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.
Today’s Route: Indianapolis > Wapakoneta, Ohio > Auburn, Indiana
‘Knee high by the Fourth of July’: if you’re familiar with that phrase then you must be from the midwest. Indeed, the corn was knee high, and ‘cornfield rallying’ is really a ‘thing’. The farm roads are grids, many times along county lines, and the rallying consists mostly of stop signs, speed changes, and right or left 90 degree turns.
We’re talking a lot of stop signs, 53 of them ‘on the clock’. That particular maneuver means 40 or 45 mph to the stop sign, stopping with the same intensity each time, holding for 15 seconds less the time it takes you to stop and to accelerate, and accelerating back to 40 or 45 exactly the way you practiced it. That means just a :01 second error at each stop sign adds up to nearly a minute, and a really bad score.
Then throw the local traffic in to the mix. If you are at a 4 way stop and a car is coming, you may have to delay the turn: in that case you have the stopwatch running to figure out how many seconds you’ve lost, and you need to make them up promptly before one of the 7 checkpoints for today pops into view. We make up time by driving 10% faster than the assigned speed for one minute for each second we’re late. If 4 or 5 cars are coming, it can really get interesting.
Accuracy can be affected by either being too slow or too fast. If I’m too fast going around a corner, Janet checks on my maneuver by timing the turn. She hits the stopwatch at 15 mph on the way down to the stop, and at 15 mph on the acceleration afterward. That way she knows if I’m fast or slow, and can adjust accordingly. We did that 53 times today.
To put it in perspective, today’s route instruction sheet had 27 pages consisting of 181 instructions, from leaving the hotel in the morning to getting to our hotel tonight. Getting any one of those wrong can ruin your day. Despite the complexity, we were only off by 15.76 seconds for the day, which is just over 2 seconds per leg. That was only good enough for 10th place today, but that moved us up in the overall scoring to 13th: that’s 12 positions up in 2 days.
We worked hard to make sure we did the best we could today, and we did have our incidents to correct. On one two lane rural road where we were supposed to be going 45, two local farmers decided to stop their cars for a chat, blocking the entire road. All you can do is your normal stopping maneuver and wait for them to figure things out and move out of the way. Janet’s running the stopwatch on what’s called a ‘stop and go’ maneuver, which is something we practice. As soon as I can go back to 45 she stops the clock, we figure out the time loss, then correct it as mentioned above. That can really get the adrenaline pumping, but we were also lucky in that we had a tractor and a truck pull out of the way just as we were reaching them. How hard one team’s day can be is all about their luck on the course, and some good teams had some bad scores today.
The finish and dinner was at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, a true bucket list item for any car enthusiast. I had no idea they had that many cars on display, and the facility, which was the original offices and showroom for the company, were spectacular. We had nearly two hours scheduled to see it all and dinner was very nice.
The race is now half over, and each day counts even more as we keep trying to break into the top 10. The Studebaker is running great despite the abuse its getting and it’s really a fun car to rally hard. Wish us luck!
Steve, Janet, and Allison
Let’s go Team Hedke! you are doing GREAT!!!