26 June 2012

The Great Race, Stage 3: Rookie teams build their classic rally skills

I can tell you that from a rookie’s perspective the most exciting thing about the Great Race is the fact that you don’t know what to expect next.  Each day the route requires more navigational skill and the event organizers do a very nice job of sprinkling in new maneuvers to keep you guessing. 

The first couple of days were pretty straightforward: You had your morning and afternoon routes with scheduled pit stops and lunch times scattered in to break it up. Now, we’re also finding ourselves in a maze situation at least a couple of times a day. This means that instead of counting on plenty of time between each maneuver to make acceleration or deceleration time adjustments, there could be two pages worth of instructions that are nothing but one quick maneuver after the next that consist of constant turns (within one block of each other) and speed changes. This makes for some very exciting and tense moments between your driver and navigator to stay on top of the time corrections. 

And this is also when it is critical that the navigator and driver have very clear and direct communication patterns. There is no time to second guess or confirm what the navigator said, otherwise you might miss the next change. Then you never know if there is a checkpoint scattered in this maze so it is a must that the team stays on top and ahead of each move.  For today, in addition to spending about 20 minutes in a maze situation was compounded by the fact that the route repeated itself meaning you were then in a multiple loop situation that was meant to confuse you when you had other teams coming at you.  It was pretty exciting and luckily the Hagerty boys’ team made it through without going off the route!

Our observations and recaps as rookie teams probably make the Expert teams sit back and smile while thinking, “I remember those moments from the first time!” I think it would be impossible for a rookie team to be a race champion for these reasons, which is part of what creates the loyal following of teams coming back year after year.

The other reason that there are so many loyal teams that compete year after year is the bond that forms among the participants. Some teams have been doing this for more than 20 years, and it is fun to be a part of this camaraderie. You can not only see this from the social aspect but it is amazing to see how teams help out each other in the evenings if someone is experiencing trouble with their car. People very willingly share tools, spare parts, and pull together to help one team with a major repair. For example, it is not uncommon for someone to spend many hours into the night doing a major repair such as engine, transmission, or axle swaps. These are procedures that many people pay big bucks for at professional shops with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and the Great Racers are doing the same thing in a hotel parking lot with hand tools and flashlights!

The Hagerty teams’ “Boys vs. Girls” rivalry is becoming more intense. Team Klinger and Reckow had a great day with an 18-second score and the girls’ team was thrilled to come in under a minute. Of course, we reminded the girls of our superior time whenever we could. My goal for the week is to earn at least one “Ace.” An “Ace” in Great Race terms is when you have a perfect score of “zero,” meaning you match the perfect time right on the dot. One of our segments was a “1,” meaning we were only one second off the perfect score. It’s almost painful to see that you’re only one second away when you receive your score at the end of the day.

Stage 4 will bring us into Ottawa, Canada.  Rumor has it that it will be a longer day with nearly 350 miles of driving time. That may not sound like a lot of miles for an entire day, but when it is packed full of constant maneuvers it will be very full.

Cumulative results through Stage 3 are as follows*:

Team Jonathan Klinger and Davin Reckow in the 1930 Model A Ford:  46 of 82 with a cumulative score of 46.4 seconds (off the perfect time)
Team Tabetha Salsbury and Kacy Smith in the 1962 International ¾ ton pickup:  71 of 82 with a cumulative score of 58.56 seconds

*Note the race allows the rookie teams to drop their five worst segments from the cumulative score.  With at least four timing segments per day, we have equal opportunity to build up great scores and not so great scores, but these cumulative scores factor out the five worst segments as the race goes on.

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