Woman injured during Targa Newfoundland
As I’ve never been shy in coming forward, I simply had to jump in on this subject!
The Targa Newfoundland Rally has been taking place for ten years now, and this is the first time that there has ever been a serious incident where a spectator was injured. Now considering all forms of motorsport involve a certain amount of danger, both to competitors and fans, as I see it, that’s a pretty good track record.
However, at this year’s Targa Newfoundland, a 67 year old female spectator was injured. The full story has not yet been made clear and the incident is now under investigation by the RCMP. What has been made abundantly clear though, is that there are many differing opinions on whether this event should have taken place at all.
In fact, in what I personally view as some of worst fuel-fanning journalism I have ever encountered, CBC News carried on its website the story under the heading of “Targa driver accused of hitting spectator”. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2011/09/16/nl-targa-crash-916.html
It then went on to encourage readers to vote on the subject of Targa using the four options listed below:
1: It’s a great event. The benefits it brings to this province far outweigh the problems.
2: It’s more trouble than it’s worth.
3: It must be more strictly regulated.
4: We shouldn’t allow the rally in this province.
Now in my opinion, as an ex-Targa competitor (last year’s event), this vote list is somewhat one-sided, especially considering it was posted before all of the facts became available i.e.: Who was truly at fault…The accident is still under investigation, although it has been reported that the woman was seated in a cordoned-off area clearly marked by red warning tape (This somehow failed to make it into the CBC story). It is also yet unclear whether the woman was hit by the actual rally car, or whether she was hit by flying debris from a nearby garden shed which was hit, and yet the CBC felt the need to lead its story with “Targa driver accused of hitting spectator”! Now I’m sure that, in the fullness of time, the RCMP will return its official verdict on the incident, but of course, “Targa driver possibly hits spectator” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
This naturally encouraged a whole host of posts from readers who expressed everything from wishing the lady a speedy recovery, which I’m sure we all do, to downright demanding that the event be banned. However, perhaps the most troubling of all this was just how well it demonstrates the confusion and misunderstanding which surrounds this event.
Some quoted utter nonsense, such as “this type of event has been banned worldwide” when, in fact, there are several taking place each and every year, Targa Tasmania, Targa New Zealand, and several other similar events come to mind. In fact, the original Targa Florio Rally in Sicily was held from 1906 and continued until 1979, when it was abandoned only to be resurrected again in 1990, and it continues today. There are also other events, such as the famous Paris-Dakar rally which are organized along similar lines, yet differ simply because they do not include the word Targa.
Another hot topic for discussion was money and how it benefitted the people of Newfoundland, if at all! Now this I found particularly interesting as I know quite a few of the facts & figures behind Targa.
The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is the official charity for this year’s Targa Newfoundland. Its founder, Mrs. Elaine Dobbin, who just happens to be my wife’s cousin (yes, my wife hails from NL), will certainly vouch for the substantial sums of money which has been raised for her charity over the past couple of years. In fact, no less than fourteen teams are racing and collecting money for the Autism Society of Newfoundland this year, and of course, all that money stays in Newfoundland as it is a local charity!
Then there are the other teams which support numerous charities of their own choosing. I even have friends racing in aid of Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) this year!
Then, what about the yearly influx of money enjoyed by hotels/restaurants/automotive repair shops/gas stations etc? In 2009, an extremely wealthy German is reputed to have bought roughly 30 friends with him! That’s a lot of tourism dollars right there, and yes there are a few wealthy guys competing at Targa, but it certainly does not apply to all of us! Some will say, “Oh yes, but that money is only spent in and around St John’s”. However, I can recall chatting to the owner of a small rural gas station last year who told me, “Boy, I’ve sold more gas today than I have all year”!
You then have to take into consideration the worldwide recognition for NL which this event brings, and I’m talking good worldwide recognition and not publicity such as the seal hunting issue! Yes, I know that’s a hot topic also, and I’m not getting into that right now other than to say that coming from the UK myself, that’s what a lot of people used to think of when you mentioned Newfoundland. I’m thankful to say that this is now changing, and in no small part due to the friendly image of the island’s people which is clearly portrayed in the Targa videos that are now shown worldwide. In fact, many of my friends in the UK, having watched these videos have commented on the sheer beauty of the island, and how friendly the natives appear. Of course, I’ve known that for a long time, which is why I married a girl from NL, but it’s pleasing to hear this coming from friends as far away as Australia.
Of course, the media plays a large part in getting this message out, and here are a few official numbers to chew over.
Targa Newfoundland is recognized in many different types of media including U-Tube, Forums, Blogs, Magazines, Websites, Television, Car Shows and Newspapers.
- Communities Involved: 70
- Car show attendance: > 25,000
- Spectators: > 175,000
- International Exposure TV, Magazines, Newspapers and Internet (Print media circulation – 12 million)
- I Hour TV Documentary with a potential audience of over 220 Million
Annual Media coverage/exposure
* National / Regional Newspaper Coverage (Including the New York Times, Globe & Mail and National Post) 6,763,000
* International / National Magazine Coverage
(Including Motor sports, Wheels and Inside Track) 11,537,000
* Potential National / International Television Exposure
(Including Speed Channel, TSN and Extreme Sports Channel) 220,000,000
* National / International Car Show Exposure (Canadian International, Las Vegas Sema and Detroit Auto Show) 1,330,000
* Total Viewing Exposure: 239,630,000 people
* Media Value: $10 MILLION
Now just think about that for a moment... How many other provinces can boast of this much media attention for a single event (not many!), and don’t you feel this plays more than a minor role in bringing tourists onto the island? Perhaps it’s no wonder then that the Newfoundland Tourism Board so actively supports Targa!
Obviously, we competitors love the event, especially yours truly as I get to visit family & friends whilst doing what I love, and that’s racing, but naturally, this incident has us all deeply concerned. Nobody wants to see someone get injured, not in any sport, but in my opinion, if we take the time and examine this incident closely, some good may come out of it.
I feel that the powers that be in Newfoundland need to go on record right now and explain to everyone just how and why the province benefits from Targa. It’s something which the Newfoundland Government should actively promote pride in, just like the other host countries.
I also feel that the residents of the local communities which host the event need to be encouraged to get even more involved, and that they should be rewarded for this by their fair share of the tourism dollars which the event brings in. After all, it is those people who are inconvenienced by road closures and such, and they do make a valid point regarding much of the money being shared by a few businesses, and mostly based in St John’s. This needs to change to encourage more local support for Targa.
We also possibly need to look closer at the way the Targa is conducted, and perhaps there is some justification for slightly more stringent rules. In fact, maybe it’s time to bring such a large and popular event under a major governing body such as the FIA and truly turn this into a world-class event.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers but when you consider the safety record of this event, even comparing it to that of professional hockey, it really is quite impressive. This is obviously largely due to the organizers, and to the dedicated bunch of volunteers who assist them each year. Having personally experienced Targa from the driver’s seat, I feel that we all owe these people a huge amount of gratitude, both competitors and fans alike.
Of course, we’ll always have the NIMBY (not in my back yard) crowd, but I’d like those people to think about this for a moment… I live in Caledon, Ontario where many of the major Canadian show-jumping events are held. Now imagine how many show-jumping fans around the world would be disappointed if my local residents and I decided that we didn’t want this in our back yard! Oh, and by-the-way, if you do a little homework on the subject, you’ll discover that there’s been quite a few injuries sustained by fans at horse events! Perhaps we should forgo the Olympics as there have been injuries there also, and they are held in somebody’s back yard too!
Come on now, life’s too short to get all het up over something like this. Yes, it’s a tragedy which everyone hopes to avoid in the future, but instead of throwing wild commentary here and there, why not simply put our heads together and come up with a way of making it work for everyone?
After all, it’s a fantastic event, and something for which Newfoundland has become famous. So why spoil that, let’s just fix a few things and learn to enjoy it!
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