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Shades of Monte Carlo on local roads

Published August 17, 2012

Sorry Huey Lewis: the Mini Monte TSD is not a new drug. Nor is it a social disease.

TSD stands for Time, Speed and Distance rallying, which is the least-expensive and least-dangerous form of motorsport you can find. (OK, if your navigator screws up, the least-dangerous thing might not apply.)

TSD rally organizers — essentially, math geeks who love nothing better than to trip you up — plot out a route, and then tell you how long it should take you to travel each part of said route.

The route may be described by verbal instructions, such as “2.5 km, turn right”; by tulip diagrams (little drawings of intersections); by various other means or a combination of all of the above.

You may be given an average speed to maintain for each portion of the route, or the time needed to complete it, or a mixture of the two.

The average speeds you must maintain are always well below the speed limit; there should never be a reason to go very fast on a TSD.

Checkpoints are scattered throughout the route to keep track of how well you’re doing. You’re penalized if you get there late or early.

Some checkpoints are at the end of each stage, so you know where they’ll be. If you have been paying attention, you should know whether to speed up or slow down to avoid penalties for that section.

But other checkpoints are scattered intermittently along the route, usually just over a crest or around a corner where you can’t see them until it’s too late. You’re not allowed to stop within sight of a checkpoint, so it pays to keep as close to the calculated time as possible.

Once you’ve lost points for, say, arriving at a checkpoint two minutes late, you cannot get them back by getting to the next one two minutes early.

The Mini Monte west of Toronto was named after the most famous rally of them all: the Monte Carlo in Europe, which is now a blistering-fast performance rally, conducted on closed roads.

But back in the day, the Monte Carlo was a slightly slower-paced affair, and featured different starting points. Competitors could choose to start in cities such as London, Moscow or Helsinki (these varied from year to year). The various routes eventually converged, with everyone sharing the final bits through France.

Your chances of victory depended to a large extent on the weather gods, since each route might have totally different conditions.

The Mini Monte honoured this tradition, with starting points in Kitchener, Bolton and Georgetown. All three routes met just south of Guelph for the final leg into Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area near Ayr, south of Cambridge.

The Mini Monte was organized by three rally clubs: the Kitchener-Waterloo Rally Club, the Maple Leaf Rally Club, and the SPDA (Subaru Performance Drivers Association, now just known by its acronym). Each club started in its own neighbourhood.

If you guessed that TSD rallying is primarily a navigator thing as opposed to a driver thing, you’d be correct, although successful teams who do this a lot develop a sixth sense between driver and navigator, and perform accordingly.

When Targa Newfoundland veteran (and neighbour) Alan Ryall asked if I’d like to participate in the event, I said, “Sure, why not?”

Since the last one of these I did was in university, I figured I’d take the easy side of the car and drive. Ryall assigned retired high school teacher/principal, veteran rallier and former rally school instructor Paul Henshall to be my navigator.

Without him, we wouldn’t have had a clue.

I had a nice new Chrysler 300S for testing that weekend, and although the loan agreement explicitly states, “No competition events,” I figured something like this wasn’t really a competition. It’s just a nice, leisurely drive in the country.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Rally stories are usually better if you win or do something truly stupid. Suffice it to say, we did neither.

The stupidest thing we did was misplace the transponder for the car’s ignition. I was envisioning a CAA Plus flat-bed ride back home until former Star columnist Lorraine Sommerfeld found it (yes, in the map pocket on the driver’s door, exactly where I had put it!)

We did finish second among the Georgetown starting group, with 4.0 penalty points, to Chris Weigel and Yevgeniy Gospodinov, a veteran crew whose 0.6 points was the best score overall.

Our score was tied for fourth-best overall. If I do this well in Targa Newfoundland next month, we’ll be delighted.

Also paying homage to the original Monte Carlo was the hugely varied weather — it was lovely when we started in Georgetown but the barbecue picnic after the event was hit by a torrential thunder and lightning storm.

Thirty-one teams entered this year. If you want to join us next year, go to montecarlorally.ca for the details.

If you just can’t wait that long, the website also has links to the individual rally clubs. There’s a TSD going on almost every weekend somewhere in southern Ontario.

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