ORRC TAC August Challenge Rally – 6 Aug 2011

In August, the Toronto Autosport Club put on a new rally, called the TAC August Challenge – how appropriate. It was intended to replace the Infinite Monkeys, because its organizers had resigned from rally activities over a personal conflict with the Rallysport Ontario President. Such is life.

The start of the rally was at a shopping mall in northern Mississauga at 10:30 AM, so Gary and I drove to Pickering the night before and had a great visit at my friend Les’s home, with him and Maureen. If memory serves, we left his house around 8 AM to allow for Saturday morning Toronto traffic and arrived safely at the start with plenty of time to spare. We found a corner of the shopping centre parking lot in which to leave the truck and trailer and joined everyone else in Timmie’s for snacks and coffee.

There were three of us competing in Intermediate class and we were given car number 5. So we set out at 10:35 and headed northwest towards the Caledon Hills. There were two Legs in the rally with a one-hour break in the middle. During Leg A, one section required us to find the names of small villages on a photocopy of an area map. Then we had to connect the two points with a straight line and find the route which crossed that line the least number of times. Because the map was a grey photocopy and the village names were in small print, it took us quite a while to find them and plot our route, while parked beside the road. I had to take a Time Allowance at the next checkpoint to compensate. Later in this Leg there were more complex instructions which took extra time and effort to sort out. Along the way we got crossed up and missed two checkpoints. However, we found out at the break that Chris and Jon, also in Intermediate, had missed four! So we didn’t feel so bad. One checkpoint was in a small siding road, between the main road and some railway tracks. Both times we were supposed to get on the siding road to stop at the checkpoint and both times we drove a few hundred yards past it before realizing our mistake. It wasn’t turning out to be our day.

In Leg B after the break, the instructions didn’t get any easier and we missed five checkpoints. I can’t remember the instructions now, which is probably just as well. In one of them there was a tulip diagram which had been reversed intentionally and this threw us off, as well as several other teams. There was also a line map and we couldn’t figure out which end of it was the beginning, so that also set us back. We used our entire allotment of Time Allowances and wound up finishing in third place with 170 points. We took little comfort in knowing that a lot of the scores were high, since we lost points to Tim and Perry, our chief rivals in the class championship race.

But the best was yet to come. On the way home, we pulled off Highway 401 into a service centre near Kingston, to stretch our legs and make a pit stop. When we walked around the trailer I saw that the front right wheel was covered in some rusty coloured substance and the rear wheel had grease all over it. On closer inspection we found that the wheel bearing on the front wheel had disintegrated completely and the wheel was held on only by gravity! The rear wheel bearing was loose, but we were able to tighten it up. So we removed the car and the heavy steel ramps from the trailer and took off the front wheel. I couldn’t get the hub and retaining nut off because they were jammed by something. So Gary drove the truck with the trailer on three tires while I followed in the Mazda. Just a few hundred feet after we pulled back onto the highway, I saw the hub fly off the damaged wheel and roll along the shoulder, missing me by only a few feet. There was following traffic and I couldn’t stop to retrieve it, so we just kept on going. We took Highway 15 from Kingston to Ottawa to keep the speed down and avoid the major traffic on 401. All the way home I was seeing sparks every time the trailer hit a bump, when the bolts on the right side shackle hit the roadway.

When we eventually made it to my driveway, we could see that the shackle bolt was ground down and bent as a result of all the contact. A few days later I replaced all four of the wheel bearings, plus the missing hub. This time I made sure that the retaining clips were properly in place on all four wheels, to avoid another similar incident. This has definitely been the year for wheel bearing replacements!

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