Zone 1 Time Speed Distance Rally (a Tour of the Gold Coast of L.I.)
Hosted by Metro Region PCA
By Peter Schneider
On May 15 in preparation for the 2016 Parade TSD (Time Speed Distance) rally in Vermont in June, I teamed up with Sue Smith to run the Zone 1 TSD rally hosted by Metro PCA. As you may know Sue is a long time member of NNJR and has a ton of track time in her 914 and was a Regional Driving Instructor for years. What you might not know is that she also has a lot of rally driving seat time from the days she rallied with her husband Dale back in the 80s and 90s. Since we are both going to Vermont, we decided to sign up for the Parade TSD and we needed practice time, getting to know how we would react together in a rally car (I can be aggressive at times) and to get Sue adjusted to driving with a rally computer, which is a lot different than running ‘Seat of Pants’.
The Rallymaster for the Zone 1 TSD rally was Rich Moore. I first met Rich on a six day rally back in the early ‘90s called the MG1000. That event was a brisk gravel TSD rally that traveled from just north of New York City to Niagara Falls, Canada and back. After about 10 hours of driving daily, we would spend most of the night eating and drinking before going out the next day to rally again. Last year Rich and I teamed up to run the BMW National TSD rally which was held outside of Atlantic City during BMW’s Oktoberfest Annual Convention. The event had six controls and was timed to the hundredth of minute and we finished First overall with 5 points. Rich navigated using a Timewise Rally Computer and I drove his BMW.
In order to get ready for the Zone 1 rally, I had Precision Motorsport install an alternate odometer sensor to the drive shaft of my 1994 968 Cab. (I am getting too old to crawl under the car), this sensor connects to a Alfa Rally Computer which will measure distances to the 1/1000th of a mile and can be adjusted to match the Rallymaster’s official mileage based on the event’s Odometer Leg, which is normally the first ten miles or so of a rally. Once the rally computer odometer factor is set, it should be a simple matter to stay on time, assuming the navigator correctly enters the speed changes and other data at the correct time/mileage and keeps the driver on course. Being on-time on the incorrect road is never a winning combination. The driver has a small display unit that is connected to the rally computer that lets them know several important pieces of information; current speed, targeted speed (the speed the Rallymaster wants you to maintain), official mileage and how much you are ahead or behind the calculated time vs the official time which is based on the information supplied by the Rallymaster and measured by the official distance. The driver’s display or ‘Null’ as it is called, will provide real time updates every 1/1000th of a minute. Which is great when you are ‘on-time’ but very frustrating when you are stuck in traffic behind someone doing 10mph below the required speed and the display keeps adding up how much you are falling behind.
So now that I have the Porsche all set to rally and have Sue’s agreement to drive with me, we are all set, or so I thought. While driving to the monthly SCCA Board meeting I noticed the dreaded sound of metal on metal under the hood. A quick U-Turn back to the house to get another car and made a call to Will at Precision Motorsport for an appointment. Turns out that my water pump and the lower balance shaft seal needed to be replaced.
I called Sue the next day and I dusted off my 1992 Galant VR4, mounted the rally computer and left at 5:30am Sunday morning to pick up Sue for the two hour drive to the start of the Zone 1 rally in Westbury Long Island.
The trip to Long Island was uneventful, normal NYC traffic for an early Sunday morning trip. We occupied ourselves by talking about the ‘old days’ and getting Sue up to speed on the Alfa Rally Computer and the philosophy of ‘Metro PCA’s style of rallying’. Things we needed to look out for included but was not limited to: route instructions out of order (causing you to change speed at the wrong location), sign spelling traps (“HILLSIDE ROAD” vs “HILLSIDE RD”), photo clues, overlapping route instructions, speed change (CAS) ‘math’ traps, hard to see signs, punctuation traps (“15 M.P.H.” vs “15 MPH”). While it is never a Rallymaster’s intention to get you lost, they are known to create route loops to add miles and cause you to arrive early or late at a Check Point which will add penalty points to your score (low score wins).
The Zone 1 Rally was really two rallies in one, a TSD Rally and a second separate ‘Gimmick’ Rally. In a Gimmick Rally you have to stay on-course while looking for the correct answers to questions provided in the Route Instructions by the Rallymaster. The answer to the questions, can be just a tricky as trying to stay on-time during a TSD rally.
As planned we arrive about 30 minutes prior to the opening of registration and it was like attending a ‘class reunion’ for Sue. There must have been a dozen Metro members there that have not seen Sue since they closed the Bridgehampton Race Track back in the late 90s. It seems like every five minutes or so someone would come up to Sue and give her a hug and ‘it’s been years, how have you been’, while Sue continues to attend track events, very few of the Metro members who ran/organized Bridgehampton travel outside of the Metro Region. Once registration opened everyone got down to business and things settled down.
We received the event General Instructions and Route Instructions, while Sue read the General Instructions, I sat down and reviewed the Route Instructions.
It is common for rallyists to use a set of color highlighters to mark up the Route Instructions. One color to mark all the speed changes (I use yellow), another for any pauses (Example: extra time for traffic lights – blue highlighter) and green to note any Free Zones or Transit Zones (these are areas that there will be no timed check points), this is a good thing to know because you can (when possible) speed up a little, so you have ‘time-in-hand’ in case there is a traffic issue or you need extra time to confirm a sign or look for possible route following traps.
Once I completed my mark-ups and Sue read the General Instruction, we switched roles and she doubled checked my mark-ups (yes I missed some) and I reviewed the General Instruction to see what might have changed since the Metro rally I attended in January.
Once the driver’s meeting was complete, we were free to head out. Even though cars should be spaced one minute apart, in car number order, is not necessary until the end of the Odometer Leg (which is normally a Free Zone/Transit Zone). So off we went.
One thing I noticed while reviewing the Route Instructions, was that on this event there was no official Odometer Leg and Rich did not provide an official time at the end of the Free Zone at Instruction #17. AND, during that 10.6 mile Free Zone, Rich had also included six speed changes and five 1 minute pauses for Traffic Lights. THIS DROVE ME CRAZY.
Without an Official Odometer Factor, I could not accurately calculate the official time at the end of the Free Zone to ‘restart’ for the first timed/scored portion of the rally. For example, Instruction #2 stated ‘Right at a sign that read in part “Mineola” at 0.5 miles. It also had you change your speed from 30mph to 50mph. Now was that 0.500 miles or 0.599 miles, I had no idea. Yes I am anal. The minor difference of 1/10 of mile should cost us at the first timed check point up to a 5 second penalty and since there were six speed changes prior to the end of the Free Zone, the penalties could add up. The best I could do was to run the Free Zone as if it was an Odometer Leg, ‘guess’ at the official mileage at the six speed changes and hope for the best. Section 1 (which included the fore mentioned Free Zone of 10.6 miles, ended at Instruction #18 at 11.933 miles with an official restart time of 10:27am plus your car number in minutes.
If you did not notice that the Free Zone ended at Instruction #17 at 10.6 miles and not instruction #18 and treated the entire first section of the rally as an Odometer Leg, you would have arrived at the end of the section ahead of schedule and passed the first check point about three minutes early (depending on how early you left the start). Rich had placed Check Point #1 about 0.7 miles after the end of the Free Zone and about 0.5 miles prior to the end of the section. First trap down, who knows how many more to go.
After restarting at Instruction #18, we had a 10 mile Free Zone, so we left a couple of minutes early to see what Rich had in mind for us on section 2. One of the things to look out for on a rally is when the Rallymaster suddenly stops providing official mileage in the Route Instructions, this normally means a ‘route following trap’. Since depending on which way you execute the ‘loop’, your mileage and time will not match the official, so he cannot list official mileage in the Instructions. Instruction #22 included a reference to ‘Watch for water fowl on the road for the next 2/3 miles’. Instruction #23 told you to make a ‘Left onto Horseshoe Road’. While telling you to look out for ‘water fowl’ looks like a helper, what it really does is extend Instruction #22 by 0.66 miles (an overlap trap). Since you cannot execute Instruction #23, until you completed Instruction #22 you had to drive past the first opportunity to turn ‘Left on Horseshoe Road’ until you drove the 0.66 miles for the water fowl. As anticipated, Horseshoe Road (like the name suggested) reappear after the end of the 0.66 miles and about 0.4 miles after the first opportunity, so Sue and I turned. This was a narrow road with construction and we must have passed 20 or so Porsches driving the wrong way around the loop. Those that recognized us in my Galant going in the opposite direction gave us a ‘funny look’ and must have wondered what was going on.
Check Point #2 was on Cove Neck Road just prior to the midpoint rest break at President Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill where Rich was standing beside control taking pictures. Those that executed the Horseshoe Road loop incorrectly arrived about 2.4 minutes early for about 240 points, because they short cutted the route by about 0.80 miles at 20mph.
After a 20 minute break to look around the gift shop of the Teddy Roosevelt’s home and note that it would be worth a return visit to see the house, we departed at 11:15am plus our car number in minutes (to keep the spacing between cars), while this was important to the teams competing in the TSD rally, it was less important to the individuals running the Gimmick Rally.
Section III was the last and longest section in the rally, totaling 18.500 miles and contained three Free Zones. Since Free Zones do not contain Timing Check Points, there were two places (one each between the three Free Zones) where Rich could hide Timing Check Points, and he placed Check Points in both of the two areas.
During the first of the three Free Zones the Rallymaster provided a Speed Change (CAS) ‘Math’ Trap. While traveling 25mph, we were told to make a ‘Left on Route 25A’ (which is a major county road on Long Island) and ‘divide your speed by one half’. At first glance, this looked like Rich wanted you to reduce your speed to 12.5mph. BUT NOOO!! Fifth grade math tells us, to divide by a fraction, you must multiply by its reciprocal. WHO KNEW? I was lucky, the first time I saw this trap about 30 years ago on Metro PCA’s ‘Snowflake’ rally, my driver at time had young children and knew the answer right away. So instead of changing speed down to 12.5mph, you had to increase your speed to 50mph. At the next instruction, everyone changed their speed (CAS) to 30mph. But by driving the 0.8 miles between the two instructions at the wrong speed it cost them a 2.8 minute penalty at the next Check Point or about 280 points added to their score: [((60/50) – (60/12.5)) x 0.8 miles]. To make matters worse, Check Point #3 was located on a road named ‘Snake Hill Road’. As you would have expected it was an uphill climb with several switchbacks and the Check Point was at the top. Sue handled this very nicely and seemed to enjoy the turbo charged (315hp), four wheel drive and four wheel steering which came stock with my ’92 Galant VR4.
The last of the four Check Points on the rally was about three miles from the end and the last leg of the event did not contain any traps or tricks. Those of us on the TSD Rally had to contend with the Gimmick Teams that left the midpoint rest stop early, but Rich was generous with Time Allowances, so those requesting any delay due to local/rally traffic or caused by missing a turn was approved (per the General Instruction), so there was no need to do anything crazy to stay on time.
The rally ended at Exotic Classics (http://www.exoticclassics.com) at 100 Gordon Drive, Syosset, NY. Lunch was provided by Exotic Classics and when all was said and done, NNJR PCA took a clean sweep of the top four positions in the Experienced Class of the TSD rally.
Next Step – Vermont.