On Sunday, Aug 11, my wife Angela and I competed in the Champaign County Sports Car Club’s “Winding River Roads III” Rally. The rally began and finished in Philo, IL, and covered well over 100 miles of roads in Champaign and Vermillion counties. It was fun to see that more than half the assembled cars were Subaru’s, many of which were purchased and/or serviced at the dealership where I work at. The rallymaster for the day, Bob Towsend, has a great knack for finding great driving roads. He didn’t disappoint, delivering a challenging route of paved and unpaved surfaces that kept us on our toes all day. CCSCC has fewer equipment categories for Road Rally than SCCA so we were competing head-to-head with a team in a Forester who were using a dedicated rally computer. We knew it would likely take a perfect rally from us and at least one mistake from them to win, but felt up to the challenge.
Well into our first leg we encountered a slow moving truck pulling a trailer full of brush that was obstructing our progress. Eventually the truck continued strait at an intersection where we were instructed to turn and we were free of the impediment. As we were discussing whether or not to take a time allowance, which would allow us to cross the checkpoint exactly 1/2 minute late without incurring any penalty, we caught sight of the checkpoint. We were in a bad place time-wise, quite a bit behind our perfect time, but well ahead of the adjusted time with the 1/2 minute time allowance. Recognizing that it’s easier to give time up than regain it, we made a quick decision to take the allowance and try to cross exactly 1/2 minute behind our perfect time. Angela proceeded slowly towards the checkpoint as I kept clicking in mileage updates into our computer. Shortly before we reached the checkpoint I instructed Angela to feather some throttle back in. I clicked the button to freeze the clock and odometer as we crossed the line. As Angela walked back to the checkpoint vehicle to turn in our time allowance request and collect our slip, I entered the final mileage into the computer. My calculations showed we had scored a perfect zero. When Angela returned with the slip it was confirmed!
We followed that up with a score of 1 on leg two. All was not well, however, as I was experiencing some never-before-seen problems with my calculation program. At times when I was clicking in incremental mileages, the output I was getting was completely the opposite of what I expected. Quickly increasing our traveled distance should have shown us getting ahead of time but instead the computer was showing us farther and farther behind. Manually re-entering the mileage of the most recent speed change point would mysteriously restore the output to correct. On leg three I had to go back and reenter several mileages to get the program to work correctly. We scored a 5 on that leg when the computer showed we should have earned a 2. I suspect I may have transposed a couple digits in the frantic mileage re-entry process. We recovered to score just 1 on leg four and proceeded on to the break.
On leg 5 we we missed a sign where we were supposed to change speed. That was a problem because accurate mileage readings at the speed change points are critical for calculations. We recognized it in short order and had a quick discussion about whether to go back and get the precise mileage or to just enter an estimated mileage and continue forward. We hadn’t seen the team in the Forester, who should have been coming in to the checkpoints right behind us, for several checkpoints and speculated that they may be having navigation problems. We also considered the fact that this was a friendly, low-key, local rally with no championship consequences. Given those two factors, we opted to estimate and proceed. Angela crossed the line exactly when I calculated she should have, but it turned out that our estimation was slightly off and we collected an 8. Had this been a rally of greater significance, we would certainly have gone back to get the exact mileage of the missed sign and presumably been able to earn a much lower score.Much to our surprise, the competitor in the Forester came rolling into the checkpoint shortly after us. Perhaps they were still in contention to win after all?
Leg 6 finished with a very difficult segment of gravel road that twisted, turned, rose, and fell between the trees of a dense forest. The assigned speed was quite brisk and Angela was losing a bit of time in every tight turn. The straits were too short and infrequent to make up the time and we found ourselves falling farther and farther behind. I told Angela to drive just as quickly as she comfortably could and I would get us back on time when it straitened out a bit. When that happened, we were about a quarter minute behind so, rather than speed to catch up, we opted again to take a half minute time allowance. Reminiscent of leg one, the checkpoint came into site just as we made that decision. Angela drove at a reduced speed as I counted down our earliness. Our last calculation before the checkpoint showed we’d dropped a little too much so Angela had to accelerate into the checkpoint. Our score on that final leg was a hard-fought 1.
We proceeded back to the rallymaster’s home in Philo and awaited the results. Leg two was tossed over an ambiguous instruction, leaving us with a final score of 14 points on five legs. Our competitors in the Forester had just 13. Angela and I had lost by the slimmest of margins. We weren’t really upset, however. It had been a challenging but fun rally. Angela did a great job driving, and is getting much better at fading into the checkpoint when running ahead. I was particularly pleased that we scored a zero and a one right out of the box. Our biggest weakness in National rallies in the past has been our tendency to start slowly, accumulating too many points in the first leg or two. We then spend the rest of the rally trying to come from behind. If we can start the upcoming United States Road Rally Challenge like we did this most recent event, it could be a very good day for us indeed. That said, I have to track down the program issues we were having. The pace of a National event won’t be as forgiving to computer errors. I have a vague idea what section may be causing the issues, but can’t understand the randomness. I’ll be diving deep into the programming this weekend.
Meanwhile, the SCCA Solo National Championships are less than three weeks away. I have secured a partner to co-drive with me. This weekend will be the first and last opportunity we have to work together before the big event. Check back next week to find out more!