The No Winter Maintenance rally was organized by the Subaru Performance Driving Association as a replacement for the First Frost rally held the last couple of Decembers. It is the eighth rally of the 2011 provincial season. The objective was to utilize better roads (i.e. more gravel), in a more rural setting and I’d say they succeeded admirably. The rally was centred in Flesherton, ON, which is only 40 km south of Georgian Bay and very rural in character. It’s hard to believe, but the Niagara Escarpment stretches all the way to this area and we were also on the back side of Blue Mountain, resulting in some excellent gravel side roads with lots of elevation changes and twisty bits.

Flesherton is almost 540 km from home in Ottawa, so we left Friday afternoon and went to stay at my friend’s house in Pickering – a drive of about four hours. He and his wife are very gracious and welcome us into their home whenever we need a rest stop en route to these distant ORRC events. After arriving there about 9:30 Friday night, we enjoyed some good cheer and chatter before retiring fairly early to rest up for a long day ahead. Saturday morning came pretty quickly and after a cup of coffee and more cheerful banter, we hit the road about 7:30 for the remaining two-hour drive. En route we passed through a huge wind farm, just north of Shelburne, which we had no idea existed. It was pretty impressive and led to all kinds of speculation about how much power was generated there, cost of construction, etc. When we arrived at Flesherton a little after 9:30, there was already a large crowd of rallyists lined up registration and staying warm inside the restaurant, since it was only 3 Celsius!

My chief competition for the Intermediate class crown could not attend due to some family commitments, but his co-driver (Perry) did come, with a new driver who had a lovely new Lotus Evora. They used Perry’s Ford Focus wagon in the rally, but we had a chance to examine the Evora before starting out. Although it’s cool that Lotus has a new model, I can’t say I’m in love with the styling – it’s an odd combination of curves and straight lines that doesn’t work for me.

Because they had twelve new teams entered in Novice class, they put both the Expert and Intermediate teams at the front, so we wouldn’t be held up along the way. We were given car number 3, so we got away at 11:03. We promptly missed the first turn, which came up quickly after the first side road! After turning around and undoing the odometer appropriately, we had no trouble reaching the odo check at around 13 kms. But the odometer correction factor was large, so I had to estimate how much to include for the mistake at the beginning. It turned out all right and the correction factor meant that I could run at, say, 70 km/h to achieve an average calibrated speed of about 65 km/h, which helped us avoid speeding tickets whenever I had to make up time. At the break, Perry told us that he was having a lot of trouble with their Terratrip rally computer, since it seemed to be malfunctioning and their distances and speeds were all off. This may have helped us in the end.

Section 2 was all simple tulip diagrams, in the correct sequence, so we had no trouble zeroing the first few controls. Or I thought we had. In the final scoring, I saw that we had been a minute early at the second one, which I don’t believe. The sub-section was only 5.2 minutes long and they claim that we finished it in 4.2 minutes. That suggests a 20% average speed error, which is highly unlikely. They also scored us one minute late at the next control, but that turned out to a scoring error, which didn’t affect the results. I must ensure in the future that I verify our “in times” at each checkpoint before I leave the checkpoint worker’s car. The third section was a series of tulip diagrams where we had to choose from three different tulips once we arrived at the intersection, which slowed us down a bit. They had put on intersection out of sequence, which caught us, and the intersection didn’t match any of the related diagrams in our opinion, so we got turned around a bit until we figured out where to go. Then we came to another intersection where none of the diagrams worked, but we kept going straight and it was the correct choice. In fact, they’d intentionally reversed the symbol for the stop sign at that corner, which we didn’t notice! I took a Time Allowance at the next control, which was enough to minimize the damage, as it turned out. Section four was a single large tulip diagram, covering about 20 kms, with which we had no trouble, as soon as we verified that we’d chosen the correct end of the diagram as the starting point.

There was a 45-minute break at the restaurant at the halfway point, at which we had time to learn that Perry and his partner were struggling with their odometer. But you can never be sure that Perry isn’t pulling your leg, crafty Englishman that he is. So we pressed on in the assumption that we had to continue to do our best in order to beat them. The rally organizers had provided free sandwiches and veggies, which was a nice treat. So were able to rest and re-fuel our bodies indoors (to stay warm), and get ready to leave again in relative comfort.

The first section after the break was a hand-drawn map without distances or road names, showing a symbol at each intersection – one each for straight, left and right. It was a simple matter of interpreting the symbols and following the directions at each intersection once we arrived at it. There was one intersection where the reality did not match the map, so we just kept going straight and it worked out fine.

Section 6 was a complex system of using map coordinates to identify certain points and then connecting them with a line. The place where the line crossed a road indicated where we should be going. It took Gary a while to figure it out and plot our route, so I waited after a checkpoint to give him time to do this, planning to take a corresponding Time Allowance at the next control. That was fine, except that somehow we missed one of the turns, resulting in us driving around a bit before we got back on route. Then we came to a junction where it appeared that we had two equivalent choices, both of which would lead to the same place. So we and the car in front of us both took the first choice, which turned out to be the wrong one. We both missed a checkpoint on the second path! By the time we reached the next control, I had to take the maximum Time Allowance that we could, since we’d used up our allotment by then. It turned out to about 3 minutes short, but better than 18 minutes late.

The final section involved road counting, where each intersection carries a special number representing the number of roads you count – starting at zero for the road you’re on and proceeding clockwise (in this case), until you reach the number. As we progressed, the numbers got bigger and bigger, but there’s an easy way around this. At a four way intersection, the road you’re on is zero, four, eight and so on, so it’s easy to account for a number like 53. Likewise, at a three-way intersection, the road you’re on when you approach it is zero, three, six, etc., so it simplifies the math for a large number. Near the end of this section, we passed Perry and his driver going the wrong way, so we knew we might have a good chance of coming out ahead.

After checking in at the restaurant, we had loaded the car and chatted with a number of people before we left, and there was still no sign of Perry. We were given some brownies and cookies baked by one of the organizer’s mothers and hit the road a little after five o’clock. A couple of hours later we phoned him and got the results – we had won our class! Later I was able to look at the detailed results and found that Perry had a score almost three times as high as ours, so I guess they had major problems. We got home a little after eleven o’clock, after a 535 km drive – tired but satisfied with our performance. Next up is the President’s Prize rally in Peterborough in two weeks. We are still in the hunt for the championship, but we must win both of the remaining rallies to come out ahead, assuming that my chief competitor attends both.