About Targa Newfoundland

Targa Newfoundland Competitor in a replica Ford GT40

Targa Newfoundland is the first and only tarmac rally of its kind in North America! As motorsports enthusiasts, we know that limits are made to be pushed and that cars were designed to be driven. It’s all about the drive!

After competing in the Targa Tasmania in Australia in 2001, automotive journalist Jim Kenzie and public relations executive Doug Mepham were inspired to bring the excitement of that event closer to home. As Jim wrote in Toronto Star Wheels, “We got talking and thought: Island; welcoming population; needs tourism dollars. How about Targa Newfoundland?”  

I’ve been here seven times. There’s nothing like it in the world.

– Jim Turner, 2023 Targa 2 competitor 

Kenzie wrote about the idea and Mepham sent the article to Robert Giannou, a businessman and racer who had promoted Formula Atlantic races in St. John’s in the early 1970s and other motorsport events after that. Giannou secured the support of the provincial government and a year-and-a-half later, Targa Newfoundland was born. Targa ran for the first time in 2002 and continues proudly today.  

As we enter our third decade, we offer a 2,000-kilometre (or about 1240 mile) course that brings you through scenery we know you will not find elsewhere. While the courses are fantastic, they are often outdone by the sheer spectacular beauty of the scenery which surrounds the competitive stages. From the pristine seaside and the wild, looming, and rugged ocean cliffs to the centuries-old towns and outports to the uplands and into the mountains; the island of Newfoundland is spectacular! And all this breath-taking view is encompassed by clean fresh ocean air scented with the tangy taste of the saltwater ocean that surrounds this wonderous and beautiful island.

Enjoy the scenic, paved roads that we have selected for your Targa Newfoundland adventure the way few have the privilege of experiencing – at speed – by entering and participating in Targa Newfoundland. Our competitors’ only complaint is that their speeds are so fast, and their focus so complete, that they have little time to enjoy the smell of the saltwater or the up-close and personal views as they drive along the shoreline edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

The competitive sections of the stages are held on roads closed to the general public. They comprise approximately 30% of the total course. The balance of the course takes participants from one stage to another in what we call transits.

You’re essentially taking the whole year’s (racing) budget and doing only one event. There are six days of competition so it works out in terms of seat time … All you have to do is get yourself to the coast.

– Doug Mepham, Targa Newfoundland co-founder 

Our volunteers are world-class. They come from our local communities as well as from all across North America. When it comes to this type of all-weather motorsports event, they are the best. In the 20 plus years since we created this event, we have built a first-class volunteer team of people who run a safe and timely event and who really want to help you do your best and enjoy your time with us.

With its specially created Course Familiarization Program (CFP), which is included in the registration fee, the Targa Newfoundland event has established a safety record that is second to none.

We want everyone involved, including competitors, volunteers, marshals and spectators to have a safe and fun event.  

Come join us for Targa Newfoundland. You won’t get the same adventure and experience anywhere else in North America.  

Targa Events

Targa Newfoundland is subdivided into three distinct events.

  • Targa Bambina — a two-day competition
  • Targa Rotoura — a three-day competition(launching 2025)
  • Targa Duemila — a six-day competition

Learn more

Targa Newfoundland Founders

Robert Giannou

Robert Giannou was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Class of 2022 as a competitor, builder and significant contributor. Robert joined an elite group of more than 290 members who have been recognized for their contributions to motorsports in Canada.

Giannou joined the St. John’s Motor Club in 1958, where he began organizing rally, solo and hillclimb events in 1962. He also raced himself, winning titles in club karting and rallying, hillclimb and B Sedan. He brought the club into the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC) ranks and negotiated with the U.S. Embassy in Newfoundland to use two of their properties for events, including runways at Naval Station Argentia, where he eventually brought the Molyslip Endurance Series.

Giannou has held various roles with CASC over the years, including Race Director Atlantic Region and Assistant National Race Director, and most notably started Targa Newfoundland in 2002. Making Targa Newfoundland the premier tarmac rally has been his passion for over two decades.

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie is an automotive journalist, broadcaster, racer, engineer, computer programming instructor, and co-founder of Targa Newfoundland.

“I may have been the first person to use the words ‘Targa’ and ‘Newfoundland’ in the same sentence,” said Jim, in reference to an article he wrote after being inspired by his experience with Doug Mepham at the Targa Tasmania.

For decades, he was the Chief Auto Reviewer for the Toronto Star Wheels section. He started that role before there even was a Wheels section. During his time there, Wheels was arguably the biggest and largest-circulation automobile publication in the world. Jim left the Star in 2021 after almost 38 years.

He also appeared on “Kenzie’s Korner” on TSN’s Motoring, which was Canada’s most-watched automotive television show and one of the longest-running in the world, having been on the air for 35 years. Jim currently writes for www.vicariousmag.com.  

He’s been an active, licensed, professional-grade racing driver for much of his adult life, and a three-time winner of the Open Division in Targa Newfoundland, one of the word’s most challenging open-road performance rallies. He’s also had a life-long interest in traffic safety, which predates his automotive journalism career.

Jim wrote an auto/biography, In The Driver’s Seat, which includes a history of Targa Newfoundland. Find out more and order a copy here: https://www.facebook.com/jim.kenzie.

Jim Kenzie says farewell to Wheels (thestar.com)

How to prepare a Targa Newfoundland car (thespec.com)

Doug Mepham

Targa co-founder Doug Mepham is a respected public relations consultant from Ontario with a lifelong passion for motorsport, especially rallying.

“I’ve always enjoyed rallying as the ultimate driving challenge,” said Doug in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen.

Mepham and two partners published Wheelspin News, a national tabloid, from 1972 through 1975. They also published Autosport Canada during that time. Early on, he dabbled in all kinds of motor sports, including rallying, but gave up almost all of it for a period.

In the 1990s, he got the bug again. His first car on his return to rallying was a Honda Civic for the Ontario Performance Rally Championship. Doug won the Ontario Production 1750 Class in 1996. Over the next two years, he had a rally car built – a 1971 142S Volvo painted Wedding Cake White with a roll cage and racing suspension. The competition debut of the Volvo was the Mount Washington Hillclimb in 1999.

The Volvo was built for events that didn’t exist in North America — long-distance rallies for classic-era cars such as Targa Tasmania and Targa New Zealand. That lead to recruiting his friend Jim Kenzie and heading off for an adventure at the Targa Tasmania in Australia which in turn inspired Targa Newfoundland.

“If you believe in, ‘If you build it, they will come…’ it was destined  to be one of the first entrants in Targa Newfoundland,” says Doug. “I presented Robert with my entry cheque at the press conference announcing the event with Premier Grimes.”

He raced the Volvo in Targa Newfoundland from 2002 through 2007; and he ran a 2006 MINI Cooper S from 2008 through 2016. That’s 15 consecutive years!

“You’re essentially taking the whole year’s (racing) budget and doing only one event. There are six days of competition so it works out in terms of seat time … All you have to do is get yourself to the coast.”

Mepham and his wife, Susan MacDonald, own a communications company, MacDonald & Co. They live in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.