Well, we've been home a week now and finally everything is unpacked and the rally car has even been washed, ready for the next set of prep work.
During the event Twitter was our main forum for updating followers on the goings on, with a few posts on Facebook. Now life's not quite so hectic I felt it was time to post the write-up from our weekend of excitement at the 2013 Tall Pines Rally in Bancroft on the blog.
Recce started nice & early for us Friday morning with our 0645 meeting at rally HQ. Here rules are explain with regards to competitor behavior on the road & any route/schedule changes announced.
In the two weeks leading up to the rally, every competitor was emailed a list of times when each stage would be open plus a sample recce route schedule. Competitors could choose whether to devise their own route or follow the one provided. We decided to write our own, several in fact, to account for different situations: time we finished certain stages, traffic congestion on certain stages & whether we felt we needed 1, 2 or more passes of each stage. Since we were using notes we'd made previous years it was entirely possible that we would only need a single pass.
What is recce? It's the opportunity given to all competitors to drive the stage roads before the event. Generally it takes place the day before the actual rally, but in some cases - for example regional rallies with limited number of stages - it can take place the morning of an event.
Competitors are NOT allowed on stage roads within 3 months of an event outside the allotted recce times & therefore it is important to use your recce hours wisely.
During the recce we work on our pacenotes. We have a different set of notes for each stage, describing every corner, crest, jump, bridge & water crossing that we will come across. Each corner note describes the speed/severity, the direction & the behavior of the corner - whether it tightens, opens, occurs over a crest or jump etc.
For example: 4R->/Cr expressed "4 Right minus tightens over crest". In our notes (teams may use different ways of noting depending on what they are comfortable with) we use a 3 as a 90 degree turn and therefore a 4 would be slightly more open & faster. The minus denotes that it's slightly tighter than a regular 4 corner yet not as much as a 3. The "tightens over crest" explains that when the corners extends over a crest it actually becomes tighter at that point therefore slower.
The more accurate you are with the notes describing the road, the faster you can be through the stage.
The following photo is a page of notes from a section of the Middle Hastings stage. A 7km section of Old Hastings Road that is notorious for big jumps & crests. It's therefore very important to be accurate in your note making.
Recce went well for us with only one pass needed of all the stages other than the 14km Peanut stage where we did 2.
The only changes we made to our notes was to down grade some of the corners to account for the slippery conditions. Many of the stages were very icy, with a couple having a good amount of snow on them. Once again making tire choice tricky.
Other than that we had an unusually relaxed Pines recce, we were able to stop & admire the scenery & even finished well before having to take the car into tech & prep for shakedown!
The following photos are from the start of the Peanut stage:
Having finished recce early we were able to take the car over for scrutineering/tech inspection. More often than not we rely on our crew to take the car because we are usually still out on recce. So it was nice to actually be able to accompany the car for once.
Second in line for tech behind L'Estage's car, we made it through quickly without issue. Every car must pass inspection before they can run shakedown &/or start the rally. Numerous items are checked, a few examples: cages, lights, seats, safety apparel (suits, helmets, HANS) & safety equipment (extinguishers & triangles etc). Once it's approved, it's ready to run.
As the sun began to set on Friday night the service park came to life with teams getting ready to run shakedown.
The "Shakedown" is an opportunity for teams to take their car out for a few runs to make any final adjustments and prep the vehicle for Saturdays rally. A 2km section of stage that will be run during the event is used & teams are allowed to run at full rally speed.
It is also an opportunity for Media & Event Sponsor rides. Certain teams are invited to participate in giving rides to people involved with the rally; photographers, local business owners who have sponsored the rally or donate time &/or equipment to help out & also VIP contest winners.
Nick was asked to provide 2 rides, so once our own runs were completed & we were satisfied the car was running well - albeit incredibly slippery out there - it was time to give a couple of people a first hand insight into what rally is all about!
Driving at only 75% of competition speed they were still able to get air over the jump & a taste of what we do. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed it & it was fantastic to see the huge grins & enthusiasm about the sport we love.
Once the media/sponsor rides were complete, nick was able to take his wife Amanda out for a run. Amanda being a co-driver herself is no stranger to the silly seat, but having not competed for a while it was great for her to get some seat time.
Last ride of the night went to team manager, owner & dad Nigel. This is the first time he'd ever sat with Nick in the rally car. Being a rally driver himself back in the day he prefers to be behind the wheel, but it didn't stop him enjoying himself.
After we had established the car was in good working order & refueled for the next day, it was placed in heated overnight storage to ensure it would start in the morning without any issues.
Now it was time once again to relax & unwind before Saturday's craziness began.