Big Horn Rally
by Claire Chizma
May 22-23, 1999 - Hinton, Alberta

This is not the press release but the story from fresh memory. Official Hairpin Press Release should follow within a few days.

The Big Horn Rally took place near Hinton, Alberta, Canada this past weekend. I flew up to the Edmonton airport, on Friday, and rented a car to drive the 300 km to Hinton. The remainder of the team had begun their driving journey from Portland, Oregon on Thursday. We pulled into the parking lot of the Hotel at the same time from opposite directions. So far, so good. Registration would not take place until the following day so we went to dinner and relaxed.

Registration went well. Scrutineering went well. Route books were not ready so they would be delivering them to my room at the hotel between 7:00 and 8:00pm. The people were so nice and had a warm welcome for our team. Lee and I spent the afternoon acclimatizing ourselves to the adjustment from miles to kilometer readings on the computer. We helped the car reset it's brain to function better at the higher altitude. Then we went and took this years team photo. Hinton is located at the base of the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. The mountains are still snowcapped and the view of the surrounding area was magnificent. Our team photo should turn out very well despite the windy conditions.

When we went to dinner that night, Lee began suffering from something undiagnosable. He was not feeling well at all. Tamara contacted his physician in Portland by telephone and he said he felt like it was a case of altitude sickness. (Lee grew up at sea level and has always lived at sea level.) He gave Tamara some tips on helping Lee get adjusted and he then was able to get a good nights rest.

Our route books were not ready for delivery that night. I received a phone call, from Dave Sharp, at 9:30 stating that they would be available for pick up the following morning at 6am. So, I went to bed. It is impossible to sleep without a route book in a strange place with different rules and regulations. I tossed and turned and finally went down to the registrars room at 5:45am to wait for 6:00am. They gave us our route books at 6:15. There were changes to about 10% of it that we did from postings by hand. The service crew instructions were very involved and needed some hefty navigation done also. I also had to convert all of their instructions back to miles as the truck reads that way. 6:45am I called Bob our service crew guy and gave the service instructions to him. I usually prepare their packet and brief them on what I want done. There simply was not time.

At 7:00am they were holding a seed 5&6 meeting. I thought it best that I go for anything that I may have missed in the translation of their rule book. I was still prepping my route book through that meeting and the 7:30 drivers meeting. I wrapped up my prep on it at the charity breakfast which was held to benefit the Children of Chernobyl.

Cars out at 9:01. We were 6th on the road. Acclimatizing ourselves to this way of rallying was more than I thought. The roads felt like dirt freeways. They were not technical. Lee had to get used to drifting the car around sweeping turns at 90 km. It was scary. They actually had to put chicanes in the roads with pool noodles (Don't ask) to slow us down. There is a rule that if you average over 120, the stage is thrown. It took us three stages to really get a feel for the roads. The route book was ill prepared (my humble opinion) and I had little trust in it. Just when I would feel good about it, some oddity would arise. It was clear that technicality was not an issue, I was going to need to use it only as a guide and read the road along with Lee.

First service was 10 minutes and had an MTC in. We declared a time and gave the car a quick once-over. Then out. Where was the MTC out? I had Lee stop and ask C.A.R.S President Mr. Epp where it was and he pointed up the hill. Up the hill we go. It is our minute. I hop out of the car with my timecard, run up the line and declare my time to the MTC official who then hands me my time card back and we are off to another stage. It was a turn around stage. At the top, Trish Mcgeer asked to look at my time card and shows me that I just checked into an ATC on my MTC minute. I could not get my mind cleared. I felt like a beginner Codriver and it really was not a fun feeling. The penalty that I had just accrued was ten minutes per the C.A.R.S. rule book.

At the next service I asked for a triplicate form for an official inquiry and several hours later one was made available. I inquired as to the rule stating the MTC out signage rules and won. They were waiving my ten minute penalty. All was well.

We did not press ourselves on stage times. We took a comfortable quick pace and set the goal to finish the event.

After our last service break with three stages to go for the event..........We were transiting and all was well until........"Lee, stop the car." There was not a tulip to describe the Y in the road. We guessed a left. We progressed up that road for 2 km until I said "Lee, turn around" Lee then turned the car around and almost got us stuck in some deep mud in doing so. We back tracked the 2 km and turned back around to face the Y in the road. As we sat there contemplating the situation, Dave Sharp in his RX7 goes flying by~to the left. I felt great comfort in following him as he was co-organizer of the event (he had mid event handed over his duties to be a competitor). I said "Sorry Lee. I feel better being safe than sorry". Then we flew behind Dave because we were now short on time. 9 km later the RX7 stopped and flipped around to tell us that we should have hit pavement by now. I knew that but, did not trust the route book at all by that point. It was our minute to check in and we were lost. They told us to go ahead of them and so we turned around to backtrack the 9 km to take a right onto the Y. 4 km up that road we see a bear. "Bear right! No! Bear left!" That was my clue that this was not the right road either. SO! Back around we go and retrace ourselves to the only place that we were absolutely sure was wrong in the route book. It was a "stay straight" tulip that didn't feel right to me. We turned back around to look at it from the right angle and to admire tire tracks. At that point Dave goes flying in front of us making a left. Our right. We follow him. Again. 3 km down that road a rally steward finds us and tells us that the transit will be waived as the route book was wrong. Six teams had gotten lost. We had turned the transit into 80 km. We were now low on fuel.

Life was not so good at that moment. It was a turn around stage and everyone was at the top waiting for us. The stage was some 18 km long. (I am writing this from memory) At the 12 km mark we blew a flat. It deteriorated within 1 km and we had no choice but to change it. We wasted so much time. The tire change took us over 4 minutes and usually takes around 3 minutes. There was also a packed amount of mud in the back brakes from our transit nightmare. We made it to the top, they wasted no time in getting everyone out again and off we went.

We finished out first Canadian event. There were no awards held that night as so many inquiries were being made. Time addition errors were the main topic and we just laid low as nothing that we could protest would make that much difference for our team anyway. I could have been instrumental in having one team DQ'd for being towed into an MTC but, didn't have the heart nor the drive to do it. Our placing would have then moved up by one. We felt good about just finishing without the efforts of search and rescue.>grin<

Did I say the people were great? The Subaru Sponsorship that they have is extraordinary. Hats, shirts, cars for workers, the works. Subaru rep's galore. It was the best part of the race. Really.

Off to Calgary this next weekend where I think Hairpin Racing Team will be doing much better.

Rally Racing NewsStand
RRN Index