Bay Bulls on Targa: Council may be ready to lower the flag to signal a return of the rally

By Chris Lewis | Vol. 12 #04 (February 21 2019)

Targa NL could be making a return to Bay Bulls and Witless Bay in the near future.

During a regular meeting of council in Bay Bulls, held on Monday, Feb. 11, council members listened in on a presentation from Bob Giannou of Targa Newfoundland and Labrador, who came to discuss the possibility of bringing the rally to the community in the 2019 season.

Targa is the only Tarmac rally of its kind to be held in North America, and has become a popular, if sometimes controversial, attraction across Newfoundland and Labrador over the years. Although the event is not scheduled to get underway until September of this year, the organization is wasting no time trying to sort out when, and where, they will be visiting in 2019.

The first year Targa visited Bay Bulls was in 2002 - the first year for Targa NL as a whole.

“That was the first year we ever ran, and the first event we ever ran,” Giannou said. “I wouldn’t say it was the most successful one we’ve ever ran though, for a variety of reasons. However, in the 18 years since then, we’ve run in a large number of towns, and we’ve got it pretty much perfected.”

Giannou contended there has been something of a demand for the event to makeits return to Bay Bulls, and the opportunity has presented itself for them to make that return in 2019.

One of the major differences in this year’s Bay Bulls visit, and the first one back in 2002, is the possibility of making it more than just a rally race. Giannou said the organization is hoping to hold a lunch for the community at The Sapphire, though he said these plans are still open for discussion and changes.

The plan would, in essence, see the crews and drivers arrive the morning of Sunday, Sept. 15 for various functions the organization holds, with the rally taking place after lunch. Following this, the rally would make its way to Witless Bay, where similar events would take place.

“It would approximately involve an hour and a half to a two-hour road closure. It will be well publicized, and it shouldn’t affect traffic much, if at all. It’s all residential, so it wouldn’t affect the main highway going down the Southern Shore,” Giannou said. “We’re not asking anything of the town. The only thing we do request is a bit of signage, if council has any available for closing down the two major roads.”

Giannou said Targa NL provides all the safety vests, safety tape, and will recruit safety marshals themselves from within the community.

In an interview after the meeting, Mayor Harold Mullowney explained the proposed course for the rally would see cars drive down Northside Road, up Marsh Road and onto Sheldon Drive. Cars would then drive along Route 10, making their way to Witless Bay. This course is still subject to change as time goes on.

Deputy Mayor Wendy O’Driscoll, who later agreed to act as the town liaison for the event, spoke up during the meeting to express concerns with it, namely the safety aspect of the rally, as well as the responsibilities of the organization. She says the last time Targa made its way to Bay Bulls, there was some miscommunication between the Town and Targa NL regarding the distribution of vests and water bottles.

“The general consensus in the community was that it was your guys’ responsibility, and it wasn’t fulfilled at the time,” she told Giannou. “Basically, it felt like there were promises that weren’t kept.”

“We’ve learned a lot since then, Giannou replied. “That was our first year, so in the last 18 years there’s been a lot of growth.He maintained that at the original event there was a separate group handling those things without Targa’s knowledge. The issue has since been resolved, and such things are handled directly by Targa now.

“That’s why we want a Town liaison - so that no one is tripping over anybody, and things run as smooth as they can,” Giannou added.

Councillor Patrick Coady said residents in the areas being closed off for the race should get notified in advance, and be given a chance to express their opinions and views on it. Giannou told Coady that this was also something Targa NL handled themselves, and that the organization would make sure all residents are aware of the event long in advance.

“A lot of the towns have the ability to e-mail residents, so an e-mail of the map goes out,” he said. “We then encourage people who have concerns, like possible doctor’s appointments and things like that, to reach out to us, and we’ll deal with that as need be.”

Likewise, a two-week advance notice will be sent out to everyone via regular mail to make residents aware of the event, he said.

Although there are still several months before the event takes place, Bay Bulls council generally seemed in favour of the rally making a return to the town, with specifics to be ironed out as time goes on.

Posted on March 1, 2019 .