On July 30, 2011 the inaugural Mass Challenge Rally was run in central Massachusetts. It had been several years since there has been a SCCA time-speed-distance (TSD) rally in Massachusetts. I believe that the last TSD rallies in Massachusetts had been put on by members of the Touring Club of New England, which now seems to have disappeared. While not a TSD rally, there is a great rally in every April on Cape Cod that is shortest-distance and questions rally.
The Mass Challenge is a new rally and we (Hal Denham & I) had the luxury of creating our own history. We were not limited by the traditions of past rallies, as this was a new event. Therefore we tried several “new” things that had not been used in the New England area recently or perhaps never.
The first thing that we did was to look at the roads that are available in Massachusetts. The roads are almost all paved and the speed limits are not particularly high. We quickly concluded that a strict tour type rally might not be the best use of the roads. The other thing we decided was to keep the rally all on paved roads. The reason for this is that ultimately we want to attract some classic and vintage cars out to the rally, as well as the traditional New England rally crowd.
While we did not think that we could make this rally a thrilling driver’s event, we thought that we should increase the intensity of the navigation and in-car team work during the rally. Working on the opposite side of this goal was the desire to attract novices and first time rally attendees to this event. We can’t attract new rally people with classic cars and then hit them over the head with nuanced and tricky rally instructions. This lead us to our next major decision – have two sets of instructions. We would have a set of instructions for the New England Region Championship classes and another set of route instructions for the Novices.
My Mercedes is Set Up at Checkpoint #15 While Competitors Should be Turning Left Towards Checkpoint #14 (An old trick that worked once again!)
I think that this two set of instructions approach is a good one. It allows the rallymasters to work on both ends of the rally without affecting each other. You can make a rally challenging to attract the top competitors, and at the same time, present a rally that is friendly to novices.
This concept is not new. I have had the pleasure of rallying in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Germany, so I have seen how others do things and I stole good ideas from everywhere. In Ontario, the Canadians have separate instructions for Novices and another set for Intermediates and Experts. In fact, in Ontario the rally classes are not divided up by equipment, but by experience. You can use whatever navigational equipment you want, but if you’re an expert then you will compete against other experts with Expert caliber instructions. So we too embraced the two sets of instructions strategy. I think that this is an idea that could be used elsewhere to attract and keep new rally people coming back, while presenting a rally worthy of experienced rally people.
The other thing that we decided was to score the Novices based on whole minutes. If the Novice team arrived within a minute of the perfect time, then they scored a zero. If they were into the next minute then they got a timing penalty of 1 minute. This removed much of the rigors and stress on a first time navigator. We put our scoring system where our mouths were – the most important thing is to stay on course. We held a great rally school before the event and had Charlie Sundblade give the Novices the benefit of his rally experience and how to stay on time. Charlie did not have to spend a great deal of time going over the mathematics of rallying, which to a complete novice navigator seems very intimidating.
One thing that I would like to do differently next time is to have all of the Novice instructions, timing, and scoring be in minutes and seconds, not minutes and hundreds of a minute. A first timer should be able to use their wristwatch to do the timing and not have to convert hundredths of a minute into seconds.
One of the challenges that we used in the event were instructions that were presented in several formats. Written instructions, a straight-line map, tulips, and a tulip “grab bag” where a number of tulips were provided in random order on a sheet and the crews had to decide which tulip applied to a given situation.
The Novices were not simply given the tulip “grab bag” instructions; we gave them the sequence in which they were to be followed. On the straight line maps the Novices were given additional helper clues as compared to the Championship Classes. On written instructions, the Novices were given mileages and delta distances to every instruction, while the Championship Classes got almost no mileages at all.
We started the rally at around 1:00PM to give entrants time to drive some distance to the come to the rally on Saturday morning. We ended the rally around 9:00PM, so that competitors would have time to drive home Saturday night without getting home in the middle of the night, if they did not live too far away.
Hal and I had a great deal of help and advice from Pego Mack and Charlie Sundblade as we put the rally together. They checked the rally once and gave us some great advice. Pego came out a second time and rode with me working the odometer as we measured the rally for the final time. Finally on the day of the rally Pego and Charlie came out and helped us with the timing controls. In short, the rally would not have happened if we had not had the support from Pego and Charlie.
Last Car Heads Out From Checkpoint #15
The following is a listing of the Mass Challenge entrants and their scores. Note that for the New England Region, the Championship Classes are Class A for cars using rally odometers and rally computers and Class S for competitors using stock odometers. Class D is for the Novices, who can use any equipment they want.
Car # Driver Navigator Class Score
1 Scott Beliveau Will Kuscielny A 602
2 Will Krouse Scott Carlson S 402
3 Stephanie Gosselin Fred Mapplebeck A 206
4 Michael Beliveau Matthew Henry A 148
5 Mike Mazoway Frank Beyer A 175
6 Nate Field Sarah Norton S 912
7 Alessandro Aquadro Nigel Cochran S 1302
8 Sean O’Leary Michael O’Leary D 3700
9 Faramarz Edalat Ali Ardestani D 3400
10 Jeff Martin Jeff Faber D 2200
11 Adam Brodeur Joshua Benner A 148
12 Brendon Kellner Shaun Smith D 2000
As you can see from the scores we had a tie for the Class A and Overall win between Beliveau/Henry and Brodeur/Benner who both had scores of 148. Mazoway/Beyer were third in Class A and Overall. The Stock Class was won by Krouse/Carlson, while the top Novice team was Kellner/Smith.
I felt sorry for Frank Beyer and Mike Mazoway who drove all the way from Syracuse, New York to compete in the rally. They had the best score on the road, but effectively lost the rally right at the start. We put in a trap for experienced rally teams and we caught them. The start time was identified in the General Instructions and the Route Instructions as 1:01PM plus your car number. Typically, the rally start time is noted as something like 1:00PM plus your car number. Frank and Mike, because they have been in many rallies, assumed that because they were Car #5 that their start time was 1:05PM when actually it was 1:06PM. The penalty in the first timed leg put them in a hole that they did not get out of and they finished third in the Class A Championship Class.
Hal and I would also like to thank Marilyn Freeman, Tim Chevalier and my son-in-law, Mike Johnson, for helping out as well as several of the crews who readily accepted to also run-work and thus helped us time some of the controls.
We look forward to doing this again next year. This was my first rally as a co-rallymaster, so I learned lots and made lots of mistakes. But it was a worthwhile experience for me. I also would like to thank Hal Denham for all of his help, advice, and input.