President’s Prize ORRC Rally #7 – 23 Oct 2010

This year’s President’s Prize rally started and finished in Havelock, ON – about a three hour drive for us. It was organized by a first-time rally master from the Peterborough club, with lots of help from more experienced guys. And it was greened by a very experienced husband and wife team who generally compete in the Expert class and have been to Targa Newfoundland. Unfortunately, despite all of this experienced help, there were a number of errors in the route book and a major problem with the scoring at rally’s end.

The total length was about 210 kms, divided into 9 sections including a 12-minute break after section 4. There were only seven teams competing, so once again the checkpoint workers outnumbered the competitors. The weather forecast had been pretty dismal all week, but the actual weather turned out to be beautiful for late fall, becoming mostly sunny with temperatures around 9 Celsius. The roads were almost all dry, except for rainwater standing in some pretty serious potholes on the dirt roads. The odo check was supposed to be completed before the rally, so after arriving and unloading, we set off to do that. The correction factor we had to input to the rally computer was pretty significant, leading me to conclude that the rally master’s tires were pretty worn when he laid out the route. Throughout the event, I had to maintain speeds close to 90 km/h in order to achieve an ongoing average of 76 – which is not normally expected in 80 km/h speed zones.

We were Car #5 and we set off hoping that the major calibration adjustment wouldn’t be the source of any problems later. Section 1a was simple tulip diagrams with the average speeds listed at the bottom of the sheet. When we reached Check Point (CP) #1 near the end of the section, we were shocked to see that we were about 7/10ths of a minute late, since we had thought that we were right on time. We determined this by comparing our “in time” with the elapsed time printed on the CP sticker. Section 1b was also a set of simple instructions with miniaturized tulip diagrams and average speeds on a separate sheet from the distances, which were out of sequence. Once again at CP 2 we found that were late by 1.6 minutes, which we found incredible. The other competitors were also on the same pace and equally dumbfounded. Later on I mentioned this problem to one of the CP crews and they acknowledged that there seemed to be a problem. All we could do at this point was follow the instructions as written, resisting the temptation to build in a correction factor for the first two sections. But it was rather upsetting and frustrating to know that such a problem was lurking.

Section 2 was a rather complicated fairy tale involving a troll, the Severn Canal, a number of bridges and a set of instructions that was missing a turn or two near the end of section. Somehow we muddled though and stayed reasonably on time. When we finally reached end of section after a couple of wrong turns, there were two Expert teams parked there, trying to figure out what to do! To top it all off, the CP at end of section was a self-serve type, where all we had to do was record the clock time of our arrival. We wouldn’t get a chance to gauge our success until the next control, some 17.5 km later. Section 4 was a little story with descriptive instructions, which ended at a small village offering snacks and fuel during a 12-minute break. Between arriving there and leaving, we saw only two cars – suggesting that several teams were having serious trouble along the way.

Section 5 used abbreviated instructions which the rallymaster had called “short hand” instructions. Thank goodness they weren’t in real shorthand! We were keeping track of our timing errors at every CP and so far we seemed to be quite close (except for the first two), although we hadn’t zero’d any sections, which is a bit unusual. The next section had a different twist – the distances were given in miles while the average sped were given in kilometres per hour. Gary had to convert all the distances to kilometres before we began, so we wouldn’t be delayed en route. Fortunately he read ahead and found time to do this before we got there, so it wasn’t a problem. Section 7 was a continuation of the cumulative distance from Section 6, but this time the distances were in kilometres. Since we were relying on the rally computer which reads kilometres, it was very simple for us to simply carry on without resetting the odometer. Any cars that had converted their factory electronic odometers to miles would have had more difficulty.

Section 8 included 13 photographs of the appearance of each turn, with distances and average speeds listed beside them. It was extremely easy in Novice class, but we understand that the Experts had to sort out the correct sequence since the photos were all jumbled. At one point in this section we were very close to some cottages and driving on a cart path with an average speed of 12 km/h! This is really kind of juvenile in the grand scheme of things. And the track was extremely rough, which would have been difficult for any car with average-to-low ground clearance. During the last couple of sections we had zero’d a couple of controls, so we were starting to feel pretty good about our score. However, we’d also encountered two or three instructions where the distance given was at least 3 tenths of a kilometre off in comparison to the real world. This is really surprising, given the amount of expert help that went into preparing the route books.

The final section used hand-drawn pictures of tulips, with leaves pointing way at each intersection (instead of arrows). It was pretty easy and we able to stay on time throughout, until it came to the check-in time for the end of the rally. There was a note on the top of the page which gave an elapsed time for the last portion from an intersection to the restaurant, which Gary failed to see. So we simply maintained an average speed as directed and checked in upon arrival based on that speed. This error cost us a three-minute penalty and the victory!

Following the rally, some organizers were doing the scoring in a small room off the main dining room of the restaurant. After they posted draft results, there was a steady stream of competitors going into that room to question various aspects of their scores, including me. Our chief opposition in Novice class found that the scorers had missed a Time Allowance of 10.5 minutes. Correcting for this reduced their score so it was just a bit better than ours, so of course I double-checked everything to try and find an error that would help us. During this process, I overheard three of the organizers saying that they had three different sets of elapsed time numbers that they couldn’t reconcile, which are pivotal in the scoring process. I suggested to the principal scorer that they should take the time to re-enter the distances and average speeds into the spreadsheet to resolve this issue. He said he would not do that and when I asked him why, he said he sick of rallying and would not be doing this again!

At that point, I knew it would be a while before the results would be finalized. So we packed up and left for home around 5:30. The next morning I saw a post on the Peterborough club’s web site that indicated that we had finished second in Novice, although the official results were not posted. So we lost another point to Tim and Perry – our chief rivals – such that our only hope for a championship would involve some sort of catastrophe for them. Obviously I wish them no bad luck, so we’ll just have to see what happens in the two remaining events.

Video is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA0oS9GpGog

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