You just don’t realize how much time and planning goes into organizing a road rally till you try and do one yourself. On the surface, it seems like it should be pretty easy. Just drive around, create a set of instructions, make some copies and you are set to go, right? Not even close! I now have a new found appreciation of the time, dedication and sacrifice that every rallymaster puts into organizing a successful NER road rally.
In August it became clear that the two scheduled NER October road rallies were not going to happen. With this in mind, James Mackey and Chris Brenton of Team Trunkmonkey offered to create an event to fill the void. I mean, with two rally masters and two whole months to get organized, how hard could it be? We also had the added bonus that James had already logged countless hours identifying fun driving roads between Manchester and Keene New Hampshire with Kris Marciniak.
To make a long story short, it was a lot harder than we thought. The fun began just in identifying a good route. Its a lot harder than you may think to find lots of roads that people will find interesting to drive without the roads being too dangerous. You then have to figure out how to string these roads together into a 140 mile “course”. Add in the fact that we had roads we knew would be more fun in the daylight, while others would be more fun in the dark, and timing became crucial as well. Did you know that the eight mile road leading into Roxbury, NH “center” ends in a cul de sac? We found that out the hard way. It took nine revisions of the rally notes before we felt comfortable handing them out to competitors. The result was 136 miles, 50% of which were dirt, spread out over 14 checkpoints. Approximately 2/3 of the rally was run in the dark, meaning this was the only NER night rally for the 2004 season.
The effort however seemed to be more than worth it. 15 teams turned out to try their hand at the 6 hour course. For one of the teams, James White and Jennifer Sayers, it was their first event and they were unsure if their car would pass tech inspection. It quickly became clear that their brakes would not be safe for navigating the course. Luckily for James and Jennifer they were running a Subaru, for which Team Trunkmonkey stocks an abundance of spare parts. Some borrowed brake pads and one slightly used rotor later, and they were ready for the race and on time to boot. James and Jennifer took Dead Last But Finished (DLBF), but given it was a night rally and that they finished at all, says they can have a future in road rallying.
Some cross pollination took place as some of the NER Rallycross drivers turned out to try their hand at a road rally. Author Chabot and David Harris were scoring well through the first three checkpoints, when tragedy struck in the form of a broken fan belt. With no way to charge the electrical system during a night rally, they were forced to withdraw. The team of Adrien and James Cooper faired better in their 300ZX (Adrien normally runs a Subaru RS in Rallycross). They placed 11th overall 4th in Novice class, and even scored a zero on one of the legs! Not bad for their first event. The final Rallycross team, Matt Kennedy and Joshua Bressem came in with 431 points. This placed them 7th overall and 2nd in class C. Pretty impressive score when you consider that class C specifies that no odometer can be used, not even the stock unit.
Of course the fact that Matt and Joshua took second in class C hints that another team did even better with no odometer. That was lucky car number 13 which consisted of Laurel Richman and Nick Shectman who scored 2nd overall, and 1st in class C. Their score? An amazing 142 points! This included one leg of 80 points. Remove this one bad leg and they would have a score that a class A team could be proud of. Wow.
Other over achievers of the night included Barb and Kermit Brunelle. Fresh off of taking the top spot at the RAL road rally, they proved it was not a fluke by scoring 238 points to take 5th overall and 1st in novice class. Just beating them out in overall standings, and taking the win in stock class, was the team of Greg Miller and Steve McKelvie. The “big yellow truck” brought them in with a total of 216 points. Of course it was no surprise that the top spot fell to the team of Fred Mapleback and Paul Gosselin. They finished the 135 mile course with just 18 points (that’s 11 seconds off of “perfect time”). They had one leg of 6 points, but a majority of the checkpoints were scored at 1 point or less. A spectacular finish to a very long and hard rally.
The System Auditing, Network Security Institute proved to be a very gracious sponsor of the event. All entrants that pre-registered received their very own “trunk monkey” to help maintain ballast in the rear of their car (if you are not familiar with the performance benefits of a trunkmonkey, see www.trunkmonkey.com for full details). They also received an adjustable clip light to help the co-driver read the rally notes during the night portion of the event. All entrants received a SANS pen and highlighter to make up the rally notes, as well as free “spirits” and food at the trophy party. As if that was not enough, extra trophies where handed out in novice class as an incentive for folks to come back to future NER events.
Of course it was not just the rally masters that worked hard at making this event a success. Scott Beliveau donated countless hours to the event in the form of two safety and mileage checks, as well as error checking of all the paperwork including the rally notes. Keith Casey (of AutoX fame), William Stearns, Kelly and Sean Sosik-Hamor (rally car #762), Kory Marciniak, Brian Knapp, Ian Bowers, Andrea Brenton, and again Scott Beliveau, all donated time to work checkpoints.
The checkpoint teams had their share of “fun” at the event as well. Local police showed up at four different checkpoints to find out what was going on. In two cases, they were blocking the checkpoint timing gear requiring the checkpoint workers to do some quick but polite talking to get them out of the way. We even had a number of locals turn up at some of the checkpoints to watch what was going on. Note to self: next year designate “spectator” areas at each of the checkpoints. Of course the most interesting obstacle was that checkpoint team 2 (consisting of Scott and William) had a van full of slightly tipsy women try and tempt them away from their checkpoint position. They never wavered from their post. At least that’s what they told me and they’re sticking to their story.
Look for another Trunkmonkey event at the same time next year!