The soldiers are coming.

Two Canadian Forces combat veterans wounded in battle are gathering their troops and planning their second attack on Canada’s longest and toughest motorsport event, part of an extended campaign to raise funds to help with the rehabilitation of their injured comrades.

Corporal Andrew Knisley and Master Corporal Michael Trauner have their sights set on raising $100,000 for the Soldier On Fund by completing the rugged five-day, 2,000-kilometre Targa Newfoundland international car rally. The Soldier On Fund is a trust fund of the Canadian Forces established to improve the quality of life of ill and injured soldiers through active participation and peer interaction in fitness and sports.

It is Knisley’s second trip to Targa and the first for Trauner. Both men were severely wounded serving in Afghanistan, suffering injuries that have left them with an array of disabilities that might consign some men to the sidelines of a sport that demands fitness, endurance and discipline.

But last year, the Soldier On boys proved conclusively that they aren’t taking a back seat to anyone – in motorsport or anywhere else.

Knisley will drive the Acura TL SH-AWD performance-luxury sedan he shared with co-driver Master Corporal Jody Mitic last year when the pair scored an impressive seventh place finish and class win in the Modern Division. Mitic has retired from the Forces and Trauner has stepped in as navigator for 2011. The Acura is provided by the Acura Dealers of Canada and is equipped with an automatic transmission that can be controlled by paddle shifters. The car has been constructed to permit both men relatively easy access to the cockpit.

Knisley is doing double duty as both driver and team manager, gathering funds and assembling a group of support people to propel the effort. Colleagues in the military have stepped up to provide technical support at the event and the service battalion in St. John’s will help with logistics.

“Last year, Lew (Major General Lewis MacKenzie, Ret’d.) did all the heavy lifting to get us organized and there, and I’m following his battle plan,” Knisley says. “We still need a team manager, but the other things are falling into place.”

He already has the car committed from the Acura Dealers of Canada, support from Michelin and a substantial private sponsorship. RSP Motorsports of London, Ontario, will help with pre-event preparation and tuning.

What won’t change, says Knisley, is their approach to the event. “We’re not going to change a lot,” he says. “We’re going to drive quick and be consistent. We know the value of discipline. You don’t have to be the fastest car every day to move up the standings, but you do have to be smart.”

The Targa adventure is a logical extension of what Knisley and Trauner have done together in professional, sports and fund-raising activities. Both serve in the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa and work together helping other injured veterans. Working together as driver and navigator “just feels right,” Trauner says, despite his lack of rally experience. “But,” he warns, “when we do things together, generally we come in first.”

The team is encouraging Canadians to contribute to Soldier On through tax-deductable donations made to the organization’s website, www.SoldierOn.ca . Last year’s campaign is still bringing in donations, and the team hopes to match the $100,000 raised in 2010.

Owned and operated by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 10th annual Targa Newfoundland will start in St. John’s on Saturday, September 10, 2011, and end back in the capital Saturday, September 17. The competition will cover more than 2,000 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of Newfoundland, including up to 450 kilometres of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages.

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