20 June 2012

The Great Race: Five tips for a successful road rally

You’ll need more than just a car and a driver for an event like The Great Race, which kicks off in Traverse City, Mich., on June 23. Hagerty’s Brad Phillips participated in the 2011 event, and provided his five tips for a successful run:

  1. Make sure you understand what safety equipment you need to bring with you for the event. When you go through the technical inspection with your vehicle, they will be looking for a good fire extinguisher, a supply of drinking water, a tow strap, road flares, and other items. Get the list of what you are expected to carry in advance, and load up.
  2. Calibrate your speedometer. If you have an official approved aftermarket rally speedometer, you should be very familiar with how it works before the event. If you are using the stock speedometer your car was born with, use a GPS or a friend in another car to verify the speed readings before you race! When it reads 25 mph, for example, you want to know that is actually the speed you are going. If you check it out in advance, perhaps you will learn that you should stick that needle on 27mph to be actually going 25, due to an internal error in the speedometer. You will need to do this a couple of times a day. Did you know that your speedometer will read differently as your tires heat up from driving? (Believe me, the race organizers do.)
  3. Focus on your job. Drivers: Your job is to keep the speed EXACTLY, and do what your navigator says. Navigators: You need to be familiar with the course instructions, have eagle eyes for tricky signs or other directions to call out to the driver, and run the stop watch. If the driver starts second-guessing the navigator, and vice versa, you’re toast. You will need to establish trust and a good communication pattern quickly, so practice this before the event if at all possible. 
  4. Make sure your car is in good working order. Having a mechanical breakdown based on a maintenance item is a real downer. Know your car, bring whatever tools and spares you can, and understand that this is a marathon. The goal is to have the car survive the entire event, not hang out on the flatbed while you’re heading back to the hotel early! 
  5. Have fun, and bring the best attitude you can. If there is an opportunity to help a fellow racer, do it. You’ll never know when you’ll need help from someone yourself. Also, these events can be physically grueling, and the weather can sometimes be downright hazardous. If you keep smiling, it helps.

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