Feature: Targa Canada West

Sunday May 13 – 12am

I am finally home. What a roller coaster ride that was. My car has returned, and is (relatively) in one piece. My trunk and rear quarter panel are scratched up, I am $171 poorer, and a rush of anger is only calmed by the relief of finally getting home. I am exhausted, excited, furious, and utterly addicted to driving. I have a problem.

It all started 2.5 days ago….

Friday May 11
I picked up my co-driver Cam from his place and spent the next hour feathering the clutch in stop and go traffic on Hwy 1 east. My car shows its appreciation for this driving style by reminding me of the clutch judder I have (where it “stutters” in 1st gear – common to 2001 Miatas). With the roadwork in Surrey, it takes us about 1 hr to get from Port Moody to Abbotsford where we stop for some gas and a bite.

Pass through Hope. This is a route I’ve taken many times before. The only difference is this time I get lost somehow. Don’t ask. We finally connect back onto Hwy 5.

Cam is starting to drift off to sleep as the conversation dries up so I excitedly hook up my iPod to the FM transmitter. Only to find out that for some reason the 1.3Gb of Initial D music that I spent hours downloading and editing does not play.

Our little “tour of Hope” has cost us an hour and now I am feeling some time pressure. I had wanted to meet up with Duane (organizer of Targa Canada West) as we would be missing the official registration time from 7-9pm. If we do not meet up with Duane tonight, we would have to get up extra early the next day to sign the waivers and add the decals onto our vehicle.

Soon we turn off Hwy 5 onto 97C at Merritt. The end is near…ish.

Almost in Vernon, we turn off onto Bailey St. towards Sparkling Hill Resort where the rally is centralized around. The road leading up to Sparkling Hill Resort is fantastic, except in the dark and with few streetlights it is difficult to make our way around quickly.

We finally get to the resort and in the VIP parking is a ridiculous line up of cars.

Jaguar E-Type, Team Bullet’s 911 GT3 Cup, 911 GT3, 911 GT3…oh crap!

We get into the lounge downstairs where we meet Duane and Brad (facilities manager). Duane gets us to sign the waivers and hands out the car decals. This is when we get hit with the bombshell that the “rally” is not actually a rally at all, but a “spirited driving tour” and will be on open roads. Hmm…not quite what I remember reading on the website.

Duane explains to me the TSD (Time Speed Distance) rally is the “eventual goal” that they are aiming for, although I find that the mention of it on the website rather confusing. To help cheer me up, Duane mentions that a Ferrari Enzo or Porsche Carrera GT may show up, depending on the availability of another entrant that has not confirmed yet. Almost enough to make up for the open road bit…

We also get handed the drivers package which include our decals and we notice we are car #4 in the event. In Chinese culture, the #4 is considered unlucky as it sounds very similar to the word “die”. Hope that’s not a sign..

Not wanting to have to apply the decals the next day, we make the decision to do it that evening. In the resort staff parking lot, we find a hose, bucket, wash clothes and sponges, so we get to work.

Silhouette of Cam washing my car in the staff parking lot of Sparkling Hill Resort. We’ve been here for 5 minutes and have single handedly de-classed this place already

Decals applied!

We check into our Super 8 super motel where the front desk clerk questions our sexuality as I had specified a single queen bed.

“You know, most men don’t want to share a bed.”

Agreed – but most men wouldn’t want to pay $170 for 2 nights at Super 8. And sadly, after much research Super 8 offered the that motel had the best cheap/clean ratio in Vernon. The clerk also mentions that the room we have is a room for the physically challenged. Hopefully it wasn’t our looks.

Tuck in for the night.

Saturday, May 12
6:45am – the alarm goes off on max volume and I struggle to turn it off as the alarm clock seems to be missing an off button.

Alarm still going off.

I feel tired from the drive last night but I’m sure that adrenaline will take over once I see the car line up. As per my previous post there are some real doozies.

Wanting to make the most of the $170 that I paid for my “Super 8 experience”, I load up on the “free” continental breakfast.

Drivers meeting. We get handed a booklet by one of the rally masters which include instructions for answering the questions, and directions. This rally is a “gimmick” style rally – essentially you have to drive through to certain checkpoints and complete the tasks. You are then scored on the tasks and your score is multiplied by a card you draw at the end of the day as well as a roll of the dice. So, this is mostly based on luck. There are disclaimers all over the booklet about not speeding. Right. What do you expect will happen when you get a bunch of car enthusiasts together and show them some of the best driving roads in the Okanagan? More on that later. Disappointment pings when we realize that neither an Enzo nor Carrera GT will be joining us.

Talking to each other at the back instead of listening to the instructions. Bodes well for winning…(Courtesy of http://www.targacanadawest.com/)

Some of the lineup. Hmm maybe I have a chance with the Prelude…

Porsche Carrera GTS. Gulp.

Porsche 356 – Father of the 911. Gorgeous, but also related to the original VW Beetle.

Front: Porsche Carrera C2S, VW R32. Middle: Ferrari 360 Modena, Porsche 356, Porsche 914, Ford Mustang, Audi S4.

Umm yeah. We have our work cut out….(courtesy of http://www.targacanadawest.com/)

Brush with greatness…and our chance to get some accidental exposure to the crowds

The event finally begins, and the cars leave one by one. Our first stop is to go to the top of a local mountain and get a photo of the historic fire hall. On the way up, I end up following a Subaru STI and Corvette ZO6. The roads on the way up the mountain are filled with many hairpins and chicanes (“S” curves) as well as tightening corners. It is here that I use my GPS to help me sight the road and prepare to get the best line.

In the straight sections I am unable to keep up with either STI or the ZO6 (expectedly), but in the corners with the Subaru especially I feel I can gain some ground. However, its acceleration and grip is absolutely incredible and every time he opens up the taps I am left in the dust. The pace is quick, but not uncomfortable and we keep this up until we catch up to the Porsche 356 that left before us. When we finally pull to snap a picture of the fire hall, I see the STI driver is an older gentleman with grey hair. Cool.

A Maserati Granturismo MC and Aston Martin V8 Vantage pull in and in doing so block the people that were in my group (jerk move). Cam jumps back in just as the Aston takes off and we follow as the Maser steps in behind me. The Vantage is leading, with myself in the middle, and the Maser following up. The roads are deserted.

Right away leaving the peak, the Vantage picks up the pace. I notice that the Vantage seems to brake a lot, in areas I can just lift off and/or downshift to carry speed through a corner – something I’ll have to keep doing in order to keep up with him.

And I AM able to keep up with him! My focus is on the Vantage and reeling him in like I’m fishing. Cam is silent (presumably because he’s letting me focus…or scared sh!tless).

As we head down the mountain, I continue to chase the Vantage’s tail and the Maser is right in my rear view. Every driving technique I have learned I am pouring into this drive. Gentle inputs (squeezing the throttle and brakes, not stomping on them), and carefully balancing the car while keeping the revs high are all I am focused on now. I watch the Aston and use it as a beacon for the road. We continue to pick up the pace as I have to now start braking for the corners as well. The few straights in between I see the Maser right behind me as he anxiously looks for a spot to pass. I use heel/toe and rev matching to keep my revs near the peak where my max power is as I start to struggle to keep up. It seems like the Vantage and Maser are able to hit that next gear while I am starting to feel pushed and stretched. I feel like I have hit both my own comfortable max as well as the car’s. As we start approaching hair pin corners I see gravel and slow down; hitting gravel while your car is on the limits of adhesion is not a good decision. Also, I feel I can no longer keep up with the Aston and hold back the Maser in a controlled manner. I am just about to slow down on the next straight and pull over a bit to let the Maser through, when he dangerously passes me in the middle of the hairpin – in the opposite lane.

Somewhat deflated, I exhale and slow down. All those hours of watching driving videos and absorbing as much as I can does not make me Fujiwara Takumi. Cam finally speaks up after having been silent for a few minutes (the duration of my time with the Aston and Maserati).


“What? Those guys totally passed me…”

“…yes but you kept up with them for SO LONG!! You were so focussed and you were able to keep up with supercars!”

And at that moment, I beamed a smile which parted the clouds of self-doubt. I HAD kept up with a couple of supercars driven by some financially unburdened people. With a 140 hp Miata. To me, this was an achievement, even if it was only for a few minutes.

As we get down from the mountain and head to another portion of the tour, we start to hit quiet side roads. I speed up a bit but the Maser and Aston are nowhere to be found. As I make my way down a stretch, I notice a car in the opposite direction flick his high beams at me. I think that this is a notification that there is police ahead and to watch our speed, so we slow down for a few minutes.

However, after a few minutes I am wondering if the message meant something else as we have not encountered any police yet. Was he acknowledging the rally stickers? Did he mean something else? Just as I am doing this I round a corner and there is a police car there. I jump on the brakes but it is too late. The police car flashes his siren lights at me and I pull over.

The policeman walks up to my car as I lower my window.

“Do you know what the speed limit is?”

“Hmm….50 km/h?”

“Close. Its 60. Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Sorry, I really have no idea.”

“You were doing 104 km/h. Do you know what the law is in BC?”

I grimace. Questions like that usually don’t result in a good answer. “No, sorry I don’t.”

“I can impound your car for 7 days and take your license away for 30.”

I cough sort of like somebody who is dying while the officer goes to his car. We wait for what seems like an eternity as cars from the Targa catch up to us and pass us. The officer returns.

“Hey, look. I know what you guys are doing and I think its great.” Promising.

“…and I’m going to give you the minimum ticket for $196. IF you pay in less than 30 days you will knock $25 off it. I understand what you guys are doing but please don’t draw attention to yourself like this. This is bad for your event. I had two separate calls of people complaining about cars passing illegally and at excessive speed.” My heart sinks. The Aston and Maserati were ahead of me and while I take full responsibility for speeding I was careful not to pass anybody illegally.

“I have a buddy down the road and seriously if I catch you again I will impound your car.”. Still, I am thankful for being spared the full wrath and drive pretty gingerly after that. I later find out from my dad that if your car does get impounded you have to pay the impound lot on a rate per day basis. 7 days will draw you close $10,000. Gratefulness to the officer starts to turn sour towards the event as I ask myself why it isn’t held on closed roads. As I mention above, what do you expect will happen when you get a bunch of driving enthusiasts together and give them the map to some driving roads? This event NEEDS to be on closed roads.

We break for lunch at the local Subway where we run into a couple of other teams. First we meet Greg and Farrah in a BMW M Coupe from Edmonton. We find out that they were caught for speeding in the same location as us and were also given a similar story by the officer. Like us, they had also thought this was a rally on closed roads and were surprised that this event turned into what it was. We all agreed that this should be on closed roads. We also meet James and Tom who are running an Audi S4 Avant, and talk about some of the events that day. It is really nice to meet people from different backgrounds that all have a similar interest.

With lunch over and 2/3 of our convoy having received speeding tickets, we make our way slowly to the next destination. On the way, we encounter some fantastic A roads and our convoy speeds up a bit. Greg is leading in his M Coupe and I follow with James bringing up the rear, and I am very curious to see how my Miata stacks up against the German “Miata”. Deterred from reaching higher speeds, it is hard to tell but I feel I can catch up to Greg in corner entries. The S4 is in my rearview and soon I let him pass me. We eventually stop for gas at the next checkpoint.

Stopping for gas with Greg and his M Coupe in the background.

Greg leaves us at the fuel stop while we wait for the S4 to fill up. Soon we join up with the Kids for Cancer Porsche GT3 who had recently been caught speeding as well. Our convoy continues on.

At the next checkpoint with the Kids for Cancer GT3

An example of one of our challenges – “take a picture by the pier”

Passing Scenary

Following the GT3 some more…

The Maser and Aston at the last checkpoint

Before we know it, we have completed all the checkpoints and make our way back to Sparkling Hill Resort through some local roads with low traffic. I am still behind the GT3 and have the M3 behind me. Its almost as if the entire group is together at this point as we make up a long line. Even though we are just cruising around at this point, it is neat to be in a group of people like this. I personally think we need more motorsport events where people can gather and can drive around in a safe environment, although I’m not sure if an open road event is the way to go.

We drop off our answers with the rally masters and head to a local restaurant for some food. On our way off Sparkling Hill Resort I notice the latest BMW M5 on my tail. No offense to anybody who follows this blog and drives a M5, but the average M5 driver has more money than skill. So with that, I pick up the pace a bit, thinking that I should be able to leave him behind in the corners.

I don’t. The M5 continues to be right on me. I press on a bit but the M5 is unshaken. Who is this guy? I try to see the drivers face in my rear view but the image is obscured. Mysterious.

Before I know it we have to part ways and I signal to turn off. The M5 driver flashes his lights at me as an acknowledgement – “Good Drive”. I turn off and head towards Vernon for a bite and to change clothes.

On my way back to Sparkling Hill resort that evening for a talk by Team Bullet Racing Owner – Steve Paquette, we turn back up on to the roads that lead us to the resort. The road is absolutely fantastic leading up to the resort so I wind my car up a bit, thinking that most of the police on the roads monitoring our path earlier would have retired already.

I am wrong, and on the next corner a police patrol car spots me and flashes his lights at me.

I immediately pull over right away and by the time he reaches my window, mine is down already and I have my license and registration ready for him.

“Officer, before you say anything I just want to tell you how GENUINELY sorry I am. I am VERY VERY VERY SORRY!!!”. Cam later tells me that I said this like I was about to burst out crying.

“Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Sorry, I have no idea.”

“You were doing 89 in a 60 zone. Give me a minute.”. And with that he walks back to his patrol car with my license and papers.

I am in complete anguish. The moment he checks his computer for my license plate he will see that I was pulled over earlier for excessive speeding. I am sure that he will impound my car and take my license away. How could I be so careless and stupid? Cam is trying to console me while I am pounding my head on the steering wheel. I am thinking about what to do next – call my relatives in Kelowna? Fly back to Vancouver? Take a bus? Call my boss to tell him I’m stuck in Vernon?

The officer returns.

“I’m going to let you off with just a warning.”


“…but you should know that you guys are getting a bad reputation.” He points to the stickers I have on my car.

“THANK YOU SIR!!” And with that, we drive off. Albeit very slowly. About as slowly as I am grateful for what just happened, which is VERY VERY VERY speed limit.

We gather around a conference room and Steve Paquette starts to get into details about how he started racing. He shows us some videos of him being involved in crashes, tells us about a new race track that has opened up that he helped design, and shows us some videos of the Daytona 24 hrs that he has competed in for the last 6 years. Here are some key takeaways from his talk.

1. Racing is expensive
2. You have to be insane to race
3. Racing is an addiction. Every time you do it you are looking for the next “high”. And each time you do it, it becomes harder and harder to reach the same level as before. It is a frustrating and never ending pursuit for winning and much of the success has to do with luck.

Steve Paquette going over some details about his Porsche GT3 Cup earlier (courtesy of www.targacanadawest.com)

Steve’s talk ends, and while I would like to chit chat with some of the other rally participants, I am starting to feel quite tired. We head home, but on our way out get a few shots of the VIP parking lot again.

The newer more powerful 3.8L GT3. Oooh look at those center-lock wheels! Awesome…

Cam is already passed out and I am getting close.

Sunday May 13
The alarm goes off once again and I realize I haven’t moved much since I fell asleep but yet I still feel really tired. We scarf down some food from our glorious continental breakfast and make our way to the resort for the Sunday Show & Shine.

We arrive at the staff parking lot where the Show & Shine is being held and quickly give our cars a quick wash.

Another shot of the E-type, now with its hardtop. Wait – is that a Miata in the background? Nice!

We strategically park our car next to the 3.8L red GT3 to once again try and get some accidental exposure. It doesn’t work.

Brush with greatness 2. Failed with the accidental exposure though…(courtesy of www.targacanadawest.com)

Other cars on display – Jaguar E-Type, Skyline GT-R, Jaguar XK-R, Mini Cooper, Porsche 356, Porsche C2S, Steve Paquette’s GT3 Cup, and Porsche 911.

Hmm…I’ve seen this car before….

Then I spot the M5 that chased us yesterday. I immediately go over to Duane and ask him who owns this car. Duane seems perplexed as he tells me that its owned by the local dealership. I tell him how I was chased down the hill yesterday by some guy driving this M5 and Duane lets out a laugh.

“hahaha that was Steve Paquette! He wanted to test drive the M5 and he told me how he chased a Miata down a hill.”

Steve was loading his GT3 Cup into his trailer. Turning the engine on the car sounded like it was eating a Banshee.

“wwrRRAAAPP!! wwwRRAAAPP!”. You could tell the engine did not like to idle by how much Steve had to ride the clutch just loading the car into the trailer. Once Steve was done I approached him.

“Hey Steve, I heard you chased me down the hill yesterday.”

“Ohhh that was you! Yeah that was a lot of fun. I saw you yesterday and thought you might be with the group. When I pushed you a bit you reacted the way I wanted you to. Hahaha…”

Steve seemed to be in a hurry to get going and shook my hand and winked. And with that, he was off. Not only did I chase an Aston Martin down a hill but I was also chased by a race car driver in a M5. Fantastic.

Steve and his two cars that weekend.

I follow Steve as he leads his trailer off the hill. We join up with Hwy 97C and head home. I pass Steve on the hwy and deliberately rev my engine a bit more than normal. I can see Steve look at me with a smile on his face as he waves goodbye.

What an experience.

I drop Cam off back at home. We are both quite tired and there has not been a lot of talk in the car for the last few hours. I am on my way to my Mom’s for what little Mother’s Day festivities are left.

I finally make it home. I haven’t talked to my girlfriend in a few days. I am tired but there is a grin on my face despite the speeding ticket looming in the back of my brain. I am backing up into my garage (the only way I can avoid scraping the front lip), with one hand on my cell phone when I see the garage door start to close.

Now normally I would be backing up with both hands so I can do this quick enough that I am in my parking spot before the garage door even starts closing. However, being distracted and tired, and with only one hand on the wheel the garage door starts to close on me before I am even in the garage. In an effort to save it I decide to speed up and beat the door to the sensor.

I don’t.

The garage door closes on my trunk. I am not fully stopped and the door digs in like Adamantium claws on a chalkboard. The sensor trips but the damage is done. I park my car and when I get out I am greeted by this.

Yep…it speaks for itself.

Looking a bit more closely, some scrapes are pretty shallow but there are enough of them that are pretty deep. Some are even on my passenger-side rear quarter panel. The join between the trunk lid and its adjacent panel are cut pretty deep as well.

I am so angry with myself right now. I could have done many things to avoid this:
1. not being on the cellphone
2. just pushing the garage door opener instead of trying to beat the sensor
3. Just stopping and pushing the button

This damage that I did to my car was from my own stupidity and could have been completely avoided. This just goes to show you why you shouldn’t be trying to multi-task when driving. I will never do this again. Every time I walk to my car now I am reminded of my own stupidity.

This is a horrible way to end a weekend which was otherwise a lot of fun. As I said in the opening paragraph – this weekend was a complete roller coaster. Highs were high, and lows were low. Targa Canada West was fun but would have been better if the roads were closed. I did enjoy the camaraderie at this event though; meeting people with like-minded interest was a great experience and I hope to be able to do something like this again.

Damn..the addiction has started…

2 Comments Add Yours

  1. John Crowe

    Excellent web page ….just wondering if they will have a 2013 Targa this year

    • Jon

      Thanks John! I’m assuming they would, although I haven’t seen much on it thus far.

      Were you in it last year? Are you thinking of entering this year?

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