As they entered Day 4, Miles was much more comfortable in his role as navigator and was able to use visual reference points to supplement his notes. As they were racing through town it might be “Right turn in 200 metres at the TD Bank” or “Brake in 75 metres where the girl with the pink sweater is standing; then hard left right after that bridge”. These visual reference points really improved their times – there was less hesitation and guessing was gone. However, as they progressed deeper into the event Miles also found that the need for accuracy and speed was higher than ever. You see, in the early stages the organizers plan the events to ensure that teams had sufficient time, maybe even a bit of time to spare, in completing the stage. That time cushion vanished as the days wore on and by day five the times were so tight that it was almost impossible for any team to hit the mark.
Miles' smile is huge as he describes passing the #777 Porsche on Day 3 and moving into second place. Edison Wiltshire is the owner and driver of the 1979 Porsche 911 and, if my sources are accurate, he has driven in every Targa Newfoundland since it began! He lives in Newfoundland and is the chaplain (notice the 'Faster Pastor' logo) on an oil platform. His co-driver, Marg-o Wiltshire, is also his wife. What a fantastic way to build your marriage! The Porsche certainly had the handling capabilities to pull ahead in the corners, but the brute torque and horsepower of the GMC long bed combined with the team's desire to win meant that every straight saw the distance closing until the pass happened. The Porsche kept hounding the truck through the corners, but the truck pulled ahead. Miles is positive that if they had a few more days that they could have reeled in the class leading Mustang!
Hoffmeyers Planing Mill is prominently displayed on the windshield. Mark was there buying some wood and while chatting with staff mentioned he was going to attend Targa Newfoundland. It happened that he was chatting with the owner, a former autocrosser who always watched Targa Newfoundland when it was on TV, and that led to Hoffmeyers was the first sponsor on board. The support of sponsors and individuals was the impetus that Mark needed to really believe it could be done. That belief all but vanished when at 90mph or more they hit a frost heave in the road that was four inches high. Folks in the northern states and Canada will understand that. For everyone else, if I say it's like two tectonic plates had shifted does that help? Regardless, it gave them the ride of their life, bent the A frames (which were already ground down from scrapping bottom), and is probably one of the reasons why Mark will go back. Maybe not this year, but he will be going back. Stubborn tenacity has to be common adjectives applied to Targa racers.
A targa event is not an autocross or a time attack event where you can win or lose in a couple of minutes; yet a couple of minutes can be dramatic at the end of a five day marathon. It is not an endurance race where you can have your as many tools as you can haul with on right on pit row. You are out on an island that is affectionately nicknamed 'The Rock' and there is not a Targa Newfoundland Garage you can pull into for repairs. Mark and Miles were wishing for that garage when, on the final day of competition with just four stages left, the transmission developed a heart-stopping whine. All of the other competitors could hear that the truck was in trouble as it pulled into a rest area and, probably before the truck had even fully stopped, they were beside the truck with tool boxes and suggestions, sleeves rolled up ready to pitch in and find a solution. You already know that they did, but what they found when they were under the truck was that the bolt connecting the differential gear to the driveshaft had come loose and was literally preparing to grenade the rear end. The flatbed ride back to Ontario was so close you could almost see it. That it occurred in a non-competion transition and that they caught it just in time was a miracle (They must have been respectful when they passed the 'Faster Pastor'). That fellow competitors dropped their own vehicle preparation to help a mortally wounded team by sharing their knowledge, tools, and differential fluid was pure automotive history. And that allowed the Cinderella story of the Targa Truck to continue.
Targa Truck turned over a milestone 200 000 miles during the Targa event. It was built in the time before the Metric system became the norm in Canada – which was not implemented in Canada until the mid-seventies. Hope that historical tidbit helps you at your next trivia event!