Two lawyers take on Targa Newfoundland

All the updates on Dean and Rob's Newfoundland adventure
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All the updates on Dean and Rob's Newfoundland adventure
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Hammerhead MotorsportsA two-man team of GTA lawyers is racing in this year’s Targa Newfoundland, a week-long, 2,200-kilometre rally across the island running from September 11 to 18.

Dean Novak and Rob Hansen met while they were both students at Osgoode in the ’90s. They’re sharing driving duties in this epic race. Keep an eye on this page as we follow their progress, and perhaps more importantly, their friendly competition with a team of bankers to see who can raise the most money for POGO (the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario) and Young Adult Cancer Canada.


  • September 17:
    Rob: “The last day of Targa. Unfortunately, this would not be our day. We started with a 60km transit north from Marystown up to Little Bay East for the first stage. Both H1 (Law) and H2 (Investment Banking) made it through without being penalized (least penalized team wins here at Targa).
    “The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. We started the second stage, Harbour Mille, at 9:30am. Harbour Mille was the reverse of the first stage. Smooth, fast road with two very long hard right corners. The deviation off the main road was narrow and rough with square and acute turns. H2 was the first car out and our car followed a few cars behind. As we came up to the hard left at the 0.74-km distance mark, we noticed that H2 had suffered what we would describe as a “non-minor off-road incident preventing the car to go on due to mechanical issues.” We’ll have to leave it at that. We continued on the stage to find a radio car to call for assistance. We didn’t find help until the end of the Harbour Mille stage. We were told by the folks at the finish that the H2 guys were fine and that we should proceed on to the next stage.
    “It’s really strange but the two Miatas seemed to have some sort of connection.  Both had similar mechanical issues in Clarenville. And now, with H2 out of the race, H1 decided that she could not go on. Our alternator was toast. A fully charged battery would give us only about 10 minutes of power before the dashboard started looking like it was possessed by a ghost. Special thanks to Telmo and Desmond from BMW Toronto for providing us with the battery charger and diagnostic advice. We managed to limp about 150km along the Trans Canada Highway back into St. John’s where we had our alternator rebuilt (for free!) by a guy at DC Alternators. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to get back up to race the final stage in Brigus (which we had been looking forward to doing all week). Brigus is a very challenging town stage with tight narrow turns, jumps, bridges, and pavement changes.
    “We waited along the parade route in downtown St. John’s for the Targa cars to return for the ceremonial finish on the waterfront. We slipped into the parade and managed to cross the finish line right behind our very good buddies in the Porsche Boxster Spider, Adrian and Ian. H1 received Targa finishing medals but unfortunately were classified as “DNS” for the final four stages of the day and were disqualified from the competition. Despite the disappointing results, Targa Newfoundland 2010 was one of the most exciting and fulfilling weeks of our lives. We met some fantastic people, drove our cars hard and fast and got up close and personal with one of the most beautiful places to be in Canada. Is there enough gas left in the Hammerheads’ tanks to take this on again in 2011? We’ll keep you posted…”
  • September 16:
    Rob: “The cars are fixed! We had a power issue with H1 (Law) that we temporarily fixed by buying a second battery. We also convinced the owner of the Clarenville Napa Auto Parts store to get out of bed at 11pm last night and drive down to his store to see if he had an alternator for us — no luck. So now we carry two batteries in the car and swap them out when our speedometer looks like it is possessed. H2 (Investment Banking) also had a power issue — lost alternator tensioning bolt on a rough stage. The guys from New Jersey in the yellow BMW M3 happened to have a replacement for us. Sweet. M3 drivers are the best.
    “As the week progresses, the specified time window within which you have to cross the finish line narrows — from 20 seconds within the “target” time on the first day to 3 seconds on Friday. Outside those windows, and you get penalty minutes, and the car with the fewest penalty minutes wins. It’s kind of like golf (but a bit more dangerous). Also part of the “fun” of the Targa GT class race is calculating the target time. The route books only provide distance intervals and average speeds. Nerdy, but fun.
    “We began the day with a 135km transit stage. Then two fast 24km competitive stages (Boat Harbour & Petite Forte) to start the fun — with breakfast burritos from a BBQ beside the ocean in between the stages. After that, we did a short and slow stage (Mooring Cove) that was difficult… really tough to slow your brain down after a fast stage. But we managed to hit our target times.
    “Then things got crazy. Six stages with significant in-town roads. Lots of slipping, sliding and spinning around tight corners in tiny villages. Think driving around the alleyways in the financial district in Toronto at 130 km/h. The red Porsche behind H1 crossed the finish line of one stage with red caution tape wrapped around it (looked a bit like a Christmas present). Many corners were missed by our competition. But the Hammerheads were (almost) perfect. Rob was navigating a competitive stage today and Dean launched the car so hard that he flew into the timers and rally computer and cleared them all by accident — not good. Despite “flying blind,” H1 managed to zero out the stage. Luck and great estimates of time, speed and distance. But mostly luck!
    “The day’s results just in: H2 (Investment Banking) is in first and H1 (Law) is in third going into the last day.  Not bad for Targa newbies!”
  • September 15:
    Rob: “An early start this morning in Gander after a late night of cranking through the numbers for our route books. We began the day by heading 50km north of Gander for competitive stages in Main Point and Frederickton. Both were very fast but straightforward. The next two competitive stages were in Musgrave Harbour and Wesleyville. It was raining extremely hard so we managed to slide the back-end of the Miatas around quite a bit and impress the spectators. It’s amazing that people will stand outside in the pouring rain to watch us speed through town. Lunch was at the Lester Pearson School gymnasium — beef soup and sandwiches. The Trailer Park Boys were swarmed by the kids. Then to Brookfield and Greenspond for the next two competitive stages. Greenspond was a short, tricky stage on narrow roads in an ancient community. Transit stages were quite scenic today too — even in the rain. Up to this point in the day, both Hammerhead teams scored perfect. And then came the North West Brook stage…
    “Hammerhead 2 (Investment Banking) nailed the North West Brook stage. Hammerhead 1 (Law) did not. This was a fast and flowing 29km competitive stage that ran through the main road connecting a number of small towns. Communication issues between driver and navigator in Hammerhead 1 meant that we were not anywhere close to the target times throughout the stage. We finished only about 6 seconds late but we were way off at certain points during the stage. They haven’t posted final results for today yet but we’re thinking it might be ugly.
    “We stopped in Gooseberry Cove, a scenic fishing village on the Atlantic Ocean, at the end of the Northwest Brook stage. Captain Clarence of the Seward’s Pride fishing boat was gracious enough to let us on board and have a look. Cod, turbot and crab seemed to be his focus. The stage out of Gooseberry Cove was basically North West Brook run in reverse — but it was cancelled for reasons unknown to us. So we transited out to Clarenville. And the real fun began…
    “Hammerhead 1 (Law) broke down. Wouldn’t start. Gauges flipping around like a pinball machine. All warning lights on. And it jerked like crazy when we tried to drive it. Very scary. But we ran the Clarenville stage anyway and nailed it. Twice. We met up with Hammerhead 2 (Investment Banking) at the Clarenville arena tonight and, believe it or not, they had some of the same issues! Both Miatas down for the count… So as I type this, we are (i.e., Brent is) trying to diagnose and repair before tomorrow morning. Only 10 hours to go before we need to be up and running.”
  • September 14:
    Rob: “Another early start in Gander and four more 0.0’s on the breathalyser tests. First stage of the day was in a small town called Appleton. The race marshals warned us to watch out for a loose dog near the finish line — apparently they were having trouble catching him. I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach as we raced through the streets of Appleton with posted speed limits of 30 km/hr at speeds as high as 90 km/hr (and with the Targa class cars following behind us going about 50% faster than that). But as H1 crossed the finish line, Brent saw Brian, our pit crew manager and videographer, rubbing the belly of a chubby yellow lab! So no video footage from Appleton but one very happy and content pooch.
    “Spent most of the day in two small villages on the ocean called Bobby’s Cove and Pleasantview. We ran three or four stages that started and/or ended in this area. Picturesque and very friendly places. We finished the day with some very tight and fast racing through a residential area of Gander. It was surreal to be sliding your car around a corner sideways at high speeds while the local Gander people cheer you on from their front yard! The night finished with another car show and autograph signings at the Gander arena.
    “Both Hammerhead teams are still running perfect scores and are in a 10-way tie for first place in the GT class. Tonight we are cranking through our time/speed/ distance spreadsheets and our Leg 3 route books so that we’re ready for our journey to Clarenville tomorrow morning.”
  • September 13:
    Up at 5:30 a.m., and heading to Gander!
    Rob: “Both H1 and H2’s first competitive stages went well. A bit of fishtailing in the rain but we made our target time. After that, we completed another stage in Conception Harbour right next to the ocean: beautiful vistas, curvy roads, lots of fans and we met our time for this stage too. We also nailed the Marysvale and Osprey Trail stages. Southern Harbour was a blast — lots of ups and downs and blind lefts and rights, and right next to the water (and some houses too). Two Targa cars were lost in this stage — an orange Datsun 240 and a Subaru crashed.
    “After a wonderful cod and chips lunch at the local community centre, we made our way back out of Southern Harbour in a competitive stage that was a reverse of the one we came in on. We messed up our rally computer and timers at the start (so we were flying blind) but still managed to make our times. We did well on the rest of the stages for the balance of the day and ended up tied for first. To be perfectly honest, we are tied with another 10 cars — but at least we can say we led Targa for at least one day! Tonight was dinner in Gander with Gabe’s parents who were in town on business. We all agreed that we like his parents better than him.”
  • September 12:
    Rob: “An early start to the day today. We were at the Remax Centre by 7:30 a.m. to blow into a breathalyzer. We all blew 0.0 and passed with flying colours. Both H1 and H2 had to do odometer calibration tests to ensure the newly installed odos were accurate — basically involves just following really simple rally instructions over a distance of almost 40km to calculate a “correction factor.” H1 nearly crashed — best for the navigator not to wait until the last minute to give instructions to the driver and good idea for the driver to always check blind spots!
    “After a drivers’ safety meeting, all the Targa cars (55 this year) rolled out of St. John’s via a ceremonial start on the waterfront and headed to Flatrock. Beautiful small community set up among cliffs overlooking the ocean. Even in the rain this place was far too beautiful for words. We did a closed road (practice) competition stage on some crazy roads next to the ocean. Then we headed to a local public school for a chili lunch. After a quick meet and greet at a lovely community centre in Flatrock overlooking the pounding surf of the ocean, all the cars headed back to St. John’s for some fast laps on closed roads around Confederation Park.  Despite the nasty weather, there were still quite a few spectators out cheering us on.”
  • September 10:
    The race begins tomorrow! So far, the lawyers have raised $18,409.17, eclipsing their pre-race goal of $15,000. (The bankers have some catching up to do; they stand at $10,038.)
  • September 5:
    Rob: “Great day at the track! One day we’ll have to get Duncan in a Miata… Details and video to follow. (Un)fortunately the video of me spinning out H1 three times on one lap in the rain was corrupt. Both H1 and H2 are now on their way to St. John’s.”

Hammerhead I, one of two cars entered in Targa by Hammerhead Motorsports (the banker team drives Hammerhead II). Check out their Facebook group, and make a donation.

Hammerhead MotorsportsCAR:
A 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Dean Novak, assistant general counsel at Siemens Canada in Burlington
Rob Hansen, partner in McCarthy’s Business Law Group



All photos courtesy of Hammerhead Motorsports