ST. JOHN’S (May 24, 2016) – For those not from Newfoundland & Labrador, coming to the province to experience Targa Newfoundland is something very special. For Jack Piho, the 15th annual Targa Newfoundland international rally will mean much more to him then most others. Simply being alive to witness the event first hand is his trophy plate.
Jack, a Pennsylvania native, was involved in a major automobile accident in the state in April of 2014. He suffered brain damage and inner ear damage, resulting in balance issues. He is no longer medically cleared to compete in any motorsports activities and is no longer allowed to be a private motorsports instructor for those wishing to learn more on the correct way to operate on a race track, which was a pastime he dearly enjoyed.
For the past two years, Jack, who is the owner of a successful engineering company, has been trying to figure out how to compete in Targa. Potential replacement drivers and navigators have fallen through. Medical clearance hasn’t been given. The dream to compete in Targa in any capacity was starting to look like a non-starter. However, in early 2016, things started to improve for Jack and his racing team.
Bert Howerton, Jack’s racing buddy and good friend from Virginia, agreed to pilot the team’s 1995 BMW 325i for Targa. A navigator was then brought into the team. Sean English, who lives in Ontario but is originally from Newfoundland & Labrador, and who finished 2nd in last year’s Classic division within Targa, agreed to navigate and becoming the mechanic for the rookie team.
“I’m really thrilled with the team we have assembled for the event,” expressed Jack. “Bert’s had experience racing in my Spec E36 BMW with the club racing here in the states, so it isn’t anything new having him in the car in that capacity. We both really hit it off with Sean and his personality, and I feel both Bert and I are truly blessed to have him involved with the team. He’s certainly put my mind at ease in regards to having an experience navigator and someone with local knowledge to help Bert and I out as we embark on our first Targa.”
“Put simply, this is an amazing opportunity and I’m thrilled to be a part of the experience,” stated Bert. “I couldn’t be more honoured to have been asked by team principle, Jack Piho, to pilot the Piho Engineering BMW 325i entry. As a closed circuit road racer, I am looking forward to this new-to-me form of racing and to working with Sean English, our native Newfoundland navigator. There will be a lot of firsts for the team come September, but we will be ready for them and, of course, ready to have a great time!”
“I’m honoured that Jack asked me to navigate and be a part of this professional team,” Sean add. “To be in the car with Bert, and not really have to worry about anything else regarding the team, it’s a pretty good feeling. I’m looking forward to getting back home and helping these guys out, perhaps get another podium finish and certainly have a bunch of fun in the process.”
Jack has accepted the fact he can no longer compete in motorsports or be a driver instructor. His main focus now is being the general manager of the Piho Racing team and making sure it’s fully prepared for whatever the Targa throws at them.
“Being a team owner and member of the support crew is the only way I’ll truly experience the Targa in the flesh due to my circumstances. I’m still an important part of the team. I get to deal with logistics, make sure all spare parts are packed, make sure the guys are taken care of, and spend the money on improving the car for them – they really like that part.”
When asked about the expectations of the team in their first Targa, Jack was to the point.
“Don’t put it in the ocean. That’s the only thing I’ve told the guys. Don’t put the car in the ocean and finish the event. As long as the guys don’t get hurt, nothing else matters. But, keeping it on the road and to not be last in our class, those are the aims we’re making for in September.”
The disappointment of not being able to drive in the event still bothers him, but Jack sums up the situation nicely.
“It does sting, but I’m alive. That accident could have easily killed me. To be able to still enjoy the experience with my team, meet new people in Newfoundland, see a part of the world I haven’t seen in over a decade, I’ll take that over death any day of the week.”
Owned and operated by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 2016 competition will start in St. John’s on September 12th and concludes back in the capital on September 16th. The annual rally will cover more than 1,600 kilometers of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of Newfoundland, including over 440 kilometers of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages.