ORRC Open Road Rally – 5 Nov 2011

The final rally of the 2011 Ontario Road Rally Cup series was hosted by the Motorsport Club of Ottawa and sponsored by Open Road Motorsport. It began and finished at the Perth Restaurant on a beautiful, clear day with temperatures threatening to reach +10 C – a perfect day for driving. This may be the best event of the series, because we always use the awesome roads of the Lanark Highlands and/or the Rideau Lakes, both of which regions are known across the province for their twisty, hilly nature. We had a total of twenty-four teams entered, including all of the top teams from Peterborough, Toronto and Kitchener, as well as the Subaru club. This was the largest field of the year and you could see the excitement and enthusiasm in everyone’s eyes before the start – as well as afterwards!

For us, this was the easiest rally logistically, since it’s a mere 70 kilometres from my house to the restaurant. We arrived shortly after one o’clock and had plenty of time for socializing before departing at 2:37 PM (being Car number 7).

This rally would decide the provincial championships in both Expert and Intermediate classes, since there were very close races for the driver’s title in both classes. Due to substitutions during the year, the navigator’s championships had already been decided. So at least three navigators were there solely to support their drivers’ quest for the title – one (Perry) even supplied the car! And Gary was the second, supporting me! In our case, we needed to finish at least three positions ahead of Tim and Perry for me to win the title. We had won two events outright, while they had won four, including three events where we went head to head. Fortunately for us, there were two other teams registered in Intermediate who could act as spoilers if they did better than Tim and Perry and if we could finish first. All we could do was give it our best effort and hope for the best, as always.

We began the rally with a simple set of instructions to get us to the odometer check and the end of Section 1 – just distance to turns and an elapsed time to reach EOS (end of section). They took us southwest of Perth, towards Westport. Section 2 had instructions of a type that I don’t remember seeing before. There were tulip diagrams based on incremental distances, but they were out of sequence. So we didn’t know which diagram applied until we reached an intersection where the incremental distance from the last one matched one of the diagrams. This required precision, since some of the distances were similar, so we were lucky to have a perfectly calibrated rally computer to help with that. The odo check had not required any adjustment to the calibration, which helped greatly. When we reached the first Checkpoint (CP) in this Section, I believed we nailed it to the second.

Section 3 had a complex series of “rules of the road”, which told us that we had to (a) turn right at all right junctions, (b) turn left at the first opportunity whenever on highway 12, (c) always turn right onto highway 12, (d) go straight through all four-way intersections, etc. We were doing fine until we came to a four-way where the road on the left was marked as “no exit”. So we turned right, applying rule “a” above. But Gary soon realized we were on the wrong route, so we doubled back and treated the four-way according to rule “d”. This turned out to be correct and I know that several teams missed the next checkpoint because of the error. During the scoring, it was decided to give all teams (Intermediate and Expert were the only ones affected) a zero for that CP as a result. The road that we were on after the four-way was Kingston Line, which is very twisty and hilly, and I was trying to go as fast as possible to minimize the TA that I would take at the next CP. It got pretty exciting at times, but we got through safely and requested a TA of 4.5 minutes, which turned out to be pretty close.

The instructions for Section 4 were in the form of a long, continuous tulip so it was pretty easy to stay on route. However, the average speeds were quite aggressive and the roads made it demanding to stay on time. Between the challenging speeds and making one wrong turn, we got a little behind, so I took a TA of 1.5 minutes to compensate. This was as close as I could get, since TA’s have to be on the half-minute. Section 5 was short and very scenic, as we wound along the north side of Dalhousie Lake, through cottage country on old logging roads. We were following a simple narrative and had no trouble with the directions or the speeds. I can’t remember the instructions for Section 6 at all, probably because of the problems we had in Section 7!

This penultimate section had a diagram shaped like an “X”, showing four lines with little tails sticking off the sides of each line. At the centre of the X was a circle with an “A” in it, while there was a “B” at the end of each of the four arms. The lines represented four different possibilities for the route we should follow. As it turned out, all four lines were identical as we progressed from A towards B, until near the end. But Gary had to compare them all at each intersection, to ensure we stayed on track. The little tails represented roads which we had to “leave” on the left or right, signifying turns or straight aheads as appropriate.  Generally this type of instruction is pretty easy to follow, but we tried valiantly to make it difficult by beginning at “B” instead of “A”. Why, I’ll never understand. So we wasted a lot of time and distance until we realized our fundamental error and got back on route. I kept track of the time we wasted fairly accurately and I knew we’d need a TA of at least 12-13 minutes at the next CP. We only had 13.5 minutes remaining, of the total allotment of 19.5, so I used them all at the CP. As it turned out, this was pretty close to correct.

The final Section was a simple set of instructions to take us back to the restaurant. By now we both knew exactly where we were and how to get back, so I concentrated on driving the route while Gary calculated our check-in time for the end of the rally. We arrived at slightly before 6:24 PM and our check-in time was 6:25, so I trotted briskly inside to hand in our card and begin to share stories with the other teams.

As we waited for the scoring, we did a little socializing and had some supper. We found out that one of our fellow Intermediate local teams had missed 2-3 CP’s, so that didn’t bode well for Tim and Perry being worse. When the scoring was finally completed, they announced that due to errors in the instructions for Intermediate and Expert, all teams would receive zeroes for CP’s 4 and 9, as well as the finish. That meant that there was a chance that our complete result (no missed CP’s) wouldn’t help us. As it turned out, we finished first with a score of 9.5, fully twenty points better than Tim and Perry, who finished second. So we won the battle, but not the war. Tim will be crowned the champion of Intermediate by a one-point margin. It doesn’t get any closer than that.

We had an uneventful drive home – still on the same tank of gas – and arrived shortly after 9 PM. As he was leaving, Gary pointed out that one of the Mazda’s headlights was not on. The next day I verified that it was the bulb that had burned out, so I got a replacement. I also found that two spark plug wires were loose, so the roads must have been pretty rough. Fortunately they stayed close enough to the plugs that the engine didn’t miss a beat. That’s it for this season. The Mazda will now become my main transport for skiing, groceries, etc., so I don’t use too much gas or wear out the truck over the winter.

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