Race officials approach safety head on

Ken
Ken Simmons
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TARGA NEWFOUNDLAND

It's called the St. Lawrence Room at the Airport Comfort Inn, but Saturday morning it was the war room for Targa Newfoundland 2009. The general: Ross Wood - five-star in most people's eyes (except those who may have an infraction protest denied).

There are a lot of facets to Targa, all under various event officials. But once the first green light flashes, this is his party.

Driver Doug Mepham of Bellville, Ont. and his co-driver Dave Osborne of Fort Erie, Ont. tear around the course during the first leg of Targa Newfoundland 2009 in their 2006 Mini Cooper on Monday. Leg 1 took drivers through Placentia and Argentia and on to

On Targa -

It's called the St. Lawrence Room at the Airport Comfort Inn, but Saturday morning it was the war room for Targa Newfoundland 2009. The general: Ross Wood - five-star in most people's eyes (except those who may have an infraction protest denied).

There are a lot of facets to Targa, all under various event officials. But once the first green light flashes, this is his party.

Saturday's gathering was the last of many leading up to the start of the event, this one mustering the command staff who will supervise marshall crews, road opening and losing, scoring and safety.

That's where I'll be this week, running in the safety car with Bill Goodyear at the wheel. As the first car on the stage once it has been closed to normal traffic, ours is the third level of redundancy - after the marshalls and the road-close crew. That doesn't mean we have nothing to do. There are barriers and tapes to confirm, and other little issues ... like the guy who pulled into our path in Placentia Monday, in the middle of the stage, going the wrong way.

Sure, he had to get to work, and it was true the stage had been delayed, but once the road closes, Targa owns it and he was trespassing.

That sounds harsh, but it is the reality, instituted to keep people safe more than for any other reason. That, by the way, is most often the cause of any delay. Safety is the top priority of the course marshalls, the road crews and everyone else associated with this little circus.

When we came upon the car, Touring teams had already entered the stage. The last thing they want to see is another car coming at them on the road, and the last thing anyone wants to see is a collision, of any kind. We didn't have too many incidents like that Monday, thankfully. And, equally thankfully, the people we did come across were pretty understanding. Of course, it's hard to argue with the possibility of a head-on with a race-prepped car. That's a fight a street car is going to lose.

Of course, when the road is clear and all is well, we can enjoy ourselves, too. Drive it like a rental, as the kids say ...

Tuesday is one of the longest of the event, and if the weather co-operates, it'll be one of the best, with a run up from Gander to Leading Tickles for lunch. It starts at 8 a.m. and ends after 6 p.m., but everyone looks geared up for it. Watch this space.

Ken Simmons is The Telegram's features editor




LEG 1 RECAP

Targa Newfoundland started wet and wild in Argentia/Placentia, but it ended sunny and sweet in Eastport Monday. One car was damaged before leaving the home of Castle Hill, but most people ended the day raving about the lunch put on by the Eastport Legion.
Rain greeted competitors as they gathered at the Remax Centre in St. John's Monday morning, and it dogged the group all the way to Placentia Bay. The leg opened with a run through the decommissioned U.S. base at Argentia, and although wet roads slowed the times, reports were quite positive for the open road course.
Same can be said for Placentia, as the cars were cheered on by hundreds of townspeople. There was one incident, where the Audi Quattro of Driver Andrew Wickline and Co- Driver Grant Segall struck the sea wall. Grant Segall was taken to hospital for an injured hand, but he had been released as the Gander crowds filed the arena for the first of two Targa car shows.
As the trained pulled out of the Placentia area and headed to the Osprey Trail, the clouds began breaking up, and competitors got to see the beauty of the Eastport Peninsula - and run the the twin stages - under brilliant sun.
When the teams settled into Gander, there was little movement on the leaderboard.
Owned by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, and operated by Targa Newfoundland Motorsport Club, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 8th annual Targa Newfoundland will start and end in St. John's and will cover more than 2,000 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of the island of Newfoundland over six days, including up to 400 kilometres of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages. Competitors have come from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and the U.K.

Organizations: Airport Comfort Inn, Remax Centre, Newfoundland International Motorsports Targa Newfoundland Motorsport Club

Geographic location: Targa, Placentia Bay, Gander St. John's U.S. Leading Tickles Eastport Castle Hill Island of Newfoundland Australia New Zealand Ireland Germany Bahamas U.K.

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