oldSTAGER No.99
August/September 2006

 

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Of LSD and TSD

Do you take substances that give you a performance advantage on rallies? Think before you answer…

I expect you answered, no, but the correct answer is probably, yes.

What did you down before your last event? Amphetamines, a Torqbar, beans for your breakfast? Only the first is on the list of prohibited substances, but Torqbars and beans contain ingredients, which will provide energy for your body. In fact, anything that you put into your body may affect your performance positively or negatively, or – if the frequent public reports are to be believed – will also increase or decrease your risk of cancer.

From January 1, 2006 the MSA has adopted the FIA Anti-Doping Protocols, which references the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) list of prohibited substances and methods. The problem is that substances are listed, not specific products, and as many banned athletes will know, the contents of seemingly innocuous medications – including some travel sickness pills – could trigger a positive reading.

According to the list any form of diuretic is illegal, since it is a masking agent; so in theory, drinking a caffeinated cup of coffee before or during an event could get you excluded since caffeine is a mild form of diuretic.

The body is a complicated organism and no one truly knows whether an intake of beans, benzedrine or a brew from Brazil will help you get the calculation right at a crucial regularity speed change.

Does the same apply to taking stuff out of your body?

What's your pre-rally ritual? Apologies for being lavatorial, but above all, I like an empty bladder and bowels. For me, on a technical regularity demanding utmost concentration, there's nothing more distracting than wanting to pee or poo – I like to be regular before regularities. I always try to accomplish these tasks well before MTC1; is that obtaining an unfair advantage?

Would LSD – the hallucinogenic variety not the mechanical – or a hundred push-ups at the start of an event help my performance? I've no idea and I'm not willing to try.

There are many ways to enhance sporting endeavour: mind drugs, physical drugs, gene manipulation, hypnosis, mental conditioning, diet – only a few of which are detectable. In my novel-in-progress, my American protagonist is a sports statistician who is trying to discover why certain uncelebrated sportspersons suddenly achieve world-class performances. An interesting stance by this expert is that he only considers pure human endeavour. To him, anything involving cars and horses is excluded because the bhp of either can distort a competitor’s performance. He makes a concession for TSD (Time, Speed and Distance) rallies on the basis that, TSD equipment aside, the car is immaterial and performance is dictated by driver and navigator abilities …

… which brings me oddly to a gripe about the calibration of distance recording equipment on events. A single measured mile is not particularly useful. It's quite possible that your display could show 1.00 miles, but in reality be on the verge of "clicking" over to 1.01. On a six-mile regularity section at 30 mph that equates to a timing error of six seconds. Make the calibration distance at least six miles and it will reduce the margin of error to an acceptable one second. Guidance must also be given about how the route should be traversed e.g. the course through roundabouts, and keeping to the left side of the road when using twisty wide roads.

If the organisers have measured the calibrated distance inaccurately, it doesn't matter, you will be equally inaccurate, and should therefore be in the same timing universe as them. What is unforgivable is if they have used a different car over parts of the route. This was very apparent on an event I did in France when the kilometreages were perfect for the first couple of days and then about five percent adrift for the next three. The organiser's admission that they had indeed "used a different car, but it was the same for everyone" was no consolation for those less astute competitors who hadn't realised the problem, or had, but didn't compensated for the discrepancy. I know of one HRCR Clubmans event this year that has committed the same mistake.

I'm proposing that the HRCR should introduce standards of how organisers handle mileages on regularities. A good starting point is to look at the SCCA (Sporting Car Club of America) Road Rally Handbook for organising TSD events. Here are a couple of relevant paragraphs:

"Only one vehicle ... shall be used in measuring the road course."

"Each day's road course shall include ... an official odometer calibration run of at least 12 miles ..."

Admittedly, a translation from American practice to English is required, but the detailed handbook would be a good template for a similar UK publication.