Targa Bambina 2017

The Targa road rally is an exciting yearly event. It has presence in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Canada. It is meant to take place on public roads, and is a great sport for spectators.

Targa Newfoundland runs the yearly event on the Island, and last year they introduced the Targa Bambina. The Bambina is a less intensive, shorter version of the full Targa. The entry fees and rules are adjusted to be more accessible, meaning you average hobbyist can get in on the excitement.

This year, I participated in the first ever Targa Newfoundland Bambina.

Our team was comprised of my classmate Brad Warren, myself, and my parents who followed along as our support vehicle. Thankfully, we never needed any support!

We entered the competitive, modern 2WD division, with my former daily driver: a 2006 VW Jetta 2.5.

It hasn’t looked like this for a long time…

The Jetta might not sound like a race car, but the 5 cylinder engine produces a lot of responsive torque on a platform with very favorable handling.

Driver Preparation

Brad and I decided early on we would share the driving, 50/50. This way we both get experience as drivers and co-drivers. Brad had experience with competitive go-kart racing, but I was an absolute beginner.

A requirement of our entry was completion of the Targa Newfoundland Driving School. This weekend course serves to familiarize drivers with the sport of rally, racing regulations, how to handle potentially risky situations, and provides an overview of certain stages and driving strategies. Navigation technique is strongly emphasized, and the on-road practical component allows teams to identify how they best communicate.

As beginners, we realized very early on that the co-driver is probably the most important role in the rally cockpit. The driver is a machine for interpreting instructions and executing them. The co-driver needs to deliver instructions with the right pace, descriptions, and order. Calling an R5 instead of an L2 might just send you and your dream into the ditch.

Vehicle Preparation

The 2017 Bambina was a 3-day event, with over 14 stages located across the Burin peninsula. The nature of the Newfoundland Targa requires vehicles to be road legal, and they must transit from stage to stage themselves.

Overall, you’re looking at around 1000km of driving, with about 10% of that being racing. This means vehicle reliability is more than just performance parts.

Since the Jetta was already a well maintained daily driver, the reliability part was mostly there. A few more upgrades and some race-specific additions made it ready for the Bambina.

  • Performance slotted/drilled brakes (front and back)
  • Short air intake with K&N filter
  • Audi R8 coil packs
  • NGK Iridium spark plugs
  • Cooper Zeon RE-03a performance tires
  • Royal Purple MTF
  • Extreme light-weighting


Safety was key in this build, but we needed more to get good times. The Jetta is a heavy car, 3200 lbs factory. It is no slouch, but I knew shedding some pounds would help us do well. This is what we removed:

  • Rear seats
  • Rear door panels
  • Trunk lining
  • Spare tire
  • Factory air box
  • Battery box
  • Rear muffler (unintentional – it rusted off)


The rear seats were very heavy, and with all of that removed it started to feel much faster.

Still, there was one finishing touch left…


Yep, it needed to be painted. The old silver-and-rust colour scheme just wasn’t doing it for us. We decided on a royal combination of purple and gold, and did a “perfectly acceptable” one-day spray paint job, after fixing up the rocker panels.


And with that, we were ready to race.

The Race

The Bambina took place on the Canada Day long-weekend. Its home base was in Burin, NL, about 3.5 hours away from St. John’s. The Bambina is actually a memorial race, in honour of Tom Hollett. Hollett was a prominent figure in Burin, and a successful businesman in St. John’s. He owned the Jiffy Cabs company, and invested a great deal into the properties and community in Burin. Upon his passing, the Bambina was created in his memory.

When we arrived, we registered our team and completed the tech inspection. Once we had our car in the lineup with other competitors, the whole thing became truly surreal.

For the next 3 days, we raced to the best of our abilities in all of the stages. A few close calls, but overall a safe and clean event for our team.


We met so many great people, and although we had no intentions of winning, we secured 3rd place in the modern 2WD division. That’s a victory in my books.

You can see all the courses we filmed, in their entirety, here:

The final event was “King of the Hill”. It was a hill-climb to find the fastest car. Somehow, we came in 3rd!


Entering the Bambina was more work than we could have ever expected. The paperwork alone was grueling, not to mention finding good weather to work on the car while still trying to go to University. At the final hour, realizing how much work was left, as well as the magnitude of the challenge, was certainly intimidating. But our team had an unforgettable time, and was able to drive the car home.

For anyone looking to get into motorsport, the Targa Bambina is very accessible while still being extremely challenging. If you aren’t sure about the $1000 entry fee, another great option is to check out local autocross clubs. In Newfoundland, Vinland Motorsports hosts regular events all summer, with free admission for first timers! This is a great way to give your car a shakedown, and meet other enthusiasts who can help you keep going.

The car went on to pass a safety inspection and was sold to a lovely family in town. I think that is the most unexpected part of it all.

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Sunday, August 20th, 2017 car, life, projects

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