Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Road Rally Signs

Looking for signs while running a Road Rally

When running a road rally you have to be very observant. You need to read every road sign you pass if you are looking for a particular turn.

It is amazing how many signs we pass by during our normal driving that we take no notice of. When running road rallies, you have to notice them all.

For example, when given a speed change at a particular sign, you have to find the first one, not the others along the way.

Since the advent of touring road rallies where speed changes must be made at a specific spot and not a vague point like the apex of a turn, speed changes are often referenced at the first speed limit sign after a turn. Some times it is easy to miss that first sign if you are paying attention to turning and then looking for the next instruction.

Monday, May 29, 2006

TSD Rally Stock Class Navigation

Georgia Sports Car Club Spring Rally

Last month, my usual rally partner Robert was rallymaster for the GSCC event. Lucky for me, Fred Holliger the Stock class champ was looking for a driver.
I have always been fascinated with road rally navigation ever since I discovered this sport at Tennessee Tech University. My roommate Jeff and I created all sorts of calculator and computer programs to aid our navigation. We also discovered early on that if we wanted to win, Jeff needed to be the navigator.

Our ultimate accomplishment after years of work was the CompuRally computer software that allows a standard (DOS) computer to be used as a rally computer. We used this software to take two national TSD rally wins and numerous local and regional trophies. Our software is now being used successfully in Silver Streak challenge type events out west.

But this weekend, I saw something completely different. Fred, armed with nothing more that a book of rally tables and a simple four function calculator, demonstrated his navigational skills. He gave me feedback that was very very close to as good a my rally computer.

Every six to ten seconds he called "Mark" and I looked at my odo to see if I was early or late. A simple adjustment of the throttle put us back on time.And he did not look overworked like I have been when I tried stock navigation. In fact, we were able to carry on a conversation punctuated by "mark" being called mid story.

His method is deceptively simple. He just adds .1 mile worth of time to the display register on his calculator and calls out when the time matches his clock.It took me a few legs to get the hang of reading my Jeep Cherokee odometer to the hundredth mile but by the end of the day we were getting scores of 1 or 2 per leg. The computer guys were getting ones and zeros.

I always enjoy experiencing new things and seeing this skill in action was great fun to watch. Had I known this method of navigation 20 years ago I might never have written my own software and learned so much about computer controls.

The first place Stock Class trophy fits nicely with all the Equipped Class trophies on the shelf.

Family photo road rally

One unique type of road rally the folks in Bell Buckle sometimes host is what they call a photo road rally. These events are always fun for the whole family as even children can figure out the pictures.

In the case of a family photo road rally, the route instructions take the form of photographs of the rally master's car going through each intersection. You have to identify the intersection from the picture and then figure out which way to go by looking at his car in the photo.

Charlie and Bill can throw some tricks at you like posting the picture mirror imaged or something like that so you have to be observant.

A family photo road rally is really easy to put together now in the age of digital cameras and computers. Juts pick a route and go out and shoot your car in the intersections. This type of road rally could be used as a fun way to publish directions to a party, wedding, camping trip or what ever requires a large number of people to follow a route.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Speed equals time divided by distance

Calculating how much time you need.

In my last post I mentioned that you need to deternime what speed to drive to make the end of the rally on time. To determine that speed you use the most basic time speed distance roal rally equation.

Speed equals Time divided by Distance

or S = T/D

For example, lets say you have two hours to complete the course and turn in your answers. If the course is sixty miles long, you have to average 30 miles per hour to reach the end in time.

Basic TSD Rally math.

Road Rally Clues

Finding Road Rally Clues on a Gimmick Rally

Gimmick rallying is a type of scavenger hunt where you have to find clues or answers to questions along the route.

The route itself may be part of the challenge, but usually a gimmick rally has very simple route following instructions and the hard part is finding the answers to the gimmicks or clues.

Some of my favorite Gimmick rallies are run in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. In a town with a name like that how can the rallies not be fun. They are planning one for July 4th this year that should be a blast.

For specific information about the rally, contact the Tri Lakes Sports car club.

When navigating a Gimmick Rally, the first thing you need to do is find out how much time you have to complete the run. The total length maybe unknown but try to find out. Ask! Try to decide on a pace that will allow you to read all the road signs and still make it to the end in time. Try to be a bit early at all times so that you can backtrack to find a sign that you may have missed.

Often gimmick rallying can be more about mind reading than about road rally clues. So try to learn as much about the rally master as you can before you begin the event. Ask a few questions to find out how he thinks.

But always remember the object of any rally is to tour the countryside and have fun. So be sure to have fun and don't let a missed gimmick or two ruin your day.

Be as observant as possible and take in as much of the scenery as you can.

Running a gimmick rally looking for clues can be a fun way to spend some time in your favorite car.

See you in Bell Buckle.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What is a Road Rally?

Road Rally, Rally Racing, Rally Cross?

What is a Rally?

My love of rallying began at school at Tennessee Tech. About once a month, the Golden Eagle Sports Car Club would have a navigational road rally. In these events you were to follow a set of route instructions and arrive at secret checkpoint locations along the route. You either had to arrive at the correct time or get the answers to questions along the way - sometimes both.

Being engineering majors and sports car nuts, my roommate and I took well to this game. We instantly began looking at ways to improve our skills. We wrote crude calculator programs to figure our time and worked to improve the accuracy of our odometers. Since most of the events were at night, we built lots of lighting gadgets to see both inside the car and out.

Later our efforts evolved into the CompuRally computer software that both measures and calculates TSD rally information. We ran the SCCA national circuit and got a couple of first place trophies before moving on to other interests.

I still like to run a regional rally with the Georgia Sports car club or TLSCC in middle Tennessee. My local region never showed much interest in TSD rally although we did have some fun events.

They did however support Rally Racing and Rally Cross. Rallycross is where you race in a field on a miniature road course marked by pylons or barrels. This sport has been lots of fun in the Jeep. It reminds me of the days when my grandfather would send me out to the field to get a part off a dozer and I would slalom the pickup through the junk tractors.

Then there is Rally racing. This is where you run a gravel road through the forest as fast as you can. The sport is normally dominated by Subaru's and Mitsubishi's but I have had a lot of low budget fun racing a Jeep Cherokee. I call it RallyJeep based on SCCA's tendency to make new words by running two together. See more about my Rally racing at www.rallyjeep.com

Stay tuned for this years rally activities.

For more rally related links see http://mikestrawbridge.com/road%20rally%20ideas.shtml

Car Navigation

Road Rally Car Navigation

As a Road Rally driver, I would never be competitive without a skilled Navigator to handle the car navigation duties.

In my car, navigation is mostly about time keeping. I keep my route instructions mounted on a roller board so I can read them and keep us on the right course. I want my navigator to have the general instructions ready in case I have a question. Also, I want him to keep any lettered or optional instructions posted in my view as well. We usually use sticky notes on the mirror.

When running equipped class with a computer, my navigator is more free to help me watch for signs and tricks. When running stock or "B" class, I am pretty much on my own for route following as the calculation take most of my navigators mental effort.

One very important thing I learned long ago is to divide the duties as equally as possible between the driver and navigator. If either of you is overloaded, you will make errors. It does not help to be on time on the wrong road or on the right road at the wrong time.

Many novice teams start out having the navigator do too much work: Reading the instructions, reading the generals, calculating the time and trying to watch for signs. Divide up the responsibilities to who has the best skills and opportunity to handle the task.

When competing in my car, navigation is about things inside the car and driving is about things outside the car. If looking at a spelling trap for example, it is the driver's responsibility to read the road sign while the navigator reads the route instructions to assure a match.

Rally car navigation can get confusing when two drivers or two navigators try to run together! So talk in advance about who will do what job before you start the odometer calibration run.

And be absolutely sure you know whose job it is to turn the roller board!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Time Speed and Distance

I ran my first Sports Car Road Rally at Tennessee Tech University in 1980. Since then I have studied every aspect of the sport, from measuring the route to learning to be more observant as I drive.

In a road rally, you are required to drive at a specified speed for a certain distance at arrive at a predetermined correct time unknown to you. Also, you must follow a prescribed route to get to the secret checkpoint location at the correct time.

My first attempts to improve my performance was to develop a calculator program to calculate the correct time at a given mileage. My first program was on a TI -55 calculator.

Eventually this program evolved into the CompuRally rally computer system.

Now days I also race in performance rally races with have very little to do with navigational rallies but are still fun to do. See my RallyJeep for more on that sport.

I am still active with the Georgia Sports car club in the monthly rallies.

If you are interested in a custom made rally event as a fund raiser or a corporate road rally for a team building exercise, contact me at rally@mikestrawbridge.com

Navigation and driver training is also available.