Infinite Monkeys ORRC Rally No. 6 – August 14, 2010

Give an infinite number of monkeys in an infinite number of cars and an infinite amount of time…and they, too, could figure out the instructions and complete this rally. Maybe. This is the most difficult rally of the Ontario Road Rally Championship, being designed each year by Rita and Paul, who are consistently one of the best road rally teams at whatever level they compete. This year it did not disappoint, requiring almost six hours to complete about 260 km, with a short pit stop in the middle.

Gary came to my house Friday night, to sleep over, since we had to leave Saturday morning at 5:00 AM to drive to Newmarket. After one stop for gas and nature, we arrived at the little strip mall around 9:45 and found a place to park the truck and trailer so we could unload. After registering, we had a light lunch of Tim Horton’s sandwiches and talked with various competitors while waiting for the drivers’ meeting. Gary took a ten-minute nap in the car, to rest his brain.

We were car number 9, so we left the mall at 11:09 and headed for the odo check. We made good time and found that the odometer was already almost spot on with the rally master’s, so no adjustment was required. We zeroed the first check point within Section 1 and felt good about ourselves. The instructions for Section 2 were simple tulip diagrams, but there were over forty of them; they were not in sequence; and, three of them had no kilometres indicated. We would have to watch out for these three unique intersections on the fly. The first mystery diagram came up fairly early in the section, when we passed through a four-way intersection with traffic signals, while looking for the next tulip. One of the mystery diagrams was a T-intersection with traffic signals and it turned out to be this one! The drawing was incorrect! After passing through it twice and wasting 6-7 minutes, we finally reached this conclusion, turned right and got back on track. I took a Time Allowance (TA), of 7.5 minutes when we reached the next checkpoint, which was approximately right. The balance of the section went fairly easily, although it was very long, with many speed changes and different types of roads. There were two checkpoints only 30 seconds apart on a very twisty section with an average speed of 71 km/h, so of course we were late for the second one by two tenths.

I don’t remember the instructions for the remaining sections prior to the break, exactly. One involved Chinese names organized into three dynasties, each dynasty representing either a Left, Right or Straight Ahead instruction. Another involved a picture of a Chinese warrior facing you, with his body divided into four quadrants, each carrying two Chinese labels. In each case, the navigator had to read the instruction and translate the given Chinese name into the correct interpretation for the driver. We did well on these sections and I give Gary full credit for not going blind or crazy trying to decipher the instructions.

After almost three hours we had covered about 130 km and the car was beginning to stutter on acceleration. I diagnosed the problem to be the fuel pick-up in the tank, since the level of fuel was down quite a bit from Full. At the brief pit stop break – where we exchanged our route card for a new one – I filled up the tank. The problem went away until we had covered over 250 km and then it began again. I must look at the pick-up and either clean it, bend it down to the bottom of the tank or replace it. We have another local rally on Wednesday and I don’t want a repeat of this problem.

When we left the mid-rally break, we immediately got into a train of slower local traffic that prevented me from reaching our target average speed of 76 km/h until the last minute before the average speed changed. This was very frustrating and we began to calculate how much of a TA I should request at the next checkpoint, since I didn’t think we had a chance of making up the lost speed. However, it worked out that we did make it up just in time, so the TA became unnecessary.

After a fairly simple first section following the break, the next one looked pretty easy. It was a large tulip diagram showing the entire 23 km section, with no mileages on the diagram. All we had to do was watch for the next right turn, or the next small bridge, or other landmarks, and follow the map. Unfortunately, while working ahead on the next section’s instructions, Gary’s attention wavered and he forgot to tell me about an important left turn! We finished the section at approximately the right mileage and began the next section, only to realize that we were on the wrong road. With so many roads being spaced at the normal concession road distances, it’s not always clear. We backtracked and found End of Section by using the provided map. We hadn’t missed a checkpoint and could have taken a shortcut, but I didn’t want to take that risk. So we continued into the next section, disregarding the average speed instructions, until we came to the next checkpoint. Fortunately the crew was still there, although we were late enough that they might have closed the control. I knew we were very late, so I requested a TA of 19.5 minutes, even though that would exceed the available TA allotment. In the scoring, they overlooked the fact that we had exceeded the allowable maximum (in error), so we got credit for the 19.5 TA – but it still wasn’t enough and we picked up 4.0 points for that control.

From then on, we did our best to stay on track and on time and didn’t very well on the remaining checkpoints. At the end of rally, Gary made an arithmetic error and gave me the wrong clock time for checking in, so we picked up a penalty of another 3-4 points. There were a lot of teams entered, so the organizers were very busy compiling the scores at the end. I think they tried to do it quickly, which led to several discussions and corrections before the results were posted. While they were scoring, I was loading the car on the trailer and having a meal, so I didn’t go over to their table to check the results until they had been finalized. We had several questions for Rita which she couldn’t answer, so we accepted our third place monkey trophies and hit the road. Our chief rivals for the Novice championship had finished second, picking up one more point against us in the standings. We got home a little after 10:30 PM, after having driven over 1200 km in one day, and I slept like a log. The next day Rita sent us an e-mail describing the scoring errors she had found, pursuant to our questions. There were six of them! Some were in our favour, but others were not, resulting in a corrected score that was significantly higher than she had posted. However, once the Steward has posted the results, they are considered final, so our third place finish stands. We learned a few things that we will apply next time, not the least of which is to maintain a log of actual scores by checkpoint as we encounter them, so we can check it against the scoring in real time. It was a great event in spite of the problems and challenges, and we lok forward to three more good rallies in the 2010 season.

Video is available at… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J-Gbu2AVJk

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