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Riverbank Blogs

Jeff & Yavor, Trillium Rally 1975. Photo by Jerry Dowell

Jeff & Yavor in their Datsun 510 running the narrow trails of Durham Forest on the 1975 Trillium Rally.

Late Entry Fees - WUWT? - October 2013

Years ago, when I first started writing business letters, the phrase "..please find enclosed..." was a very common way to alert the reader that there is something more in addition to the letter itself. This, together with the sign-off " ....please contact the undersigned..." were phrases used only in letters; no normal person would speak that way in the course of everyday conversation. I thought about it and decided that there really is no reason to use these phrases. I began using "enclosed is" and "please contact me" and these have served me well. The point is that just because everybody else is doing something, it does not mean that it right or that it should not be questioned.

Well, it's high time that we, as competitors, question the organizers about the necessity of their two-tier entry fees. We are already getting hammered with all kinds of innovative user-pay add-ons like shakedown fee, service- trailer length fee and extra banquet tickets of questionable value fee. Charging early and late entry fees is a complication invented long ago by some overeager organizer, rubbing his hands together and hoping to further empty the competitor's pocket and enhance the club's treasury. Typically, the early entries close two weeks before the event and a higher fee is charged after the early closing date. The amounts charged are evidently arbitrary: The Baie $300, Defi $200, Pacific Forest $150, Tall Pines $100 and Rocky a whopping $375! Let's look at the practice of early & late fee structure a little more closely.

As a part of Supplementary Regulations, every event must, according to CARS GCR 4.9, refund the full entry fee to any team that withdraws 2 days before the start. This makes it possible for everyone to avoid the late fee. If a team is unsure of whether they will make the rally, they will simply register by the early deadline anyway. If they are unable to compete, they withdraw 2 days before the start and receive a full refund. This makes the late entry fee structure pointless and any competitors that would skip early registration and pay the RMR an extra $375 would need to have their heads examined. Collecting from such folks would be, in my opinion, unethical. So, it appears that the early/late fee structure brings no extra money to the organizers. They may argue that it's beneficial to know two weeks early how many teams will compete and this may be so. Still, they will not know how many teams will cancel just prior to the event. In the end, the final number of starters is only known at the start and there is little likelihood of a late fee bonanza. Late entry fees are an example of a pointless practice by rally organizers who have just been cutting and pasting rules from previous years. It's time to simplify registration, save ink and do away with two-tier entry fees.


When in Doubt, Make Up Some Rules - The 2WD Dilemma - July 2013

I am encouraged by the recent CARS Bulletin 2013-10 regarding Large Displacement Rule Changes. I am generally in favour of the 4WD and 2WD class arrangement CARS is adopting. The initial attempts by CARS at solving the "Group5 Problem" were seriously flawed. It's good to see that Martin Burnley and the CARS Board is revisiting this issue and that common sense is making a comeback, at last! Harvey/Zitkus 5.9L V8 Ramcharger, 1975 Canadian Winter Rally. [Photo by Rob Tanner] Photo at left is the Harvey/Zitkus 5.9L Dodge Ramcharger V8 from the Canadian Winter Rally of many years ago. Who would not like to see a vehicle like this on a current CRC event? Yet, under the existing and proposed rules, a this vehicle would be excluded. Why? Would STis and EVOs be in any way threatened? Maybe, but only by the break in the monotony of the Subabishi parade.

Larger displacement engines were seldom a threat to take over rallying. In the early 70's leading up to the Canada's first WRC event in 1974, small imported sedans ruled rallying. This was in spite of the fact that the pony-car era was in full swing. Large displacement Camaros, Dusters and Challengers were not excluded from competition by the rule book - they just had a tough time against Perusse/Bellefleur Fiat 128 or Boyce/Woods Corolla. Today, the situation is not much different. In 2WD, large displacement does not guarantee a performance advantage. Looking at the first two CRC events of the new 2013 2WD class, the sole Group5 car is competitive but not a runaway winner. That is exactly how it should be.

I do not see justification (yet) for the newest proposed displacement and weight restrictions. What is magical about 3200cc and a weight >2700lbs? Is someone in a 3500cc 2WD car weighing 2200 lbs hoping to outrun Simon Dube on the Perce Neige? And, if they want to try, why do we need rules that will prevent them from doing so? Furthermore, why have both displacement AND weight restrictions? A weight restriction should be enough but only when it is proven to be necessary.

It is clear that no-one is sure just what the issues are in the 2wO. Group5 competitors don't want to be excluded; Group2 remnants fear that including Group5 will put them at a disadvantage; some favour a wide-open playing field; sport administrators try too hard and dream up bizzare solutions like the 5-cylinder limit. There are those who will analyze past 2WD performances and back-up their theories with statistics. More than few will (rightfully) argue that 2WD cars are traction limiting at some point approaching 200hp, depending on road surface. In the end, we really are not sure what to do. So, before we equip our scrutineers with weigh-scales, lets not rush into rule-making because we're expected to do so.

My vote for 2wO is no restrictions - no displacement limits and no weight limits; no exclusions, everybody's welcome - 2wd is OPEN for business. Lets see what happens and then act accordingly if there is justification. Trying to anticipate problems and implement solutions before the issues are clear is not the best way forward.


Chef Riverbank - March, 2013

In 2000, my daughter had a summer job at the NRC Wind Tunnel in Ottawa. At that time the facility was used extensively by NASCAR. Jeff Burton's, Dale Earnhart's and Jeff Gordon's teams were just some of the regular customers. The teams would arrive with their immaculate rigs, unload the cars and set up shop. The level of professionalism in NASCAR is amazing and rivals anything found in F1 or IndyCar. In addition to the technical staff and engineers that took part in the testing, each team had chefs preparing meals for the crew. Cooking was serious business for these southern folks. One of the first orders of business after arrival was to go to the food market and get fresh ingredients for the kitchens.

Over the last decade we have seen a rapid rise in professionalism in Canadian Rally Championship. Transporters, tents and hospitality amenities are on the increase. Crews are getting bigger. Event planning and logistics are getting more complicated. As Napoleon said, an army marches on its stomach and so does a rally team. Preparing service park meals is every bit as important as fixing an exhaust or changing shocks. Here's a recipe for one of Riverbank Rally favourite sides:

Cabbage Salad

Cabbage Salad This salad can be a great addition to any rally weekend. It can be prepared ahead of time and stored in a cooler for a few days. It is simple to prepare and uses no artificial ingredients. It does not have that raw, watery-sweet cole-slaw taste of many commercially prepared cabbage salads. You can use a green or red cabbage.

(1) - Green or red cabbage head, fresh
(3) - Tbs salt
(2) - Tbs olive oil
(3) - Tbs white vinegar
(1) - Tsp sugar
( ) - Ground black pepper, to taste

Cut off bottom stalk of cabbage and remove any loose leaves.

Cut head vertically into four quadrants and trim-off the solid stem wedge at the bottom.

Slice cabbage into very thin strips. This is best done with a mandolin. If you do not have a mandolin, you can use a knife. Do not "shred" the cabbage in a food processor. The cuts should be as thin and stringy as possible.

Place cut cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle salt throughout. Now, using your hands, work the salt into the cabbage by mixing and running the cabbage through your fingers. The mixture will quickly become increasingly wet as the salt pulls the water from the cabbage. Keep working the mixture and squeezing the water out of the cabbage for about five minutes or until the water almost covers the cabbage when it is packed into the bottom of the bowl. Set aside for a few hours.

Take a handful of cabbage out of the bowl and using your hands, squeeze as much water out of the cabbage as possible. This is best done over the sink by the strongest person in the house. The procedure is like tennis-ball therapy using both hands and squeezing as hard as you can. A great deal of water will come out of each handful and you'll end up with several dry lumps of caggabe. Salt that was added during mixing will dissolve and drain away with the water. Just enough salt will remain for flavour.

Place the cabbage lumps in a bowl and pull each lump apart gently with fingers to expose the stringy fines. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste. If you like pepper, go for it! Add olive oil, vinegar and sugar. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Taste. The salad should be tangy and crispy. If too sour, add a bit of sugar. If too sweet, add a bit of vinegar.

Serve as a side with meals or as a topping for burgers and sandwiches. Das Schmecht!


2WD Canadian Rally Championship - February, 2013

In 1996, the Australian round of the WRC featured the huge controversy at the Bunnings Stage. In my mind, this incident clearly shows how organizers can make mistakes. In the typical understated Finnish way, Makinen called it a "small mistake". The truth is that it was a disaster. How can you bring rally cars from all over the world to your event and then have them drown in a river? Rally cars don't float! Carlos Sainz was rightfully livid to have to retire as a result of having his engine submerged and sucking water. What did this bonehead organizing decision prove?

Fast forward 15+ years and we have Kitigan Zibi. CARS is trying to raise the profile of 2WD and we now have the 2WD Canadian Rally Championship. So far so good. Then, they ask for these 2WD cars to climb hills suitable only 4WD cars. Even in the recce documentation, the organizer knows better and suggests that only 4WD vehicles take part. So, what's the point and what is CARS trying to prove? Out of seven 2WD cars in the rally, only one, Simon Dube, who is in a class by himself, appears to have made it trouble-free. All the rest had issues and lost time. Two got disqualified as a result.

No Hills Too Steep Two wheel drive cars pay the same entry fee and have comprable costs for gas, lodging, food, time-off-work, etc. as 4WD cars. Yet, their event is compromised by unsuitable selection of roads by the organizers - a selection approved by CARS. Jeff Dowell makes a valid point "If all the cars in this rally were two-wheel-drive, we wouldn't have a rally". There is something very wrong with this picture. No organizer would put up a 30 ft high vertical wall and expect 4WD cars to go over it. Yet, they continue to offer Kitigan Zibi's steep, ice-covered hills to the 2WD competitors which is pretty much the same thing. It is especially troubling that apparently little was learned from a similar jam on the 2011 Perce Neige. Maybe Hartl, Walter and Deschenes aren't going to complain because they weren't disqualified. But there are Lancer and BMW teams who were robbed of a finish by poor organizing decisions, plain and simple. Thousands of dollars spent for SFA. If you don't get my point, keep watching the video link above.

Now, a critique that points out a problem without offering a solution is a useless rant. First I would like to say that I greatly value and appreciate the effort and dedication on behalf of all these involved in putting on an event. In no way are my comments directed at any one individual and I'm sure that everyone involved had only the best intentions. Still, we do have a serious problem. I think we can have a resolution satisfactory to all. Here are a few ideas;

1. We don't run stages like KZ from now on.
I think this would be drastic and would take away a classic challenge for the 4WD competitor. For fairness, it just may be the only solution. Besides, PN organizers have Tortue which is saying a lot!

2. Let 2wd cars run studs.
This would be interesting. 2WD would be more competitive overall. The downside is the extra cost of studded tires for 2WD competitors. Since the motivation for 2WD is lower cost, this sends out the wrong message.

3. Have 2WD cars skip KZ.
Since we have two separate championships anyway, there are no scoring issues. For overall rally classification, give the 2WD cars the time of the slowest 4WD car for the KZ stage as is already the established practice in certain circumstances. Problem is overall mileage. Skipping KZ means 32K less every time. Maybe 2WD runs Tortue instead.

4. Ensure that steep hills are properly sanded.
KZ in 2013 was not well sanded and it cost two 2WD teams the rally. If it is a question of resources, as is often the case, then thorough sanding must take precedence over other non-essential features like shakedown.

Let's fix this.


Why Rallying Matters - August, 2010

Let's consider life skills, a popular topic which returns 30+ million listings on Google. Definitions vary but most seem to be centered on coping with the demands and challenges of everyday life. One essential life skill is driving. Most people spend a great deal of time driving and their performance behind the wheel can most definitely be linked to the quality of life they experience. Poor driving leads to all kinds of problems, physiological, psychological and monetary. Still, poor driving is on the increase.

Driving schools are not helping and the problems are most severe in big cities like Toronto, as one might expect. The schools no longer offer real and useful instruction but simply provide a means to pass a driving test. To avoid city driving demands, road tests are carefully scheduled at remote, out-of-town locations to ensure passing. Governments and municipalities are addressing the problem by further reducing speed limits and by implementing draconian laws like the one in Ontario which equates speeding with racing and allows police to confiscate vehicles without the due legal process. The response of automobile manufacturers and regulators is to give us "smarter" cars which will save us from ourselves. ABS, multi-wheel traction control, active suspensions, crash avoidance, DRLs, multiple airbags and various types of similar systems are meant to reduce the common denominator and dumb down driving for the good of all. If you don't believe this, try to buy an SUV of any make with a standard transmission! (OK, there's only one on the market...)

So, what's the best way for a young person to acquire the life-skills of driving? Take up rallying! Rallying teaches real-world driving skills better than any driving school; pavement, gravel, snow or ice; rain, shine, daytime or at night; all conditions, anytime! What's more important, rallying teaches respect which can be a tough lesson to learn; respect the road, the conditions and the speed. It forces the driver to know his place in what's going on around him. Speed limits are not a solution. On a certain icy stretch of road I travel in winter, driving at the posted speed limit of 60 kph downhill would be most foolish resulting in serious consequences. It's rallying that has taught me to slow down. Rallying has also taught me that when driving in the opposite direction, uphill, I must enter the stretch well above the posted 60 kph if I am going to make it to the top. Rallying teaches to both expect and avoid surprises. Automated systems keep the driver unaware which is never a good thing. A few years ago, I rented a Volvo V40 turbo, a pleasant car with a very nice Mitsubishi engine. As I drove around a very icy jobsite in Alberta the car became completely unresponsive and undriveable. What was happening was that I was instinctively looking for the limit of adhesion to determine just how icy it was by gently trying to initiate wheelspin; the car's traction control would not let me find out and would disable the accelerator! This got to the point that the only way the car could be steered was while it was stopped. So much for traction control. Rallying teaches that the best information is sometimes gathered from the seat of your pants.

Rallying also provides a basis for understanding safety, performance and reliability. All of these are important things for drivers to know. To paraphrase William Blake, "You will never know how bad your lights are until you've driven with rally lights! " For "lights" substitute, "suspension", "seats", "tires", "safety belts"... Finally, taking up rallying will put a North American driver into that very small group that drives a standard transmission; a real money saver when renting a car in Europe.