Targa Newfoundland: Racing in a Kia Optima Turbo

Hard to believe we’re over half-done here at Targa Newfoundland 2012.

Hard to believe because our start times are so early, I have to get to bed so early that I have hardly had any time to even try to blog about it!

Our Kia Optima Turbo is dead-stock apart from safety equipment, and the allowable springs, dampers, wheels and tires. It looks huge in this field that seems to be mostly Porsches and Subarus, and we’re dead-certain it’s the only car in the field with a back-up camera.

You see, visibility to the rear of any race/rally car is poor because of the spider’s web of roll cage components. Not a problem because normally, you don’t do a lot of backing up in a race/rally car

But everybody who watches me back into tight spots in the hockey and curling rinks where we park the cars overnight thinks I’m a magician – and here I am, revealing the secret of my trick.

The car also has Air-Con, Sirius satellite radio, cruise control – what every full-bodied rally car ought to have.

Yeah yeah, the purists do scoff – but on those long transits, everyone wishes they were in my car.

It’s also very quick, once the Turbo gets the 276 horses all galloping along.

We would like more ground clearnace – the Eibach springs are some 50 percent stiffer than stock, but are about 30 mm shorter, so we are bottoming out on some of the larger bumps. A skid plate under the engine means we’re doing no damage – as far as we know.

The main drawback of the Optima Turbo as a rally car is that it only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. It does have a ‘Sport’ mode with paddle shifters on the steering column, but these seem to have a mind of their own, not always grabbing the gear I want.

So sometimes, it’s a struggle pulling away from slower corners.

My navigator Brian Bourbonniere from Halifax and I have an arrangement – he tells me nothing about our results. I don’t know what position we’re in, whether we make our base times, or even our ‘trophy’ times.

The theory here is that I can only drive so fast no matter what, and if I knew for example that I was maybe just a bit ahead or just a bit behind somebody, I might try to drive harder, and we all know how that ends…

You of course can find out where we and everybody else stand if you like at

Please, just don’t tell me!

There’s also a daily video blog at You might recognize the guy doing the voice-over…

You’d have trouble convincing anyone from Florida or Louisiana that Hurricane Leslie blew through here yesterday – not a house trailer sitting in a low-hanging tree to be seen. It was gorgeous – sunny, warm, with just a few fluffy clouds.

And the heavy rains washed a lot of the gravel and dirt off the roads, so that was a plus.

It’s Marystown and the Burin Peninsula Thursday, then back to St. John’s Friday.

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