Open Road ORRC Rally #8 – 6 Nov 2010

The Open Road is the only rally in the Ontario Road Rally Championship (ORRC), which is organized by the Motorsport Club of Ottawa (MCO). This will change in 2011, when MCO will host a second ORRC rally in January – a two-day event in the same Rideau Lakes/Lanark Highlands region. This is rather ironic, since MCO is the largest motorsport club in Canada and the rally’s designer is the acknowledged guru of road rallies. All of the other Ontario clubs submit their route books to him to be vetted for accuracy and clarity before the other events in the ORRC series.

The rally was scheduled to begin in Perth at 11:30 AM, so Gary and I agreed to meet there around 10:30, since he had to get away to a dinner party afterwards. It’s about 65 km from my house to Perth, so I got there a little before 10:30, filled up the Mazda’s tank and registered at the Perth Restaurant. Quite a crowd was gathering and it promised to be a busy event. In total we had 25 cars, which is by far the largest turn-out for any ORRC all year. Several teams came from the Toronto area, including the three leading Expert teams and our chief rivals in Novice class – Tim and Perry with their Triumph TR4.

This event is not only part of the 2010 ORRC schedule, but it is the first event of the 2011 MCO club rally schedule, sponsored by Open Road Motorsports and Targa Newfoundland. Because of this dual nature, there were a number of new MCO teams present, registered in Novice class. Gary and I compete at the Expert level in the MCO club rallies, so our score would count in that class within MCO and in Novice class for the 2010 ORRC results. This was made feasible by the fact that there was a single set of instructions for all classes (including ORRC Intermediate).

As 10:30 came and went with no sign of Gary, I began to wonder where he was. I checked my voice messages around 10:50 but there was nothing there. Around 11:00 o’clock I was beginning to think I might have to run the rally alone, which is feasible but very difficult, particularly if there are numerous changes in average speed (CAS) and any tricky instructions. Fortunately Gary rolled in a few minutes later and my anxiety was put to rest. However, he looked pretty tired and said his brain wasn’t awake yet, as a result of a pretty busy week and some short nights. I knew I’d have my work cut out for me to ensure that he double-checked all calculations and followed all of the instructions completely and accurately. Not an auspicious beginning!

When we got the route book five minutes before our departure time, we found that the instructions appeared to be very straightforward. There were no apparent tricks, such as pages out of sequence or tulip diagrams arranged randomly on the page. There were simply numerous CAS changes and a few tulips with no distance measurements on them – and only 7 sections. To err on the side of caution – recognizing Gary’s mental state – I left the starting point immediately after the car in front of us, which was about a minute early. Our first destination was the usual odometer check and I knew there would be no checkpoints (CP’s), before we got there. That allowed me to simply follow the other car (whom I trusted), while glancing at the instructions over Gary’s shoulder. And it allowed him to work ahead, calculating elapsed times (ET’s), for the next couple of sections. This was a good strategy, as he had to recalculate a couple because of interference from brain fade!

After leaving the odometer check, we had a long stretch down the Old Kingston Road which took us well south of Perth and into the heart of the Rideau Lakes. Because of cottage and farm development along this paved stretch, the average speed was 45 km/h which was easy to maintain. When we arrived at the first CP we timed it exactly to the second, which was a great way to begin. Likewise we zeroed the next CP as we drove along a fairly benign gravel road which took us even further south and west of Big Rideau Lake. We continued to work our way west towards Chaffey’s Locks on back roads at reasonable speeds, until we arrived at CP #3. The CP worker clocked us in at 6 seconds after the minute, but I was sure we were at least 1-2 seconds later than that. However we were scored 0.1 early as a result – our first penalty. I knew that our odometer was a fraction of a percentage optimistic, so at all times I tried to maintain an average speed that was exactly as advertised, so I could come into CP’s a shade under it and be within the six second window required to zero the CP. As it turned out, there were other challenges which made this a moot point as we progressed through more difficult terrain!

We progressed even further westward on the Opinicon Road until we crossed Highway 38 around Parham and turned onto McLean Road. This was the feature road of the whole event. Everything we’d done to this point was just designed to get us to McLean Road. It is one of the twistiest, hilliest gravel roads I’ve ever driven and the required CAS was 66 km/h. That doesn’t sound very fast, but it was! There were numerous blind crests, sharp turns, turns just over crests and places with loose gravel which all contributed to a hairy, long ride. Try as I might, I could not maintain 66 km/h, but I was close at around 64.5. Eventually we came to CP#4 and took a 0.1 late penalty, which was not bad.

The next difficult stretch covered Brewer’s Road and several others and was 70 kilometres long before we reached CP#5. The speeds along this stretch were very similar to the previous portion, but the challenges of the road were even more daunting. At one point I asked Gary if he was feeling all right, since the number and severity of the crests and switchbacks had increased. He said he was OK and thanked me and I pressed on, but could not quite maintain the required speeds. When we reached CP#5 I knew that we were late – somewhere between 20 and thirty seconds – so I asked for a Time Allowance (TA) of a half-minute. Since the first TA does not carry a penalty for using it, this was a good time to try and minimize the damage. We were 0.3 minutes late into the CP, so the TA reduced our penalty to 0.2 minutes early – so it was a wise choice. We did not take any more TA’s in the entire rally.

At one point in this section we took a side road towards a small lake that was heavily populated with cottages. As we approached the water, the road turned towards the left and I simply followed it. Gary had his head down doing some calculations and omitted telling me to bear right at a driveway. So we went about a half kilometre in the wrong direction and had to turn around when we came to a dead-end. Fortunately this was a timed section over an extremely rough, single-lane cart path (not maintained after November 1). So we were able to complete the section without being too late. We passed three cars that were waiting at the end of the cart path for their elapsed times to wind down and took off onto the next road to try to make up the remaining time. This contributed to our late arrival at CP#5, as did the fact that we had to follow a slow pick-up truck carrying a refrigerator for several kilometres!

The balance of the rally was pretty easy, with a long 18 km stretch on Highway 7 that took us east to Kirkham Road. We got there with time to spare and waited at the intersection for the clock to catch up with us. Kirkham Road is also twisty and very hilly; with long straight stretches broken up by numerous medium size crests – sort of like a roller-coaster. The soil here is a light beige colour and recent rains had turned it into a fine paint. All of the rally cars wound up with a two-tone paint job, where the lower sides and rears were uniformly coloured with this light beige stuff.

We calculated our check-in time for the end of the rally and handed in our score card at 3:57 PM, believing we had scored 0.9 – a pretty good result. With 25 cars entered – and many of them rank beginners – it took quite a while for all the score cards to be handed in and even longer for the scoring to be completed. We sat with Tim and Perry and compared notes, as well as circulating amongst the other participants whom we know from other events. We learned that our final score was, in fact, 0.7 and Tim and Perry had an equal score. When the results were posted we found that another team also had a score of 0.7, so the tie-breaking mechanism would be critical. It turned out that we had the most CP’s with a zero score, so we won the tie. Tim and Perry had one fewer zero’s, so they finished second. So we were the overall winners in Novice and picked up a single point on them in the year’s championship standings. By the way, two Expert teams had a score of zero for the entire rally! So it was obviously too easy and their tie was broken by the fact that one team had brought home-baked cookies for the CP workers! In the official ORRC results, I imagine they will split the points for first and second places.

Everyone had a great time – especially the Toronto teams who love these roads we have in our back yard. I left Perth around 5:30 and got home an hour later. The car ran perfectly and now needs a good bath! The championship will be decided at the December event in Georgetown. If Tim and Perry beat us or finish less than eight points behind us, they will be champions. So we have our work cut out for us!

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