Motor Mouth Blog


The Great Race: Trophy Run

On the rally course in Florida. Flat, smooth and green, with temps in the 90’s and high humidity. The route can loop on itself so that you see cars coming from the other direction. The problem with the scene in the other lane is that the cars should be one minute apart! If you see 3 close together, at least 2 are likely to be out of position. We were doing just fine.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

First thing this morning was the mandatory meeting. Introductions, welcomes, thank-you’s and scheduling items were covered. After a short break, the rallymaster covered rules and regulations, followed by a “˜how to rally’ session for the rookies. The route instructions for today covered a half day run after lunch. Today the route instructions were carefully explained page by page: this will not happen again.

It takes a large meeting room to get all of the competitors and support crews in one place at one time. The “˜Mandatory Meeting’ covers a lot of logistics.

Our speedometer calibration showed that we were :04 sec/hour early, so we adjusted it for the error. Scores are so close a few seconds can mean several positions in the standings. After a nice lunch at Waffle House, which was on the route, we headed to the start. It was out on a two lane country road with no houses or businesses close by. There is no race official to wave you off: you calculate that yourself.

We like to watch the better teams start off and note their times. Since this is sort of a practice run, and no one has rallied for a while, mistakes were made right from the start. The experienced teams were able to correct their errors, while some just fell further back. Even though the scores from this run do not count on your overall finish, it was very competitive.

The navigator’s view: route instructions and time of day clock on Janet’s lapboard. The view is of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. On the instruction sheet you can see that the race start is 11:30:00, to which you add your car position in minutes, which for us was 41 today. Instructions are designed to be easy to read and they are not “˜tricky’ or ambiguous: the skill is supposed to be in the car handling, not staying on the course. However, all teams, including ours, can get off course despite the rallymaster’s best efforts.

We had what we call a “˜clean’ run: no mistakes to correct. The course was kind of typical for Florida: no hills, smooth roads, long straight stretches. To keep it interesting we had a few “˜mazes’ right off the bat. A maze takes you off the highway, and you run around blocks in a residential area at 10 to 20 mph. Numerous stops and speed changes can cause even the smallest errors to add up fast.

We already lost a few cars to mechanical failure. The little Subaru 360 broke early, and the navigator from Japan said her first time out on an Interstate in the little car was frightening, but they will get it fixed and back on the road.

We felt pretty good about our day, but what really matters is how everyone else does. We had an 11 second day which meant a 17th place finish out of 121. Not bad for just getting started but little better than average for the top 20 teams. 4 teams had more than our 12 second raw score, but the age of their car factored them down: this is called “˜being old car’d’.  The winning team had a :02.94 sec. day, which is awesome. Trophies are awarded for a first in each division, and first overall.

Tomorrow morning we take our cars to the official start, where they will be on display for 2 hours before car #1 is flagged off. It’s a short day of rallying, with fairly long transits to get us to our first overnight in Tifton, Georgia. Our scores have to be sharper when the days are short, because everyone usually does well. It’s the long tough days that the experts are looking for, to help separate out the field.

Plenty of photos tomorrow!

Steve, Janet, and Allison
Greatrace 45

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