oldSTAGER No.110
June/July 2008

 

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West Essex Car Club


On The Button

Having suffered ragged regularity times recently I sought ways of shaving a second or two off my penalties. One aspect which I concentrated on was stopping/re-starting my watch at the “exact time” at a timing point. The exact time is when the marshal stops his own watch because that will be the time transferred from the watch to your time card. In the multitude of admin on a regularity event I often used a time-saving mode of triggering my watch as the car stopped rather than watching the marshal’s click, believing the two would be the same.

On my test event I found the button-pushing observation difficult. Sometimes the watch marshal was hidden behind another marshal; other marshals cloaked the watch so that the exact press couldn’t be seen. On a cold day, a few timekeepers preferred the comfort of their car. Yet “exposed” marshals were inconsistent. Button pushing ranged from sighting the car to when the marshal leaned in the window; these two extremes leading to an unexpected delay or premature pinging of my own watch.

Am I being overly fussy about this? I don’t think so; after all a regularity rally is about precise timing and seconds matter – or even 0.1 seconds if you do mad things like WRC events. So, a plea to organisers: please update your timekeeping marshals’ instructions to emphasise open and consistent button pushing.

* * *

The Essex 100 was probably the most satisfying event I’d ever run. Being a 12-car rally it didn’t have the administration burden of a “full” event, and that was a big attraction. But the greatest buzz came from the enthusiasm and gratitude of the newbie competitors.

On last year’s Cloverleaf I received just one post-event thank-you e-mail; on the “100” I received nine. Organisers devote their leisure time without financial reward, so receiving thanks for their efforts is the ultimate motivation to do it again. As a result of my experience I made a point of emailing the organisers of the next two rallies I did. I thanked them for the day and added comments about aspects that I liked and disliked. The exercise made me feel good and by the response from the recipients they appreciated the feedback. Give it a try.

* * *

I only found out recently that the official photographer on last year’s Cloverleaf made very few sales, and was thus not keen to be out this year. I was disappointed until I realised the business model for a photographer must be a precarious one.

I can’t remember the last time I bought a rally photograph, though I doubt it would average more than one for every dozen events. Given that a driver may be more inclined to buy a photo of his car, I’d still question the economics for a commercial photographer on a club based event.

I do, however, like to have a basic (digital) photographic record of an event. What I usually do is scan the contact sheet and make do with one of the grainy mini-pics. That suffices for the ultimate purpose of a picture to headline the web page I’ll create of the event for my rally archives. A key cost of a paper photograph is the printing and postage, but how many people bother with a physical version in these days of computerised albums and digital display frames?

On this year’s Cloverleaf we will try to be photographically self-sufficient by asking marshals and officials to snap freely with their digital cameras, and then we’ll create a web gallery of their efforts. If a competitor wants a digital photo we’ll e-mail a copy for a modest fee which can be paid to the photographer or better: donated to the rally’s charity.

* * *

For Clerk-of-the-Course reasons I have to recommended the Tour Britannia (Regularity category) to you. I did this last year and reported the event in oldSTAGER 106.

The format is unusual: lap consistency tests at race circuits; public road regularities and regularities on special stage courses.

This last category was odd since the distance, target time and speed were pre-announced so the trivial objective was to rush to the (stage flying) finish line, wait for the exact time and then nudge across the timing beam - not exactly demanding competition. This year there will be a separate and secret timing beam for the regularitists, which will firmly place the onus on the crew to travel throughout at regularity speeds.

The road regularities will be longer and more challenging too, and the lap timing on the circuits will be more controllable with an obvious timing point.

This unique event starting on September 2 should be a candidate for your big rally of the year.