Last weekend the 2017 Winter Challenge rally was held in Vermont. This year, for the first time in many years, I was not competing in this always interesting rally. However my friend, Frank Beyer, did compete in this rally along with another friend of mine, Mike Mazoway. Frank sent me the following report from this rally. It is interesting that Frank’s report starts 40 years ago with the 1977 Tri-State Rally.
“18th ANNUAL TRI-STATE RALLY, JANUARY 29 – 30, 1977
January 30th, 1977, about the 26th hour of the 18th Annual Tri-State Rally, around 7 AM, daylight just hitting us. John Buffum and Rich Schneider, in a TR-7, caught a note on the checkpoint slip at the 41st of 43 checkpoints, adjusted their speed accordingly for emergency conditions (we’ve gone over 600 miles in a snowstorm) and finish the rally with a score 104 pts. No one in the other 57 cars on the Northeast Performance Rally Series (NEPRS) event caught the speed change; John and Rich beat the second place car by 370 points.
Pete Deierlein and I were in Pete’s baby blue Rabbit, finishing 14th (1014 pts), Mark Everett and Wayne Brooks, in a Saab 99 (1463), and, Don Taylor/Herbert Williams (2751) in an Opel, also participated.
13TH ANNUAL WINTER CHALLENGE, Feb 11 – 12, 2017
Mark Everett and I are still competing and Don Taylor is still working. We were in Barre VT last weekend after 40 years of chasing Master Buffum. 32 teams present, awaiting our latest lesson in rally theory.
Vermont is heaven for rally people: tight, smooth, dirt roads through the trees and mountains, lots of crazy intersections with unique combinations to keep you on your toes, especially at night, especially at speed, especially on snow. The Winter Challenge is like when Arnold Palmer used to invite a bunch of players over to his course at Bay Hill: a legend, grooming a course in mid-February, testing us in his backyard.
“Challenge” is an apt description for the event because JB seems to have remembered every rally situation he’s encountered during all those rallies over all those miles and fills his Time-Speed-Distance events with intersections and instructions like a chess master. John doesn’t try to confound the best drivers and navigators – he just tries to identify them.
The WC traditionally runs in three sections, starting with a tulip-instruction route (“how hard can that be?”) periodically dotted with traps that have a fail-safe so that the contestants don’t realize they have been lured off-course and then returned to the route, missing a control in the process.
The route for the second section is drawn on a map (“how hard can it be?”), where points along the course are numbered to correspond to written instructions with speed changes, occasional mileages and other information. Difficulty: a) not all intersections are numbered, b) not all intersections seem to appear on the map they way they occur on the ground, c) you have to guess distances, and d) did I mention that this is done at night in the snow? Section three is straightforward tulip instructions, with a multiple pro-rally champion setting the average speeds. America’s Got Driving Talent. How…hard…can…it…be????
“ The rally is much easier and more straightforward than previous years” . – from the first paragraph of the General Instructions. “No tricks and traps as in past WC events”.
“In this next LEG, some mileages are incremental (point to point) and some mileages are total (from the end of the Odometer check); the instructions are out of order . The instructions should be used at the first opportunity where they fit and used only once”. – from the first page of the competitive route instructions.
Oh, dear. We didn’t expect that ……
I forgot to tell you that we had something new this year. GPS units on the dashboard of each car, so that we could pass an unmanned, closed, control location and have our time recorded as we went by. On time, all the time, as they say. The first GPS control was located immediately after an intersection where we should have gone straight but went right instead, thinking we were following the main road. Oops. Our good fortune to have the leg thrown.
Fortune flew away down the road where a “Stop Ahead” sign hiding in the shadows was missed by many and the resulting traffic jam of confused competitors led to my misjudging the available Time Allowance and trashed our score for the section. Not so bad; half the cars missed a control. Only felt terrible, short of suicidal.
Shake it off. Map sections are my strongest. We can get back in this thing. Yeah, right. Missed two turns at the start of the Map section, and missed the first two controls as a result. Finished up the section blowing three Time Allowances, taking them but then falling behind as we drove into the subsequent controls.
Section Three actually was our best. Brand new snow tires were a perfect match for the snow-covered roads and my driver, Mike Mazoway, made it with minimal drama, sliding through only one downhill, dead-end intersection. First, ya gotta finish….
Mark Stone/Marc Goldfarb (a gold-standard crew) took first-place with a total of 88 over the 20 legs; Lance Smith/Ralph Beckman (136) took second and Eric Salminen and Peter Schneider (directly in from Tampa, questioning his sanity all through the night) finished third with 391.
Scott Carlson and Phil LaMoreaux ended fifth overall, first in the S class with 586, Daniel Praetorius/Colin Roddy were second S with 966 and Alex Kuhner/Philip Mueller wound up third S with 1207.
The ideal setup seemed to be 4WD this year (no kidding – snow all the way) as the first eleven and 26 of the 32 competitors were driving all corners.
Once again, everyone was a winner. The Winter Challenge continues to be a great drive, rewarding the best pilots with a workout they rarely find elsewhere, if only because it’s tough to find smooth, twisty roads like these that are plowed. Navigators work hard on this event and are paid for their effort with good scores only when they manage to pair up with a good partner.
John and his workers are experienced and rarely make an error. Mileages and timing are incredibly consistent. John manages to comb through the general instructions, trying to improve the experience, test the teams, and challenge the status quo. Been doing it for all these years, rewarding all of us who continue to make the trip back to rally heaven.
For the complete results of the Winter Challenge Rally click on the following pdf file:
Thanks to Frank for sending this report to me. Congratulations to Mark Stone/Marc Goldfarb for winning the Winter Challenge rally. And a very special “Well done!” to Scott Carlson and Phil LaMoreaux for finishing fifth Overall with a Stock Class entry.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following email address: shanna12 at comcast dot net