A decade after they took a big chance on a brand new motorsport event with a foreign-sounding name in a distant corner of Canada, the adventurous souls who made up the field of the very first Targa Newfoundland will be welcomed back to a reunion of Targa pioneers at the 11th annual Targa Newfoundland this September.

“Something like 34 teams turned up in St. John’s for the first event,” recalls Targa organizer Robert Giannou, “and most of them had no idea what kind of adventure they were about to enjoy. I’m certain none of them would have guessed that they’d be welcomed back 10 years later as the pioneers who helped establish an iconic Canadian motorsport.”

Targa organizers are attempting to track down the original competitors to extend the invitation to the reunion, backed by a special entry rate, a program of celebration and memorabilia, and the opportunity to renew old friendships.

“We think we know where most of the original competitors are,” Giannou explains. “Some, like Margo and Edison Wiltshire, Jim Kenzie and Tom Collingwood, still compete every year. Many others stay in touch. Some, like Mark Williams, have even become part of the organizing team.” Williams co-drove the glorious Ford Falcon that finished third in 2002.

Six of the original teams made the long trek from Australia for the first Targa Newfoundland, and at least two of those competitors hope to be back for 2012: Peter and Kerrith Buckingham of Melbourne expect to be in North America with their classic MG and have been in touch with organizers.

“Since we added the Fast Tour to the event last year, there’s another way for our pioneers to take part. Even if they have sold their competition cars, they can still come and drive in the Fast Tour, and maybe re-live some of those great memories,” Giannou adds.

In addition to the reduced entry fee, organizers plan a special dinner for pioneers, certificate and commemorative plate, recognition at the awards gala and other features.

Owned and operated by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 2012 competition starts in St. John’s on September 8 and concludes back in the capital on September 15. The 11th annual rally 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. The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is the official charitable partner of Targa for 2012.

Photo: Len and Gayle Catlin of Melbourne, Australia – the team that won the very first Targa in 2002

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