That dream looked very real as Hartling and Lothian lead the entire week in first place, not only in their Modern division but also in total points overall. By day five (Friday) Hartling had taken only nine seconds in total penalties, which gave him a commanding 40-second lead over his nearest competitor.
With the red Lotus having some mechanical issues that caused it to miss a few stages and take large penalties, the white Lotus of the Hartling team was perfectly poised to not only take a coveted first place in the Modern class but to also beat all time standings including those of Canadian Rally Series driver Jean Luc Bergeron running his all wheel drive STI.
With less than a 15 kilometer stage to go in the race, Hartling heard a sickening sound develop in the rear of the car that instantly erupted into a grinding sound that meant the differential on the car could take no more and had shattered. It left Hartling no choice but to bring the car to rest on the roadside, unable to move.
“I was truly gutted,” says Hartling. “It was surreal that after five full days of racing and driving the car over 2000 kilometers that we could lose everything with less than 15 kilometers to go.“ He further adds, “The car performed flawlessly all week and we really thought this was our year to take an overall win.”
In the sportsman-like manner that the Turks and Caicos team are known for, Hartling had the car dragged to the finish line where he and his co-driver pushed it over the finish line for a ceremonial finish where the team was applauded by spectators and competitors alike.
One very positive end to the story was that the organizers and competitors of Targa were so impressed with the efforts and support of the event, that Hartling and his team were given the prestigious “Spirit of Targa Award” recognizing outstanding determination and competitive spirit.
“While we all are still in disbelief over the reality that the car failed just before achieving the first place it deserves, our team is so proud of receiving this coveted award and proving how competitive we are at this event” said Joan Hagan who is a key organizer for H Racing and the Turks and Caicos Motoring Club.
“ We cannot control that gear failure, it needs to be behind us and we have already started preparation for next year to make sure the win comes home to TCI as it deserves,” said Hartling.
For more information on the Targa event, visit www.targanewfoundland.com.
Article and images supplied by Sue Nickason