“The Great Race” This was just a phrase to me a few years ago. I had heard about the great race, but I didn’t think much of it.. I thought “well it’s not real racing, it’s for old people, it’s not that exciting.” A time-speed rally, what does that even mean.. it can’t be that exciting…
Boy was I wrong!
In early May of 2010, my dad approached me and asked if I wanted to do a VCRA (Vintage Car Rally Association) event with him in Bowling Green Kentucky. The event was to take place in the final week of July. I could tell that he wanted to do it, and I thought it would be nice to spend some time together so I said, “Sure, I’ll do the race with you”
My dad told me that my job would be to navigate. He said I would be the one keeping us on course and monitoring the time. I still wasn’t exactly sure what was involved but from what I heard it seemed like something that I would enjoy doing.
Leading up to the event my dad was putting a lot of time in getting the car ready. We would be rallying in his bright red 32 Ford with a 4-cylinder model B engine. This car was technically built for a Great Race that took place in the 1980’s, long before we owned the car. From what we heard the owner didn’t like the car for the rallying and had another car built for the race the following year. We didn’t know anymore.. and honestly probably wouldn’t have understood, if someone had told us.
My Dad spent a lot of time reading the rules and the suggested pre-race check list. I was less involved, kind of assuming, “how serious can this be? These people aren’t like athletes or anything.. It’ll prob just be like a car show. Of which, I have been to many. Probably nearly one hundred of them over my childhood.
We picked up one of the Timewise Speedometers that are necessary to read accurate speed, and we made the chart. The chart is the standard deceleration/ acceleration chart. On the road you, mark a static distance and then time yourself in your 0-30 mph acceleration, 0-50 mph, 0-10 mph and any increments you want (no less than 5 mph increments are necessary) and them the same with deceleration. We also met with a guy who had been a navigator on The Great Race before. He gave us a few pointers about how to read the instructions we would be given. So, we had a bit of knowledge going into this first rally. But still, I thought, its just for fun.. probably will be just like going to the NSRA nationals.
The first day we had a technical inspection then a quick lecture on the do’s and don’ts of the rally. Then we were handed a thin set of instructions and headed out on the half day practice run.
We drove out of the parking lot and made our way to the beginning of the timed section. I’m flipping through instructions realizing that I can’t really make a mistake or we will get lost. Then we get to the 30mph sign that denotes the beginning of the timed section. OK.
Then, 15 seconds later, a stop sign.
“Oh, Shit!” I yell out and we completely botch the first stop sign.
After the half-day practice day was over, we assembled back in the lobby of Embassy Suites and Convention center in Bowling Green, KY. It was here that our scores would be posted for the days run. We were in our first time-speed precision rally of any kind and sat in the rookie class but still awaited anxiously to see where we placed.
There were free cocktails, chips and pretzels for the rallyers as we milled around and waited for the results.
Finally, after about 20 minutes, rally master John came into the room and posted two pieces of paper on the wall, they were the official results.
Dad and I walked over to the results and scanned down from the top to the bottom looking for our name; a practice I am most familiar with being a distance runner.
We sat second to last in the rookies and third to last over all. We had 48sec of cum error for the half day practice run.
The awe and confusion that I have felt since arriving to the rally 48 hours ago began to dissipate quickly. I think to myself “How did we finish so low? I know we are new but third to last? How did this happen?”
I sipped on coke in a melancholy state, I grabbed a bowl of pretzels and began to chew them down. The thoughts began to show themselves; How did we lose so much time? Was it the stop signs? The speed changes?
Im not having as much fun as I was having half and hour ago.
We need to fix this problem. My dad is milling around with the other rallyers, all more experienced, trying to get some advice for our obviously disillusioned tactics. After some questioning and answering back and fourth the consensus is… they don’t know. We seem to be doing everything correctly. Maybe a recalibration of our speedo is in order tomorrow. To me that doesn’t seem to account for 48 seconds worth of error.
The next morning I awake at 6:00 am. I wanted to get a few hours of work in before breakfast. I needed to find the problem. Speedo calibration can’t be all of it. It just can’t. I flipped open my sharpie-riddled sheet of instructions and began to pry through them.