targa_logo2.jpgAlan Townsley and David Fuhrmann got a fateful of Newfoundland weather on Wednesday as they braved an autumn storm in an open-topped sports car Wednesday, during Leg 3 of the Steelback Targa Newfoundland.

There were plenty of double-takes as the duo sped along the Kittiwake Coast in their Factory Five Challenge Series Cobra with nothing more between them and the elements than their rain slickers and race helmets.

It didn’t take long before they were soaked to the skin, but it seemed that nothing could dampen their spirits.

“Roofs are for wimps,” said driver Alan Townsley as he enjoyed a bowl of fish chowder during a lunch stop at the Barbour Historic site. “Anybody who’s driven a Cobra would understand — it’s one of the most thrilling cars to drive and, rain or shine, that never stops.”

The team, who took the Grand Touring Unequipped win in 2006, said they did make one modification to the car for 2007 to make it a little easier to handle the weather. They drilled holes in the floor so the water would drain out of the car.

The enthusiasm of Townsley and co-driver David Fuhrmann is typical of competitors at this weeklong automotive adventure through the central and eastern portions of Newfoundland. Teams may have been weary as they pulled into the Clarenville Stadium after four days of competition Wednesday night, but they remained happy.

Nika Rolczewski, who is driving the factory 2007 Mazdaspeed3 entry in the Grand Touring class, said fighting fatigue and maintaining high spirits is all part of the game.

“This is an endurance race and it really is tough,” she said, between signing autographs in Clarenville Wednesday evening, with co-driver Sandra Lemaitre by her side. “But I think we’re having the most fun of anyone.”

Still to come is one of the most grueling days of the contest. Thursday’s Leg 4 stages in the Burin Peninsula are two hours from the overnight stop in Clarenville, and that means an early start for competitors. Teams will head out at sunrise, before most workers in this Newfoundland community have even had a chance to hit the snooze button on their wake-up alarms.

While challenging, the day is also one of the most spectacular. The first stage takes teams into the breathtaking community of Harbour Mille, where picturesque white homes are perched along the rocky shores of the protected cove. They day’s route then takes them along the Burin peninsula to Fortune, where they’ll break at mid-day for a lunch on the scenic boardwalk. The contest wraps up for the night in Marystown.

The Steelback Targa Newfoundland is the first and only event of its kind in North America. It is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world and is listed on the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) international calendar.

The sixth-annual running of the event starts and ends in St. John’s. It covers 2,200 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of the island of Newfoundland.

Teams comprised of a driver and a navigator, are competing for Targa plates, as well as class and divisional titles. There is no prize money, but all finishers receive a medallion. Entries are divided into categories – the faster-paced Targa category, where teams must achieve ambitious speed targets, and the more moderate Grand Touring division, which rewards precision driving. Teams may also pursue the automotive adventure in the Targa Tour category.

The event began on Sunday with an official start in St. John’s, before moving to the North Avalon Region on Leg 2. The third leg took competitors along the Kittiwake Coast where they visited the communities of Main Point Davidsville, Frederickton Carmanville, Musgrave Harbour, New-Wes-Valley, Greenspond, Eastport Peninsula, Port Blandford and Clarenville.

Complete coverage of the event airs on Global TV and the Speed Network in early 2008. The 2008 running of The Steelback Targa Newfoundland is set to take place September 13 – September 20.



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