Annual Grand - the 47th running

Sunday, December 10, 2000

Milford, Mass. (TCNE)

Full results available here

by Nicholas Shectman

This Sunday was the 47th running of the Annual Grand Rally, a 60-mile event in suburban Boston. December in Massachusetts can be snowy, and I didn't have snow tires for my car, so I arranged to get some ... but I left it until the last minute, and then Boston got its first real snowfall the Friday before and all the tire places were complete zoos. I left the summer tires on, figuring the snow would be gone -- and then the weathermen chimed in with dire warnings about an ice storm. I panicked.

Then I remembered that weathermen are interested in ratings, not weather, and checked the NOAA, where the official forecast was "Partly Cloudy". And that's what we got. I was glad for the summer tires.

Rich and I ran in class NER class C -- taped odometer -- at the last Sunday afternoon rally and did well. It had mileages to everything, which made a good learning experience for our first time running class C. Our 177 points over 5 controls was nothing to write home about, but 100 of those points came from miscalculating a TA, and we were very pleased with the remaining 25 points per control.

Annual Grand had mileages to every turn (but not every speed change). This meant lots of feedback, but a little tougher in terms of staying on time. A good second time out taped-odo rally. So we decided to run in class C again this time.

Registration started at noon, and Rich and I got there a little after 12 expecting that it'd be fairly mellow. The last club 60-miler only got 4 cars, and we hoped this would get more. It did -- 18 cars, I think -- which made for a more crowded scene than we expected. We said hello to lots of the rally friends we've made over the last year, paid our money, and sat down with the NRIs and some lunch.

There's a lot of pre-calculation to do in C, so Rich and I split up the NRIs and calculated as many leg times as we could. We could get deltas for many of the NRIs, so this took a lot of time -- and we occasionally inverted the minutes per mile calculation. This resulted in leg times too short by several minutes, so at least the errors were easy to find on the road.

I had calibrated my speedometer last time around, and so we started off at 40 miles an hour on the odo check to see if the factors were the same from one rally to the other. Fortunately, they were, because we missed a turn a few instructions into the odo check. Whoops! At least it didn't throw our odo off from official mileage, because we didn't have an odometer! But maintaining a constant speed went out the window in favor of making it to the end of the odo check on time.

The odo check ended at a sign near the top of a hill. We got there and saw the all the A-box rally cars lined up after the sign. But we were in class C, so instead of lining up after the sign, we stopped a couple hundred yards *before* the sign. We figured it'd be better to come past the sign at speed, take a time reading, and make up the error on the road, than to try to figure out how far past the sign we were and how long it had taken to come up to speed. It worked pretty well; there was a checkpoint a little more than a mile down the road and we got a 5! Wow. Much better than we had been expecting.

Last time out we got confused adding in time at checkpoints. This time around that seemed to be under control as our score at the next checkpoint was around a 12. We had a bunch more scores in that vein, including a 2 on another quickie. After 4 or 5 legs we started to believe we might actually turn a respectable score. The worst score was a 21 on a 33-minute leg with lots of no-mileage-given speed changes.

Rich calculated perfect times when he could, and I hit far more of them spot-on than I did last time. This was the rally of the time allowances. TAs were free, and we needed a lot, for local traffic, or for SIs with not-long-enough pauses. Once we got confused at an intersection in a loop on the rally, took a TA, tried to come out on a new half-minute, but there was rally traffic there so we took another minute. But they were on the first loop through and we were on the second, so we could have stayed on the old minute after all. Ah well.

Another time, after taking a TA, I looked in the rear view and saw an A car on a TA maintaining a 3 second interval, with a novice right in back of him. Nice to know you're on time, but we took another minute to make it more fair (and easier on the checkpoint workers).

At least we had no trouble calculating time allowances this time around. Scoring was quick and efficient. In the end we wound up with 71 points over 7 controls. I was hoping for 20 points per control, so this was fabulous! It was also good for first in class (with Val Stegemoen and his daughter in the other class C car) and also good for beating all the novices and both of the B (combined Stock/Limited) class cars.

Speeds were advertised as "appropriate", and that was about right. Running class C made things trickier (and more fun), but it didn't make them unsafe as there were pauses for the harder turns. There was more low speed mileage than some rallies, which was particularly challenging in C. There were no transit zones -- a nice touch on a short rally -- and the checkpoints were positioned delightfully deviously while also maximizing the number of competitive miles.

There were no problems with the NRIs, and to the extent that we could tell without an odometer the mileages seemed good too. All in all, a great time, and an especially nicely done Sunday afternoon event. Thanks again to Mark Johnson on his first solo rallymaster effort. Great job!

See you at Snow and Ice. I'll be there in class A -- and don't worry, I'll have the snow tires on by then.


Full results available here