The annual road rally Targa Newfoundland will be racing into the Burin Peninsula for the bulk of the races this September, with Marystown as the central hub. In previous years, Targa stages were more spread out across Eastern Newfoundland.
The announcement comes after Targa President Robert Giannou clewed up a series of meetings with town councils in the area last week.
Marystown Deputy Mayor Gary Myles says the community is looking forward to the event, and is even planning a festival around the race called “Targa Days.”
“We’re very excited about it, and we see endless possibilities for local spin-offs, both in terms of the economy and in terms of excitement and social activity.”
While most of the racing will take place on the Burin Peninsula, the kick-off events and prologue stages (races) will be in the St. John’s area as usual, with prologue stages running through Flatrock and Bauline. The week-long race will mostly occur on the Burin Peninsula, and then wind down with stages in North West Brook, Hodges Cove, and communities in Conception Bay North, then finish in Brigus, as it has done in previous years.
Giannou says he mentioned the idea of having the Targa Bambina summer race, as well as the main Targa events in September, both on the Burin Peninsula in conversation with the town councils there.
“Without a breath, (they said) ‘Yes, we’ll take whatever we can get,’” said Giannou. “We’ve had some hard times down there, this will help make things a little better, provide a lot of entertainment for people.”
“And I think the people absolutely deserve it down there. They worked hard to run the stages – they’ve been running them off and on for 17 years.”
Myles says hosting Targa provide “endless” benefits to the community. Each car in the event comes with about ten people because teams have support crews and family who travel with them. So, Myles noted the Marystown Hotel will be booked, gas stations and restaurants will be busy, and participants will also buy souvenirs. Myles is encouraging local businesses and organizations to take advantage of the influx of people that come with the event.
“And besides all of that, it’s free!” he exclaimed. “Where else in the world can you go see cars screaming through town at breakneck speed and cost you absolutely nothing? It’s a great social event, it’s a great economic booster, and we see no negative in it whatsoever.”
Moving most of the stages to Burin also means added perks for both competitors and spectators.
Competitors will spend more time racing than in previous years, due to having less commuting time between communities. About 40 per cent of a competitor’s driving time in a day will be spent racing, whereas in previous years it worked out to about 25 to 30 per cent, due to the longer commutes between stages. Giannou calls this a “really big deal” for competitors.
Spectators will also be able to take in more of the racing due to the locations being more condensed to one area. In previous years, spectators would generally only be able to watch one or two stages in an area, but now spectators are able to get in to see more of the stages before the roads close.
“For example, if you go on the day which has Parker’s Cove, day two, you’ve got Parker’s Cove, Rushoon, Baine Harbour, all right there in one little group. Then you just drive down the road five kilometres and you’ve got Boat Harbour, that sort of thing. So, everything is really fantastically tight together,” said Giannou.
Marystown council is also forming a sub-committee to plan a “Targa Days” festival around the race. Nothing is set in stone yet, but there are plans to organize a car show and a demonstration event in which Targa drivers will take people for a drive in their race cars and take photos. Myles also said they plan to organize opportunities for local charities to hold some fundraisers during the event.
Myles says the goal is to “have a festival atmosphere for two or three days.”
“So, it’s a community thing,” adds Giannou.
Giannou is hoping to have around 50 vehicles entered in September’s event, and at least half that number for the Targa Bambina race held during the summer.