charm!

Bald Head Racing for the loan of tools and moral support. Rebuilding their Porsche each evening next to us made us feel very confident! Thanks Craig and Jim! :-)

Sebastian for the multiple use of the jackstands and torque wrench! I hope you get that rally car in time for next year's event!

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