Monday, June 8, 2015

Kitchener-Waterloo Rally Club Rallycross

On June 6th we had the pleasure of attending the first ever rallycross put on by the Kitchener-Waterloo Rally Club. We were absolutely blown away by how smoothly the event was run, and how technical and fun the track was. A massive thanks to everyone who made this event happen.

Photo by Darin Mayes

The course map for the day was posted a week in advance and we decided we'd make some pacenotes from it. It wouldn't be necessary for a typical rallycross, but this one was so long there's no way we would remember it all from just one parade lap. Plus it would give us much-needed practice working with pacenotes, should we want to move into rallysprints or stage rallies later.

I've loaded the map into Photoshop, scaled it so that 1px = 1m, and used the ruler tool to measure all straights and angles of corners. Unfortunately, when we got there and walked the course early in the morning we realized that the course was a bit different from what was drawn out on the map. Also some elements could be described better in our notes, while others could be left out. So we pretty much scrapped my fancy Photoshop notes, and used the parade lap as the recce run to write new ones. I also recorded the parade lap with my phone, so that we could easily review any part of the course.







As we lined up for our first run we felt like a proper rally team, but soon realized how difficult it was driving with pacenotes at speed. On the one hand it was great to hear what was coming up ahead before actually getting there, despite the fact that most corners were clearly visible if looking ahead far enough. But on the other - listening to the co-driver took away a lot of concentration from the driver, and ultimately made us about as fast as we'd be without them. 

After Danil's first run, when I was trying my best to play the role of navigator, I was confident the notes were helping. He was flying through the course, nailing every corner beautifully. But as we got to the stop box, he turned to me and said - I'll be honest, I was completely ignoring what you were telling me. Damn!

But as the day went on, we got better and better at both listening to the notes when driving and at navigating. Except a couple occasions when Danil had the car flying sideways towards some trees, I couldn't help but spice up the notes with a few words of my own. I don't know how professional navigators like Craig Drew manage to read the notes in such a calm, soothing voice regardless of how crazy the drive gets.




Photo by Darin Mayes

Photo by Darin Mayes


The course also gave us a chance to practice our left-foot braking. Unlike the course in Bancroft which is narrow and gets rutted quickly, this course had a lot of wide corners with lots of room to play with the line and the car. Give it a bit more brake, and the car pitches nicely into a four wheel slide. Give it some gas, the front unloads, and the line widens out.

As the day went on, the run times were written on a whiteboard in the paddock and we were quite pleased with the consistency of our runs. However, on his third run Danil ran wide in a slow corner and had to stop and back-up so as not to take down the tape delimiting the course. As he did that, the car dug so deep into the loose gravel that he stalled... a couple times... and probably spent 20 seconds on the whole manoeuvre. Because every run counts, it meant his day was pretty much over so it was up to me to take any spots on the podium.

That was a tall order, because our main rival - Mat Janiak was consistently creeping closer and closer to a runtime of 3 minutes flat, while my runs ranged between a 3:03 and a 3:06. We had a quick chat with him about his car - a GD sedan, and it turned out it was essentially the same as ours except it cost him half of what we paid for our wagon. He was beating me at an average of 4 seconds per run on skill, and skill alone. In hindsight, and after carefully reviewing our video footage I can see where I could have gained a couple seconds. But 4 seconds on every run?! I have no idea how he managed it.



Photo by Darin Mayes

Photo by Darin Mayes



At the final driver's meeting, the top three places of each class were called out. I managed to get second place in class, but shockingly Mat's name wasn't announced! We asked him what happened - turned out he touched a barrel on his last run and was given a 1-minute penalty! We couldn't believe it. The rules called for a 1-minute penalty for a complete off-course, or not stopping in the stop box. Touching a barrel should have been given at most the same penalty as knocking over a cone. If not for the penalty, Mat would have taken 1st in our class, with a 9-second lead. A very disappointing call.

But that aside, the first KWRC rallycross was a complete success. Better organized than some grassroots motorsports events that have been running for years, an awesome track, tight competition, and fantastic day of racing. Really wishing there will be more events like it.




6 comments :

  1. Good Write up! And good smooth driving! I had a look at Mat's car and I saw that he had STI pinks suspension. That's a bit of an improvement on my car anyway. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you! I didn’t realize he had STi pinks – at least that gives us something to blame – we’re on stock shocks. :) Still, 4 seconds a run is quite a gap. The man can drive!

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  2. I also had touched a barrel, and thought the 60 sec penalty was a surprise compared to the 5 sec for a cone. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and was disappointed we didn't get a sixth run to back up my 2:58 last lap as I felt there were still a couple seconds to be had on the course.

    Great write up!

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    1. Wow! I didn't notice your 2:58. That's amazing. If this were autoslalom, you'd be first in class with a run like that. Too bad about the barrel.

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  3. It was a great day and the event was run very professionally! I would highly suggest the STI suspension upgrade. JP & I have it and found there is a massive difference in corners, over bumps, etc.

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    1. Thanks Dan! I guess I know what our next upgrade is gonna be... after we patch up the rust on our rear strut towers.

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