You don’t own an Aston Martin Vanquish, you’re not independently wealthy, and you don’t have a week to kill driving across country in the BullRun or the world in the Gumball 3000 (nevermind the $120,000 entry fee –you read that correctly, 120 large). However, you think you would enjoy the experience of driving side by side with some choice exotic machinery and competing in a high-end rally event. This is where Targa Trophy
comes in. A one day, reasonably priced, rally experience for exotic cars.
I said it was reasonably priced, however that is in comparison to other events in its class. The entry fee is $895 which includes, swag bags, t-shirts, lunch, dinner, awards and the epic after party. Sure, it is a hell of a lot more expensive than a weekend autocross for 30 bucks but when was the last time you had your picture taken with a NOS Energy Drink Girl at an autocross? Didn’t happen. The additional costs to consider are your wheels. Do you have a Lamborghini in your driveway? Me neither. However, Black and White Car Rental will rent you a car for the event, the right kind of car that will get you into the event (and probably get you the phone numbers a few girls as well). You also need to consider how much it will cost in fuel, figure on two to three tanks worth of high-test.
Jason Overell, is the master of ceremonies of Targa Trophy and has done a fantastic job making this event feel special. This isn’t your typical time and distance or gimmick rally. The cars in this event are rare, exotic and wicked fast which gives the event a “status” feel to it. Jason has linked up with numerous sponsors to keep the event classy yet affordable to competitors.
Besides each individual event, the Targa Trophy runs their Triple Crown Series where championship points are earned from every event and an eventual champion will win a $6,000 specially made Targa Trophy pendant from LUZ. How much was that trophy worth that you won during the E.T. Bracket Drag Race at your local strip? Nine bucks, maybe?
It doesn’t matter if you are a fourteen year old boy or a grown man, stickers and numbers on a car can make any car cooler. Seeing a Porsche GT3 with a number panel on the door is always cooler than seeing a plain Porsche GT3 sitting in the supermarket parking lot. As a competitor, when you come out of the start of the rally amongst a crowd of onlookers and you are driving down the street in your car, plastered in rally decals, you can’t help but smile. And cruising down the street next to a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder covered in the same decals, you absolutely can’t help but feel like you are part of something awesome. People will stare at you. Strangers will take pictures of you. Some people will give you the thumbs up while others will give you the bird. You won’t care. You’ll just rev the motor and be happy you’re driving the event as opposed to standing on the sidewalk, watching it go by without you.
This is a street legal road rally which means car wear is everyday normal use… pretty much. Some spirited corner taking on some mountain roads may incur a few extra thousand miles of wear on your soft rubber summer tires. You don’t have to worry about rubbin’ fenders like you would racing NASA Performance Touring. Roads are roads and some have the occasional pothole, which can play havoc on some European exotics with their low ride height and extremely lightweight wheels wrapped in super low profile tires. My feeling on this is if you can afford a Ferrari, you can probably afford to fix a Ferrari. Run that mother like it was meant to be run!
After spending a long afternoon polishing your baby… wait what am I talking about? If you can afford a Lamborghini, you have your people polish the car. Either way after the car is looking sharp you and a friend (gotta have a navigator) will road trip to the start at the host hotel. During the Targa Trophy Bay Area Rallyfest this was the W Hotel in San Francisco (yes, very posh). There you will sign the requisite waivers which say you won’t run your Ferrari at 130 miles per hour and ram it into a family of five riding in a Nissan Quest on their way to see the Golden Gate bridge. You will pick up your sticker pack which will have numerous sponsorship stickers, Targa Trophy decals and your number panels which you are required to cover your car up with. The stickers they use are high quality, come off easily and will not damage the paint on your Bentley. Breakfast will be catered and you will find yourself mingling with people who are having conversations about real estate developments and their recent trip to the Playboy mansion.
There will be a driver’s meeting, where they will remind you again that this isn’t a race, and then all of the cars will line up for the start. Photographers will be snapping pictures of you like the paparazzi and you will feel like a B list celebrity. The event is definitely cool to be a part of. Targa Trophy staff will record your mileage and your start time, hand your navigator the route map (this is the first moment you will get this information) and send you out thirty seconds behind the car that left before you.
Your navigator will tell you where to go left and right. Hopefully you didn’t pick a dyslexic navigator because staying on the route will improve your score based on mileage. After around 150 miles of some of the curviest roads you have ever come across you will land at a checkpoint. During the Bay Area Rallyfest event the checkpoint was a EuroCarnival car show hosted by NOS Energy Drink. There was a huge crowd welcoming the Targa Trophy cars, a live DJ and BBQ. Targa Trophy staff will check your mileage and time as you enter the checkpoint. From there you can fill your car with gas, get a bite to eat and mingle with the 19 year olds from the car show who want to ask you a thousand questions about what its like to be in the Targa Trophy. My answer to them was, “It’s like driving for three hours and not getting the opportunity to take a leak, excuse me, I gotta find a bathroom.”
When you leave the checkpoint there will be a large crowd, plenty of cameras and the Targa Trophy staff will again check your mileage and time. You won’t know how you are doing so far in the rally so it is difficult to make adjustments from the checkpoint toward the finish. The second part of the rally will be more of the same insanely tight and twisty back roads as you make your way, the longest possible way, back toward the host hotel. Running along the route, many times you will encounter other Targa Trophy competitors. Some times you will be in a long train of cars cruising along the route which is filled with gorgeous vistas and challenging terrain. Since everyone is driving in a train on a two lane road with double yellow lines (no passing!), it is difficult to decide if you are “on pace” or not. Blink luck may help you win the event since you don’t know what the perfect time is until the rally is over.
At the finish you will enjoy some great bench racing with other competitors at the hotel bar, catered dinner, the awards ceremony and a nightclub style after party. During the awards is when you will find out if you hit the time right on the money or if you went way too fast or slow. Targa Trophy hands out awards seven deep as well as some specialty awards (which we will discuss later).
Targa Trophy competitors are an interesting mix of car folks. They love cars just like the rest of us, only they love very expensive cars. It isn’t enough to own a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, they want to throw on a set of $80,000 twin superchargers from Novitec Rosso. Mods are mods. It’s really no different than you throwing an ST Suspensions sway bar on your Honda Civic. Well, I guess it is a little bit different, like $79,800 dollars different. The cars are epic fast however these Targa Trophy guys and gals are by no means racecar drivers. But they are at least adventurous enough to be out driving their exotic cars as opposed to just polishing rare cars with zero odometers in a climate controlled garage.
Just participating in the event will earn some amount of glory. You will see numerous professional photographs of your car whizzing by the landscape. Media is always present at these events earning online and print magazine coverage. At checkpoints you will find crowds of people checking out your car. And if you’re lucky enough to win the Targa Trophy you will be rewarded with a beautiful cup trophy and prizes.
OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA?
If you want to win, slow down. Seriously. This isn’t a race. Even though two hundred mile an hour cars are entered in this race no one needs to run two hundred insane miles per hour on a public road. The way to win the event is to match the set time and distance run by a Porsche 911S, driven by a reasonable guy. The time is kept a total secret. You won’t have a clue if you are on pace or not until the awards ceremony. With that sort of wide open parameter, it is difficult to strategize or really try to win the Targa Trophy. However, there are things you can do to give yourself a better chance of not losing.
1. Don’t come in first. I personally made that mistake in an incredibly capable Ford Shelby GT 500 which I hustled around the hills safely yet spiritedly (running door to door with an insanely driven burgundy Lamborghini) giving me the fastest time of the event. That earned me the honor of receiving the “Bonehead Award –Too Fast For Your Own Good” from the boys at Targa Trophy. As a rookie to the event, I assumed the 911S pace was run pretty quickly but after coming in ahead of the Lambo (and 32 minutes ahead of time), I realized I blew the whole rally (and I have the “Bonehead” plaque to prove it). You will lose 5 points for every minute you are off (fast or slow) from true time during the rally.
2. Stay on track. Mileage is also a big part of your score so not getting lost and staying on the course will increase your chances of winning the event. You will lose 10 points for every mile you are off (up or down) during the rally. 1000 points is the score you start the rally with, it only goes downhill from there.
3. Drive with caution and care for the law. The 911S did not get stopped by the police and if you do, you are only hurting your overall time, your driving record and your wallet.
Based on the way the rally is run (with a completely unknown target time) this is not set up to be a hardcore competitive event. It more like a dynamic car show for high-end exotics with a great party at the finish. The event definitely has panache so all of the competitors are winners in some sense.
RACER BOY GAUGE
Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here:
FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is around a half a tank. The entry fee is steeper than most events you will go to and you’ll need a high-end ride to come out and play. Not all of the cars need to be priceless, the promoters enjoy different types of automobiles (some vintage right hand drive Skylines from Fatlace were in attendance). If you’re not sure apply here and ask if your Mom’s Hyundai Elantra is cool enough to make the cut.
RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 3,500 RPMs. Your adrenaline will kick into high gear when you are running with the Bulls but it really isn’t the same thrill as trying to out brake somebody in a road race on a closed course. Speed isn’t the point of this rally, therefore adrenaline isn’t a huge part of it.
MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 80 miles an hour which is ten over the legal speed limit in California, realistically faster than you will need to go during the event. Not really fast enough to get a ticket on the freeway, but still fast enough to kill you.
VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is around three quarters because this event won’t take up much of your time. The whole thing will eat up a whole day and there really isn’t much prep work required prior to the race, except an extra coat of wax on your baby to protect the paint from all the sponsor stickers.
MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 5,000 miles because even though you are only probably going to run around 300 miles in the rally, you will put some heat in your brakes and wear your tires more than normal based on the back roads that are used in these events.
The Targa Trophy is a cool event that fills the void between the Gumball, Bullrun and a local time and distance rally. If you’ve got the right car and the cash, I’d say don’t pass it up. There is nothing quite like the experience of running down the open road lined up next two two Lambos and a Ferrari. Three V-12s in unison have a sound you will never forget.