After lacklusterly placing mid pack in the first leg of the Targa Trophy rally-its jaunt from Los Angeles to San Diego as documented in our Dec. '10 issue-we knew we needed a more competitive vehicle for the strenuous second leg that would take us all the way to San Francisco. This was to be an even more strenuous competition between us and a field comprised almost entirely of high-dollar exotica, and we desperately needed a secret weapon. Fortunately, we had one. After a quick call to Philip Chase at Tein, we dusted off our IS F (full feature in last month's issue), topped off the nitrous, and prepared to kick some serious asphalt.
We checked in to the W hotel in San Francisco, tired but ready for round two of the Targa Trophy's Triple Crown Championship. Our team of Carter Jung, Eddie Lee, Philip Chase, and myself felt a bit out of place among a sea of high-brow wheelmen and cazillionaire car owners whose paths we'd scarcely cross on any regular day. We were lucky to meet up with fellow import owners and friends Mark Arcenal and Felix from Fatlace, who debuted a pair of vintage Skylines at check-in-priceless, race-bred, and cleaner than the day they were new, but two cars that definitely didn't receive the attention they deserved amongst modified top-model Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMWs, and Benzes. It was clear we were the underdogs, but we were in it together-just where we like to be.
It wasn't until just before leaving the W at the start of the rally that the route book was distributed to the drivers. The first leg proved to be a mad dash through winding mountain roads to a checkpoint at the W in Silicon Valley. The IS F set a better pace here than most, its custom Tein suspension, Tom's chassis bracing, and Yokohama tires out gripping our rivals through the twisties, and monster Brembos staying firm and confident even through long, downhill sections where lesser alternatives would've faded into oblivion.
After a quick stop and some lunch at our mandatory checkpoint, we refreshed with some NOS Energy Drinks and hit the road for the second half. We were in great standing, but got there largely by running ahead of our Fatlace brothers; this time we decided to hang back and work together against our rivals, so we could finish strong together. And that's when it happened. After we'd watched our competitors overtake us one after another, thinking we'd catch 'em down the road, we got word from the Fatlace crew that one of their machines was down for the count, and both had withdrawn from the race.
After being pulled over twice by police whilst attempting to regain lost ground-either an inadvertent backlash of the spirited driving of the cars ahead of us, or a dirty trick by them to maintain their lead-we decided to take it easy and just enjoy the drive-after all, the true sportsmanship of a road rally is found in efficient planning and execution, not in "stretching" the law or pulling dirty tricks.
We arrived back at the W in San Francisco nearer the end of the field, but with a sense of relief and pride for having stuck to our guns rather than abandoned our friends and good judgement in the quest for a win. In the end, we were awarded a much needed dinner and four-star accommodations to rest up for the drive home-the perfect close to an adventure that let us spend days behind the wheel of our IS F (we drove it from LA), in the company of good friends, carving the mountain roads of Northern California. We couldn't have asked for more.