First Frost ORRC Rally #9 – 4 Dec 2010

The First Frost rally is the ninth and last rally of the Ontario Road Rally Championship series and is hosted by the Subaru Performance Drivers Association. The rally’s start and finish location was the Kelsey’s restaurant in Georgetown, ON, where they had agreed to open the restaurant early for us to use for registration, in exchange for each team pre-paying for a $20 meal voucher. It was a win-win situation for the rallyists and the restaurant, which donated $5 gift certificates to each team as well.

Gary came over Friday so we could get a decent night’s sleep before our early departure Saturday morning. We arose at 4:30 AM and left Manotick shortly after 5, allowing us to arrive at Kelsey’s about 10:15 after an uneventful drive in mostly cloudy but dry conditions. After unloading the Mazda and completing the registration process, we grabbed a quick breakfast next door at the Baker’s Dozen and assembled for the drivers’ meeting. We were car number 7 and our chief rivals – Tim and Perry – were car number 5, so we wished them well and set out at 11:37.

We immediately encountered a problem. The instructions for the odometer check told us to take “(A1-1)” minutes to reach the end of section 1. What the heck was “A1-1”? We looked and looked and couldn’t find a clue! Eventually we decided that “A1-1” must refer to the total distance at the bottom of page A1 – representing the entire section 1, which was 13.56 km. So we subtracted one from 13.56 and converted the result to 12 minutes, thirty-three seconds. This was feasible as a solution, since we had a couple of minutes to spare at the odo check itself, at 10.89 km.  So we hustled to the end of the section at a stop-left-turn and prepared to begin section 2. All of the previous six cars were lined up on the shoulder of the road just around the corner and we assumed they were trying to figure out what “A1-1” meant. So we passed them all, thinking that we alone had figured it out.

Of course life is never that simple. When we eventually arrived at the first checkpoint, we were six minutes early! I was really annoyed at this because of the ambiguity of the instruction. Fortunately, Gary kept a level head and I retrieved mine, so we continued on in the hope that we would not encounter any more similar problems and that Tim and Perry would somehow run into other issues. It was only at the end of Leg A – some three hours later – that we learned that “A1-1” was a typographical error that had been missed by the organizers. It referred to a cell on the rallymaster’s spreadsheet that should have been converted to something like 19 minutes. The organizers had phoned checkpoint one and told them of the problem, so all of the other teams knew that checkpoint one would only be used for route control, instead of timing and scoring. We had arrived at the checkpoint before this phone call was made and the checkpoint workers were really surprised to see us so early. We had to live with the nuisance of this problem for three hours before we learned the truth.

Fortunately we did really well on the balance of Leg A and finished with a score of 0.8 by our count, ignoring any potential error in the end-of-Leg check-in time that we had calculated (which turned out to be a problem). We had only made one mistake that required us to take a Time Allowance of 1.5 minutes. We were following directions based on the points of the compass, where an instruction like “From West to South” meant “turn right”. After several of these, we came to one that said “To WSW from SE”, which Gary understandably misread to mean a right turn. Fortunately the right turn took us onto a dead-end lane, so I was able to turn around and resume the correct route fairly quickly. The TA of 1.5 was about 20 seconds too much, so it cost us an early penalty of 0.3. At the break between Legs, Tim and Perry were not very happy with their performance and we learned about the error in section one, so we left for the second Leg feeling much better about our prospects for a good result.

There were five or six sections in Leg A, covering a total of only 130 km. The area where the rally was held – the Halton Hills – is pretty well developed with country estates, hobby farms, horse farms and retirement homes, so many of the roads carried speed limits of 60 km/h. There were some twisty bits and a few unpaved roads, but the entire Leg was pretty easy driving. I’m not saying the navigation was easy, because I know Gary was pretty busy interpreting several of the sections’ instructions and calculating arrival times at various mileposts, to keep us on track. There were numerous changes in average speed and some checkpoints in unexpected places, so we only zeroed a couple of them. However, we were pretty pleased with our overall performance.

After the break, when we began Leg B, things got a bit more interesting behind the steering wheel. We got onto some twisty gravel roads with average speeds ranging between 65 and 76 km/h. This was more like it!  I have about an hour of video from the Leg, showing some pretty spirited driving and treacherous tight corners in loose sand and gravel. The short clip I’ve appended to this blog shows a section where 65 km/h was the required speed, but I was only able to achieve it at the very last moment before Gary reset the odometer for the next piece. There was another subsequent stretch where the average speed was 76 km/h which I couldn’t maintain safely. Fortunately the section right after that was through a village where the average was 47. It’s amazing how much time you can make up by averaging 60 instead of 47! We arrived at a milestone speed change point about 25 seconds early and eventually zeroed the ensuing checkpoint. In fact, we zeroed all but one checkpoint in Leg B, finishing with a score of 0.1 for the Leg.

At the end of the rally, there was an elapsed time section which Gary had carefully calculated in order to give us our check-in time. But when we saw the draft results, they had scored us a minute late for that. Gary had to go through all of his calculations with one of the organizers before they agreed that we had arrived at the correct time. I guess there was some kind of glitch in their spreadsheet. They had also made a couple of other mistakes in the scoring, which we were able to correct, so it took quite a while for the results to be finalized.

While this was going on, we had a pizza with Tim and Perry and retold several stories on both sides about our misadventures, close calls and good luck. It was a very enjoyable interlude and later we learned that many other teams thought it was pretty cool that we could have such a relationship with our rivals. At the end of the day, the final results showed that we had an overall score of 1.9 for the entire rally, while Tim and Perry finished with 3.5. We had 1.9 because Gary had made a mental addition error in the calculation of our check-in time for Leg A. From now on, he will calculate such times in minutes with decimal places, instead of minutes and seconds, to avoid a recurrence of this problem. The final results meant that we were the decisive winners of the rally and it put us into a tie with Tim and Perry for the overall season’s championship. Rallysport Ontario does not believe in breaking ties for the season’s standings, so we finished as co-champions in Novice class for the year.

Overall it was a great result and really fun day. We hit the road a little after 7 o’clock and reached my driveway a few minutes after 11:30 PM. Needless to say I was pretty tired after about 15 hours of driving and I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in Sunday morning. The 2011 season will start on January 8 and we have agreed with Tim and Perry that we’ll all move up to Intermediate class, to do it all again. What a great year!

 Video is available at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsokD8K_v-U

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