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Navigating for John Cassidy

posted in Co-Driver by Steve Carrick


First of all, I would like to thank John very much for the wonderful drive he made to complete the Targa, and to finish first in Class with a very underpowered, but very sturdy little car.

Patience is the key word re John’s approach to breaking in a new navigator.

Some of the things John had to have patience with;

-Stop Tee Left, (instead of 90 left at Tee)

-I have to pee again

-90 left, right here

-Ummm (as we bore down on an unexpected corner with lots of spectators and marshalls)

-Oops, I pushed the wrong button.
I had travelled down to Newfoundland with the Craig Seko/Jim Morrow Porsche team from here in Ottawa. The plan was to help out with the running of the event. I have an extensive, though somewhat dated rally background, including competing at the National level in the 70s, running the One Lap of America in the 80s, and then just the occasional Winter TSD event or Service crew.

On arrival in St John’s, I was billeted with Judy and Scott Giannou of the organizing team. That first night, we were out enjoying the night life of St John’s when the fateful telephone call was received by Scott. Someone had brought their rally car all the way here without a navigator, on spec that they might find a navigator when they arrived. I was handed the phone, John and I talked briefly and he came over to the pub to continue negotiations. His other options weren't great, so it was agreed that we would team up and see how it went.

Sunday, the demonstration stage. The car rides really well, John is totally in control, no close encounters. But how come we don't get that surge of power on the straights at about 3000 RPM? Oh yes, Steel Tulip is not a WRX although it does look like it should be one. No odo, but we don't really need one.

Monday, the Prologue stages to determine starting order, and its raining. Hurray. John sure knows his car. With judicious use of left foot braking and by keeping the speed up through the turns, we are second overall after the first stage and third overall after the two stages of the day. Wow!! Take that you 5 litre Mustangs, Viper and Bimmers. I have heard a lot about left foot braking, but havent seen it personally until now. Im still not sure how he does it, but the car hugs the corners and loses very little of our precious, hard fought for speed. And still no odo. After much reading of the manual, checking voltages and resoldering connections, the problem was simply too big a gap at the sensor pickup. John repaired that and we had no more problems with the on board electronics.

Tuesday, the first long day. This is where some of us learned that we have to change our daily routine. No morning coffee; no evening beer since there are no facilities and no time to spare. And how do these regular co-drivers manage to get back into the car so quickly? With a roll cage to climb through, a five strap harness to do up, an intercom connection to plug in, a helmet to squeeze into and fasten, and a clipboard to get ready, certain drivers thought it was amusing to watch their counterparts thrashing about trying to get everything done up in time.

I also discovered that John doesn't really need a navigator anyway. If I tell him hard left when the road actually Tees right, he is still able to manage. And at fast speeds, the instructions seem to get closer together. And when there are two features in one tulip, where do you zero the odo to be sure of getting the next one correct? It isn't in the middle of the two, or at the most significant. Experimentation with the above led to a few exciting moments, moments when John exhibited very quick reactions and extreme patience. As we found out on the last day, you zero at the first feature.

Wednesday and Thursday, more good stages but no rain so we drifted down the leaderboard a little. The timing on a Targa is unique. Each stage has a base time (with a per second penalty for being slower), a Targa time (easy to meet if you have no trouble. Meet all Targa times to receive the much sought after Targa Trophy), and a 132kph time (a per second penalty if you go faster). No timing errors helped us from losing more positions, as about half the field were still having difficulties with the timing. The times were different for each class, with older cars having slower times. Since we were in the modern class, we had the fastest times.

The people of Newfoundland were incredible. Everywhere we went, they were out in droves, cheering us on, asking for autographs, wanting to know where the NOS was. Since Steel Tulip was the only "real rally car" and had the huge light pods on the front, it was a big hit. We went right through a neighbourhood in Gander and the residents were out sitting on their lawns, having a great time. Schools were closed so the kids could come out and see us. Imagine doing that here! Every night the cars were parked in an arena and the crews were allowed to work on them or just hang around and talk to the folks who came by. It was just great answering their questions, listening to their accents and signing autographs. I cant remember ever signing autographs before.

Friday was the highlight for me. We used the main road into Leading Tickles, a small community on the Atlantic and the furthest point we travelled to from St John’s. We spun once here, ending up in the ditch, getting a flat tire and a 2 second time penalty for missing our base time. Later in the day we spun again, but stayed on the road and continued on. At Leading Tickles,we had a three hour break for lunch. There was entertainment including a public school choir singing This Land is Your Land, local charity groups provided lunch consisting of the local specialties, a lookout offered great views, and of course, the people. I bought a Leading Tickles T shirt and had the locals sign it for me. A great souvenir.

Saturday, back To St Johns, and the finish. Sunday the black tie banquet and awards, plus a video of the highlights for each team. Monday the ferry back to the mainland and then home.

Thanks to Last Ditch Racing, John Cassidy and all the team who put together a wonderful car for me to step into. Thanks to Tim Winker for the use of his Nomex and Jim Kenzie for the use of his spare driving suit. And to all the organizers and volunteers for the Targa itself.

A great event and a wonderful experience.

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