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Targa Trophy Desert Challenge - Desert Showdown

Targa Trophy 2010 concludes in the Nevada sands

Karl Funke
Mar 14, 2011
Photographer: John Pangilinan

The end of 2010 saw the conclusion of the fourth installation of the Targa Trophy Triple Crown road rally. The final event, dubbed Desert Challenge, transpired in and around fabulous Las Vegas, staging at the Aria Resort and running from the Vegas Strip through scenic Red Rock State Park, up into the mountains, then back down into downtown with a stopover at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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When the dust finally settled, Jennifer Doud and her navigator Enrico Del Mar took the Desert Challenge victory in a BMW 335i, the second such 335 to top the field in an individual Targa event. However, no one was able to touch points leader Radoslav Kalla and navigator Mark Bauman in their orange Lambo Gallardo Spyder for the overall Triple Crown victory (points averaged across all three Targa events). Kalla won the first Hollywood-to-San Diego event and remained the event leader throughout.

More recently, we sat down with Targa Trophy event mastermind Jason Overell to talk to him about the event, its origins and its future.

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ec: What inspired you to create the Targa Trophy road rally series?

JO: That’s a pretty big question. Here’s a quick version--the main inspiration for Targa Trophy came from combining traditional road rallies and the current lifestyle rallies that take place today. Our goal was to create an event that offered the best of both worlds, but one aimed at the full-on automotive lifestyle enthusiast who enjoys everything about cars and driving to the fullest. All these elements combine into an event format that is 100 percent authentic, where the environment complements the experience.

ec: You’ve been at it what, four years now?

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JO: Yes, four years. The first two were test runs, San Diego in 2007 and Los Angeles in 2008. Those events led us to create the Triple Crown format in 2009, which was held in Orange County, San Diego and LA. This year’s series saw us produce a huge Los Angeles kick-off event, taking the brand to the Bay Area and then to Las Vegas, which allowed us to expand the profile outside of Southern California.

ec: As Targa Trophy evolved from a single road rally to the Triple Crown Championship, have you seen a significant evolution in the participant field? In terms of the quality of cars and the number of entries perhaps?

JO: It’s funny that after thinking about it--no, not really. Since we have really gone out of our way to keep the format authentic for the true automotive enthusiast, we’ve always had a perfect mix of clientele and cars. Everything from exotics to credible sports cars, year after year the mix is pretty even. We’ve had everything from modern-day supercars to classic exotics to muscle cars to the current cars that really make up the sports car world like BMW M cars, Mercedes AMGs, Asian imports and everything in between. Our main criteria are keeping things sports car-centric and allowing for the oddity once in a while as well.

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ec: Targa Trophy has gone from a Southern California-based event, to a Southern and Northern California event, to a multi-state event in 2010. Do you have plans to expand it further in geographical terms? Maybe a coast-to-coast run in the near future? Or would you have to kill us if you told us?

JO: We are currently working on expanding the Targa Trophy brand on a few different levels. This means more events in Southern California and looking at key outside markets that really can have some impact for the consumer, our sponsors and Targa Trophy.

ec: Targa Trophy is sort of unique in that it isn’t an all-out speed trial, but a time/distance run where entrants need to accurately navigate a pre-mapped course. We like it because it encourages critical thinking and responsible driving. What gave you the idea for the system?

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JO: As I said earlier, it was always my goal to keep the automotive side of the event 100 percent authentic. If you know about world rallies such as Mille Miglia, Targa Tasmania and others, those events are driven by actual driver and navigator interaction, set up on roads that are meant to be challenging for both the driver/navigator team and the cars that they drive. This has been the biggest factor in what makes Targa Trophy unique, as we have created our own hybrid formula that takes the best elements of the TSD rally experience and makes it accessible for all drivers and skill types, and, ultimately, more fun.

ec: Planning a three-stage event that spans half a year or more has potential to be a logistics nightmare. What keeps you in it? The chicks?

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JO:[laughs] The chicks that’s a whole other story. Really, we have taken Targa Trophy to this level because we feel that the format we’ve created is the most interactive and relevant form of auto rallying you can experience. Targa Trophy puts the participants in the position of using their cars for what they were really made forfun, performance-oriented driving. At the same time, our goal is to make the event as interactive as possible with the sponsors and the venues, thus making it a really memorable and unique experience. I’ve been a part of all types of events prior to creating Targa Trophy, and let me tell you this is the only event I’ve seen that makes people freak out with excitement and offers such a rush and one-of-a-kind experience. Once you tell people the details surrounding the eventcar person or non-car personI’ve never seen an event light up people’s eyes and stir such emotion as the Targa Trophy and the road rally experience. Seeing my clientele and the public excited and wanting more is what it’s all about.

ec: What was your personal high point in the 2010 series? Or any particular moments that really stood out?

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JO: For me, 2010 was a crazy year in more ways than one, and just pulling off another season of events is highlight enough. Every event literally has so many memories it’s impossible to describe in an interview. But I can honestly say that you really have to be there and be in it to get the full effect!

ec: Any final reflections on 2010, or projections for 2011?

JO: Last year was insane and just scratches the surface of what’s in store for the Targa Trophy brand. Targa Trophy has seen two years as a one-off event and two years as a Triple Crown Championship. We have already outlined the 2011 program and some pretty significant changes are in the works. You’ll have to wait and see what that means, but I can tell you that the evolution will continue.

Editor’s Choice

For the final leg of the Targa rally, we chose Alex Andonian’s BMW 335i. Andonian, from Tag Motorsports in San Diego, has been a rabid competitor throughout the 2010 series, placing at the very top of the field in the second event in the San Francisco Bay. His BMW has been built to run, with choice modifications like a full exhaust system that includes custom downpipes and a Remus rear section, GIAC software and an Active Autowerke intercooler, and a completely revised suspension setup courtesy of KW coilovers and Eibach antiroll bars. Cosmetics have been extensively revised with OEM products like Euro-spec headlights and M-Tech body components. This car represents everything we like in a modified Euro: enhanced performance and tasteful good looks.

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Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

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Nature’s perfect sports car?

For this final event, Porsche Cars North America once again came through for us, this time with a Meteor Grey 911 Turbo Cab. What can one write about this most iconic of sports cars that hasn’t already been written?

I could try and tell you how fast it is. But words wouldn’t really do it justice. Suffice it to say, it’s bloody fast. I could use other conjugated qualifiers in place of bloody to describe fast, but those all start with four-letter words. The 997.2 Turbo is one of the fastest cars I’ve ever driven, nothing notwithstanding. Porsche puts the Cab’s 0-60 time at 3.3 seconds with the PDK transmission and Sport Chrono Package, but independent testers have turned even faster numbers. A lot of this has to do with the launch control program included with the PDK/Sport Chrono configuration, and an all-wheel-drive system that simply refuses to allow any wheel slippage. Beyond 60, the car keeps pulling frantically until either your guts turn to water or you top out at 193 mph (top up or down).

The Cabriolet adds a whole new dimension to the driving experience. Top down, you can hear the induction system working, sucking, huffing, wheezing, blowing, as though some sort of angry metallic dragon resides beneath the decklid.

In terms of street performance, the thing is just about flawless. The steering is sharp and direct, and the brakes generate deceleration nearly as violent as the engine’s acceleration. If you drive with a light right foot, mid-20 mpg figures are actually attainable. You could say the ride is hard, but you ought to expect that. After three long days of driving, on the fourth I woke up feeling like someone had thrown me a pillow party in the middle of the night.

With cars like the GT3 in the model lineup, I used to secretly think the newer Turbos were poseur cars, glorified boulevard cruisers for clueless yuppies and moneyed boy racers. Now, after having stomped a 911 GT3 RS off the stoplights, I ain’t so sure. The RS would take it on a racetrack, but in a straight line, there’s nothing like next-generation AWD and nearly four decades’ worth of Germanic turbo development.

How could you best describe it in a single word? I guess it’d have to be sick. Yeah, it’s sick.

2011 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

Longitudinal rear engine, all-wheel drive

3.8-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve, twin turbocharged

Seven-speed PDK automated manual

Peak Power: 500 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1950 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.3 sec.
Top Speed: 193 mph
Fuel Economy: 16 city/ 24 hwy
MSRP: $146,800

By Karl Funke
177 Articles



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