Lou Reid, the Illini Nissan General Manager, and I welcomed five rally teams (or was it six) into the dealership’s showroom on Saturday morning July 26, 2014. That sixth team was the two “observers” (Chris and Clay) in the back seat of Dan Marx’s Nissan Rogue. They were running as an Adventure team by answering the adventure questions while Dan and Cooper ran as a Seat of Pants Time/Speed/Distance team in the front seats.
As one of two Adventure teams Chris and Clay were doing great by beating their competition 7 to 14 on the questions on leg 1. In the Adventure Class correct answers count as zeros (perfect scores) while wrong, including blank, answers most of the time count as one against you. In other words “0” would mean getting all the answers right while 7 would mean having 7 wrong answers.
Unfortunately while Dan and Cooper did well on the first leg of the rally they ended up having some difficulty on the second leg and opted to drop out of the rally before finishing it. Fortunately for Chris and Clay it turns out that their competition (Car 2) got off course on the first leg and decided by the end of it to stop answering the questions and concentrate on following the course. This methodology served Brian and Randall well for legs 2 and 3 as they made it to those checkpoints inside the 12 minute window allowed (6 minutes before or after their ideal arrival time) and therefore received Adventure timing scores of zero (0) for each leg.
Unfortunately their maximum Adventure timing scores of 5 and 5 on the first and fourth legs respectively gave them a total of 10 timing points compared to Chris and Clay’s 0 and three 5s for Adventure timing scores. While technically both Adventure teams missed all of the questions on legs 2 through 4 because they didn’t submit answers I elected not to add those points to their scores as that would not have affected their finishing places.
Backtracking to leg 1 again, I’m suspicious but not certain, that Car 2 got off course due to a couple of the most common mistakes that first time rallyists make. The first one is thinking that each person on the team has clearly delineated specific job duties such as that the navigator reads the instructions and the driver executes them. In this case there were two consecutive “right at stop” instructions. If the navigator says to the driver “right at stop” but does not observe that the driver in fact does a “right at stop” all may still go well for that first turn. Unfortunately when the driver then asks what his next instruction is and the navigator simply says “right at stop” trouble can begin.
If the driver says “I just did that” and the navigator goes on to read the next instruction which in this case was a “left” then a miss-communication has occurred. Better communication would be for the driver to inquire “second of two ‘right at stops’ in a row?” Better yet would be for the navigator to have been helping the driver find and execute that first “right at stop” then say “the next instruction is also ‘right at stop’, the second of two right at stops in a row” and then help the driver find and execute that. Skipping ahead to the instruction after the second “right at stop” in this case might have had Car 2 headed west when they should have been headed east.
Meanwhile the other three cars were sticking pretty close to their allotted time slots even though they might not have been sticking strictly to the course. “Rumor” has it that Car 1 had to really think about how to handle an instruction that read: “Left at third opportunity. A “DEAD END” sign may make this road look like it is not a possibility but it is. CAST 30 (Don’t ignore the sign once you get close to it.)” Sure enough at the third opportunity to the left there was a “DEAD END” sign a ways down the road. Once you turned toward the sign as instructed and started to get close to it you could see that there was a road to the right just before the sign.
Due to the few moments it took for Adam and Gary to sort this out they ended up taking the sideroad but at a speed faster than the prescribed 30 MPH CAST. This caused them to shoot past a road that had a stop sign 20 yards down it at an intersection that was hidden by some trees. Fortunately they saw the sign as they flew past the road and realized that it was the ‘Right toward “STOP”‘ road they were looking for. They turned around, got their odometer adjusted, claimed a 1.5 minute time allowance and were “back on time.”
Another “rumor” had it that Car 5 missed the ‘Left at second opportunity after “MAIN STREET”.’ At first I thought this might also have been caused by another common miss-communication associated with first time rallyists like Bill’s navigator Wayne. That error would be when reading instruction words that are in quotes to not indicate that the words are in quotes by failing to say something like: ‘Left at second opportunity after quote “MAIN STREET”.’ Failure to insert the word quote when reading the instruction could have caused Bill to inquire of Wayne: “Main Street object?” I could then envision that as Bill tried to explain what his inquiry meant they passed the second opportunity after the sign (as an aside, the first one after the actual physical Main Street ‘object’) since it came up quickly.
In fact Bill assures me that Wayne did correctly say “quote Main Street” but Bill went past the second opportunity anyway because he didn’t at first realize it was an opportunity. Once he realized it was he had no way to go back until he reached the next intersection where he could cross the median of the divided highway they were on. Fortunately for Bill and Wayne they were able to sort out by then that the rally route would have just gone around a “block” and brought them there anyway. While they were back on course again, over-compensating for not having followed the full course may have been part of why they got a 62 for the leg.
In any case three cars got to checkpoint 2 within a minute or two of their ideal arrival times but I had to hold the rally up there to wait for Car 2 who had left checkpoint 1 15 minutes behind the pack. This holdup was needed to give Barry and me time to get to the next checkpoint (i.e. to stay ahead of the rally cars on the shortest leg of the rally). Unfortunately that holdup also caused us to miss seeing the four person Car 3 crew at Dos Reales where they finished an early lunch and headed back to Springfield.
Leg 3 was over quickly and without incident except that there was one intersection where traffic delayed two or three cars. Two of them compensated by requesting time adjustments and ended up with good scores (although I goofed in calculating one of them and gave them 65 points until they pointed out to me that their score should be 35).
Leg 4 didn’t turn out quite so good as half the remaining cars got lost then called from Dos Reales to let us know we could shut down checkpoint 4 and come on in. One of the lost cars literally got lost in the instructions and that got them off course. There were two “left at crossroad” instructions with two instructions in between. Somehow Car 1 managed to do the first “left at crossroad” then skipped down to the instruction after the second “left at crossroad” thus skipping three instructions. Interestingly that might have put them on a gravel road which could have tipped them off that there was a problem but they probably saw the gravel, realized that gravel roads weren’t to be used and, since they were at a T, headed the opposite direction. That would have put them into Champaign before they realized the 45 MPH CAST they were doing wasn’t meant for driving in town down Mattis Avenue.
Car 4 made it to the checkpoint but claimed their second time allowance for the day. They turned onto a gravel road (in spite of the instruction having a parenthetical comment reminding them not to do that) at a T then realized they should have gone the opposite direction to avoid the gravel.
In spite of the various teams’ difficulties the rally was an interesting 55 mile drive through the corn canyons around the north and east edges of the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area. The entire rally was run in the Saline Branch Drainage Ditch watershed which is the western part of the Salt Fork watershed. I came up with the Watershed Adventure name when I was thinking in terms of doing a bit longer rally that entered all four of the watersheds that drain Champaign County. Champaign is part of the high ground in east central Illinois with drainage from it going east to the Wabash River via the Salt Fork, southeast to the Wabash via the Embarras, southwest to the Mississippi via the Kaskaskia, and west to the Illinois River via the Sangamon.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for coming; to Barry Rowe for being the cold runner, checkpoint assistant and picture taker; and to those of you whom I’ll be contacting soon about your thoughts on the general instructions. Also, once again a big thanks to Lou Reid and Illini Nissan for their hospitality (and to Gary Patrick for making the initial contact with them).
Jerry White, Rallymaster