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Colin MacLean
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Targa Newfoundland returns to town after three-year absence

Targa Newfoundland, now in its 11th year, is going back to the Town of Burin after a three-year absence.

A Targa Newfoundland competitor takes a turn on the Marystown South course during the annual event last September.

Targa Newfoundland spokes man Doug Mepham said Wednesday's announcement was actually three rolled in to one, with the biggest being the return to Burin.

The two other changes to the schedule include a five-kilometre challenge added to the final day of the rally in Freshwater. The Carbonear stage of the rally has also received some minor changes.

"Burin has been a favourite with competitors for a very long time. It's a terrific stage. The town has always been very welcoming and the lunch stop (at the Oldest Colony Trust) is an absolutely spectacular location."

Mayor Kevin Lundrigan of Burin expressed cautious optimism about the car rally's return to his town. Targa had been in the community for five years, until three years ago when the town decided not to invite the event back.

At the time, Lundrigan said the Burin section of the rally tied up local roads for up to six hours and the population was finding the inconvenience to be excessive.

But he said Targa has been persistent in its desire to return.

"Each of the past three years Targa has come to council with a request to come back."

They were invited back this year because the two parties agreed on a reduced race schedule that will occupy roads for only about two hours. The invitation is one year only, but if the event is successful it could be allowed to return.

Lundrigan suggested hopefully it will be a success and give the area some much needed exposure.

"It's a lot of exposure because they do a lot of filming and it's aired all over the world. We're trying to get in to tourism and we've certainly got a scenic town. It's the drivers that are the ones keeping after Targa to bring it back here. Because it's probably the most scenic and challenging run that they have in the whole Targa outfit."

Fortunately for Targa, according to Mepham, it has become adaptive to course changes.

"In 10 years we've seen this happen again and again and again. Targa isn't right for every community every year ... we've come to understand that that's just the nature of the thing."

Lundrigan said the only lingering concern some have voiced about Targa's return to Burin is safety, but those issues are minimal.

"It's like any other speeders going through town. At least this one is controlled."

That concern arises from an incident that occurred during last year's Targa Newfoundland rally in the town of Fortune.

A 2002 Subaru left the roadway and collided with a shed on Springhill Road. It then continued onto a property being used by spectators. A 67-year-old woman sitting in a lawn chair was injured during the collision.

Because of that incident Fortune decided not to invite Targa Newfoundland back for the 2012 season.

Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell indicated his town holds no animosity towards Targa, but given the circumstances the council decided it would be inappropriate to have the event back to the community.

"We couldn't welcome them back because we couldn't be sure something like that wouldn't happen again."

In Marystown, where there was also a high-profile accident during this year's event - a multi-million dollar car wound up in Creston Inlet and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube - council had also been reconsidering its relationship with Targa.

At a meeting just before Christmas, a motion to honour the remaining two years of its current four-year contract, subject to amendments to address safety several safety, passed by a vote of six to one.  

Mepham said he fully expects there to be greater scrutiny on the rally this year and he said it is warranted.

"That scrutiny is completely appropriate. I think that everybody wants to know that we're meeting the highest safety standards and are examining us under that light. That's only fair. The result is that everybody across the whole organization ... has got a heightened awareness and commitment (to safety)."

St. John's Telegram

Organizations: Oldest Colony Trust, Subaru

Geographic location: Burin, Targa, Freshwater Carbonear Springhill Road Marystown Creston Inlet St. John's

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