Targa Newfoundland, the organization that hosts the weeklong road racing event in the province every year, is for sale.
President Robert Giannou made the announcement via a recent letter to past participants, volunteers and other interested parties.
“I am sure the event will continue to grow, but as I enter my 76th year I acknowledge that I cannot do this forever,” he wrote.
Targa Newfoundland is a seven-day rally race that covers more than 1,600 kilometres of roads in eastern Newfoundland.
Giannou has started identifying potential new owners of the event, with the assistance of his son, Scott Giannou, who will facilitate discussions or expressions of interest.
Scott Giannou co-owned the organization with his father for its first ten years. He says he is currently in talks with a group of potential buyers, and he is trying to bring them together to take over the event. The goal is to have it sold in time for the event in 2019.
"We have a lot of pride in what we've created," he said. "We want to make sure that the event continues and is successful."
"It's time to move on, [with] new ideas, new thoughts, new owners. So, it's very exciting. It's exciting for the province, and exciting for motorsports to get the right team of owners in there to take it to the next level."
Robert Giannou says he will continue to run the event until it is sold.
“I want to see it continue,” he said. “I think it has got a marvellous future.”
“Whether it turns into taking the interested parties and melding it into one party or whatever, the important thing is it goes ahead. I’d hate to think that one spent 17 years developing this and see it go poof.”
Either way, Giannou says it is time for the event to get a new start. But that does not mean he is getting out of the race altogether. Once the event is sold, he would like to enter as a driver.
“I’ve got an itch that has to be scratched, and I’ve watched it for … years,” he said. “I can’t wait ’til I get my oar in there.”
“I am sure the event will continue to grow, but as I enter my 76th year I acknowledge that I cannot do this forever.”
Meanwhile, the response to Giannou’s letter is mixed.
“What I’m getting back is two-fold: who the hell are we going to get to replace him? And the other thing is, ‘The event’s finished.’”
However, Giannou insists the event will continue as normal, noting they have several competitors booked for the 17th year in September 2018.
John Hume is a returning competitor who has raced with Targa for several years and plans to continue.
“It’s about the race, not about who owns it,” he said.
Hume, who lives in Ontario, says he fell in love with Newfoundland after several years of participating in Targa. He is looking at buying a house in Brigus, a community that is admired by Targa competitors for its exciting stage due to the narrow, winding roads.
While Hume agrees the event could benefit from the fresh perspective of a new owner, he says he enjoys the race as it is under Giannou’s leadership.
Reflecting on the years he has run Targa Newfoundland, Giannou says the one thing that always springs to his mind is the very beginning of the event each year.
“When you walk into the arena or the garage where everybody’s come to start, and they’ve just registered their cars.
“The testosterone is this deep on the garage floor,” he says, motioning with his hands. “All of a sudden you know it’s all worthwhile. You’re walking through the garage, and the tears are running down your face, and you think, ‘Wow! Did it again!’”
Giannou says he is not prepared to step away from the event, but that the time has come for him to do so.
“To be honest with you, it should have happened a while ago,” he admits. “Because I believe you run out of ideas.
“This event deserves a breath of fresh air and a new perspective.”
Meanwhile, organizers are busy gearing up for September. Last week, a new category was added for the race: the Grand Tour Vintage Class, designed to accommodate pre-1981 vehicles.