"Party time" in Newfoundland: it is Targa time again. Every September about 25,000 rally fans from around the world converge on the Atlantic island off the northeast coast of America to experience truly spectacular motorsport. For an entire week, a caravan of rally cars will wind its way through the centre and eastern side of the Island like a long, colourful snake.
Newfoundland is home to just over half a million people, but the size of the island makes that an average of just five people per square kilometre. When the Targa Newfoundland gets underway, they all seem to close ranks a bit.
Schools close to allow the kids to watch the event. Towns providing overnight accommodation for the Targa teams celebrate with the entrants at Targa parties, and the evening drivers' paddock throws its doors open to the fans. It could almost be referred to as a "Car Show", as fans are able to get up close and personal with the teams, marvel at the colourful mix of cars taking part, and talk shop with the drivers.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the Targa Newfoundland, and the number of entrants and fans just keeps on growing. When the cars set out on their 2200-kilometre trek over sticks and stones, it was under the Olympic motto of "it's the taking part that counts". The Targa Newfoundland is not only one of three Targa events around the world (along with the Targa New Zealand and the Targa Tasmania), but is also the longest and toughest rally in Canada.
About 450 kilometres of the rally are contested as actual special stages. However, the majority of entrants are not in it to win it. "It is not about the money, but personal satisfaction," say the organisers. "Have fun, and drive your rally car how you always dreamed of doing." The organisers summed up the very special spirit of the Targa Newfoundland in their slogan "Targa Newfoundland – It's About the Drive!"
Among the hundreds of participants this year was once again a team from MINI Canada. Team Octane lined up with a MINI John Cooper Works Challenge car specially modified for use in rallying. Driver Jim Kenzie and co-driver Brian Bourbonniere have "MINI Rocks!" plastered above their windscreen and across the rear spoiler of car number 107 as they went about making history this year.
This is Team Octane's second start at the Targa Newfoundland with a MINI provided by MINI Canada which has competed in the Targa nine times -- more than any other manufacturer in the last ten years since the rally was founded. Although Kenzie and Bonniere missed out on a fourth victory in the hard-fought "Open Division", it was far and away the best performance by any of the previous manufacturers.
It is no wonder that Kenzie and Bourbonniere were not too disappointed about being forced to retire prematurely from the race. Jim Kenzie is one of just a handful of participants to have taken part in every Targa Newfoundland to date. After ten years you not only know the character of the Targa, but are part of the Targa. For that reason, Jim Kenzie already knows that he will be back next year, when it will once again be "About the Drive!"
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