Last words on the Monte Shelton Rally, and other things…

I like this photo

I’ve been REALLY busy at work the past week and a half, so please accept my apologies for the lack of updates here on the website. You can follow those links and see what has been going on, and to be honest, what you see there is merely the tip of the iceberg in many ways. For one, those articles only capture the actual work of preparing the access and moving the units, but don’t begin to describe the gyrations that went on behind the scenes with engineers, technicians, the property management folks, etc. All for moving some equipment… you would have thought we were building The Pyramids or something! For the other this is the start of a very large project. We’re expanding our capabilities by a factor of 2X… the largest such jump we’ve taken since 2001. I’m ultimately responsible for the largest project, and associated budget, that this organization has ever dealt with. That said, I’m very confident we will succeed because I have an excellent staff, who know what they are doing.

But I digress…

Today I FINALLY exported all my photos from the rally and uploaded them to my server, so now you can sit back and view them all. I usually do this before, and then use HTML links to reference them in my posts, but somehow this time I did it backwards. Want to see them? Here they are!

I hope to get the 65E’s toe-in checked, now that I’ve fixed that loose inner tie-rod end (I also have new gaiters, which arrived today from Terry’s Jaguar) early next week, because the week after next…

I’ll be driving out to Montana to run in the Going To The Sun Rally once again. My dad can’t make it this year (one of the reasons why we did these two short rallys this summer) so my friend an co-presenter at so many Macworld Expo conference sessions, Shaun Redmond will be flying up from Canada* to join me. I’m really looking forward to it and hope to surpise and delight my regular readers with some interesting stuff in conjunction with the event. Stay tuned!

* Yes, “flying UP from Canada” is correct in this context as Shaun lives in Ontario, and due to a geographic irony, is quite a ways SOUTH in relation to my location in Washington. I’ve always been a geography buff and love pointing out stuff like this. 🙂

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, Wrap Up.

Above: The view from our room’s balcony the morning after the rally completed. Rain. 🙁

They had cold beer waiting at the hotel. After we pulled into the grass and stumbled toward the room (a steep stair climb up the cliff) we stopped for a beer midway. It was nice. Even my dad, who does not drink beer that often, had one.

At dinner we heard the outcome of the TSD segment crash. It was that gorgeous Lancia Aurelia GT:

It slid off the road, into a ditch, and rolled. I do not know what the cause was, nor the final condition of the car. I do know that both driver and navigator came out essentially unharmed. They both attended dinner and the awards brunch the following day. The rallyists awarded the Lancia the “Participant’s Choice” award. The owner got a lot of hugs and sympathy.

At the brunch we listened as they read the results from bottom to top. I fully expected to be right in the middle of the pack. To my surprise the middle came and went, and our name had not been called. We were NOT that close to the top though. In the end we captured 18th Place. Not bad for a VERY competitive rally with 56 entries. We racked up 563 penalty points, 376 on the first day and 187 on the second. It is obvious that my Navigator, Charles Goolsbee did indeed improve dramatically over the course the rally. I can take NO CREDIT whatsoever. I am just the Driver. I do what the Navigator tells me to. 😉

The 1st place car had 186 points, and 2nd & 3rd had 232 & 233 respectively. Twenty one cars had over 1000 points and the last place car had 5400. This was a very tough rally.

Above: The tired rallyists leave on a soggy morning.

We left the Oregon Coast at mid day and toughed out bad traffic, and rain (a low pressure system moved through for ONE day, grrr) all the way home. We even had to get off I-5 at one point midway between Portland and Olympia and take back roads up to Tacoma to avoid stop-and-go traffic… miserable in the rain in the Jaguar with the top up. I dropped off Dad at my little sister’s house in Seattle, and he and mom drove home to Colorado the next day. I brought the Jaguar home and put it back up on the lift. Next weekend I’ll tackle that inner tie rod end.

Thanks for coming along, I hope the story and photos captured the essense of the event for you.


Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, Day Two.

Final TSD segment start

If you look at a map of North America or spin your globe to the right from your usual locations of focus and observe our west coast you will note that there is a VAST expanse of water right next to it that literally covers the majority of this big blue planet of ours. In fact I’d wager that it is responsible for the perception of it being blue. We call it, in what can only be ironically amusing to meteorologists, surfers, and the rugged humans who make their living on it, the Pacific Ocean. It is ANYTHING but pacific in its nature. It is a violent, thrashing, deep and cold thing that harbors and takes life in equal measure. While it may be warm and inviting in the middle, it can be cold, distant, and stand-offish around the extreme perimeter. Try dipping your toe into it here in the Pacific Northwest and you will lose all feeling in that toe pretty damn quick. Immerse your self in it and it will kill you even quicker. As malevolent as it seems to be, it also bestows upon this region a generous gift of mild weather… it moderates the natural heat of the continental land mass with cool moist air, which flows in a continuous stream over our region and keeps it within an ideal Goldilocks status… not too cold, not too hot. Now it may be too wet for some, but if you check the relative humidity of say anywhere east of the Mississippi River and that of the pacific Northwest, you will note that we’re quite comfy over here… we just get our sunshine in smaller doses – that is between the clouds. We call them “sun breaks” here. October through May you can bank on a steady drizzle and moderate temps. May through July is on-again, off-again rain and sunshine. July through September is usually a continuous parade of picture postcard blue skies and temps/humidity equivalent to what most HVAC Engineers consider “ideal” for human habitation. An occasional low pressure system moves through to remind us what rain is like, but overall summers here are pleasant beyond description. No sweltering heat, no high humidity… just cool breezes and sunshine. EXCEPT the area right next to the ocean. Right at that edge lies an area subject to fog that will chill you to the bone. The stuff that comes in at night and makes Adrienne Barbeau tell ghost stories on the local radio station.

Continue reading “Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, Day Two.”

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, Day One.

We arrive at Monte Shelton Motors for the start of the rally, and are lined up and park according to car number. They are serving breakfast and people are milling about socializing. As I am not really that gregarious a guy, at least not early in the morning, I wander off and photograph cars…

Above: A British Racing Green Jaguar E-type reflected in the deep black paint of a Porsche 356.

Above: Wow… a drop-dead gorgeous black E-type Fixed Head Coupe.

Above: A 1954 Lancia Aurelia GT

Above: I’ve loved those Porsche “flower power” wheels since I was a kid.

Above: Two detail views of a very nice silver 300sl Coupe.

Above: There were two white cars at this rally which will be stars of a future “guess this car” feature here on this website. This is one of them. 😉

I’ve shot all the pics I’ve wanted, and munched my bagel… must be time to go!

The mythical “Car Zero” leaves at 08:00 PDT with Car One thirty seconds later.

We’re Car #51, so we’re parked on the left side of the start line. The low-number cars are parked in a straight line down the middle of the street, with the higher number cars parked back to front… we’ll have an orderly start! The big plus for me is that I’ll get to watch virtually every car leave before I have to drive. Dad is sitting in the car, calculator and route book in hand, performing the calculations for the upcoming TSD sections. We have a Transit stage to get us out of town, but he wants every available second to prepare as far ahead as he can. I just shoot cars as they start the event. We’re leaving at 30 second intervals JUST for this transit to get us out of the urban core of Portland; after this we’ll leave at full minute intervals.

The charity for this event is the March of Dimes, and two little girls who were the recipient of that charity are on hand to wave the cars off with a green flag.

Above: The big green Series 3 E-type starts.

Everyone roars off, and I’m in a prime position to hear all the wonderful road music. Two V12s, a smattering of American and one Italian V8, many big-bore straight sixes, and many many sub-two-liter inline 4s.

The mass of the pack has left and our turn to start arrives… I think. The cars have a single sticker, on the passenger side, indicating their car number. After I climbed in to the driver’s seat I haven’t really been paying attention to car numbers, and of course now I can’t see any of them! Thankfully my navigator tells me when it is our turn to go. 😉

We roar off as the little girls wave their flag and … immediately get lost! My navigator, though aware enough of our order of start, is so wrapped up in his calculations for upcoming sections that he forgets that he has to navigate RIGHT NOW. Of course, every rallymaster has their quirks and Dad is just trying to figure out this one. They use odd shorthand in their directions, so dad has to refer to a glossary in the route book. We narrowly miss making a wrong turn but somehow manage to find our way out of town and to the big Fred Meyer parking lot somewhere south of Portland that serves as the actual starting point. The next segment is a “Monte Carlo” style segment, but without ANY traps… supposedly. We have a long wait, so I decide to amble into the Fred Meyer and buy some Castrol as I’m out and the car is a quart low. (yes Paul, I know all about the “fill to the bottom of the cross-hatch marks trick on an XK engine!)

After the oil is topped up I shoot some photos, eat grapes (provided in the rally goody bag, which I’ve compressed behind the driver’s seat!), and generally stay away from my stressed navigator doing all the hard work. Looking around the parking lot it was easy to see who are drivers and who are the navigators… at least the serious navigators. The drivers are the smiling, relaxed people… the navigators are the ones stressed out and looking hopeless. Soon enough everyone will share the stress and hopelessness, but for now the divide was pretty obvious.

Rather than paste a zillion photos, I made a single montage.

Our start time arrives and we fall into our excellent father/son rally groove. The Odo is zeroed and we flawlessly navigate and drive the first section. We even manage to avoid the Off Course penalty about one-third of the way in on a particularly tricky bit of navigation. We finish the segment and start the next, the first real TSD. We feel very confident in our execution, and looking now at the score sheet several days later our confidence was justified. We accumulated 5 seconds of penalty at the first checkpoint, 5 on the next and 19 on the last of that segment. We didn’t know that at the time though. The next two segments go well too. But in hindsight our speedometer & odometer are off as our penalties climb sharply as the segments go longer. Virtually every segment starts with low single-digit times and finishes with double-digit ones. Our route follows little Forest Service roads through the hills and some segments are VERY long, but at slow speeds (27mph or 30 mph) even when the posted limits are much higher. It makes it tough going for me, with my naturally heavy right foot, but Dad keeps me in check by providing mileage checks every 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending upon the speed. It is hard to describe but he figures out how far we SHOULD be at a particular time and provides me with verbal warning via a count-down. I manage the car’s speed close to the average and time it so that I arrive at a particular odometer reading when he gives me my mark. Unlike the
east coast Vintage Rallies we’ve attended where all the segments are done ‘Monte Carlo’ style; that is where you run as quick as you can through the course directions to a ‘stand off area’ then calculate the remaining time speed distance problem, here you have to match the pace car throughout the entire segment. Checkpoints can appear at any point along the course and are hidden. You don’t know where they are until you see them and in many cases, you never do see them!

You never really know how well you are doing. All you can do is calculate, drive and hope you are close. I really enjoy having my dad along, as he tackles the navigation duties with aplomb. When we’ve done long distance tours or Monte Carlo TSD’s in the past we have swapped driver/navigator duties on a per-segment basis, but this sort of rally really requires a dedicated navigator as it is a multi-piece puzzle requiring a LOT of problem solving. If we switched we’d probably do very poorly as we’d just compound our mistakes and not benefit from the experiences as swiftly as sticking to defined roles throughout the event.

We enjoy a great lunch at a park, followed by two transit stages. In the morning I noted the brake warning light flickering when the car was pointed down steep inclines so I suspect that I was a tad low on brake fluid. I dash into Tillamook at lunch and grab a small bottle of brake fluid and top up the reservoir … which was not really that low, but better safe than sorry. Lunch finished we carry on with the transits. Transit stages are usually just mindless wanderings through urban areas where TSD stages would be wildly impractical due to traffic lights, congestion, etc. Monte Carlos work in such areas, but TSD’s do not. I have never been on a rally that has traps of ANY sort of transit stages.. in fact I have frequently used them in the past to run errands like getting parts, filling up on gas, etc. We were just finding our way along on the first of these two transits when out from behind a pickup truck jumps a course worker with an “Off Course” sign and assess us a 60 second penalty! I’m really pissed off as this is a TRANSIT STAGE, not a TSD one. As Dad would say, this is a real chickenshit thing to do. Dad re-reads the rules and sure enough, this rally insists you stay on course even during transits.

I’ve run rallies before where the top ten finishers are separated by a few penalty points, and everything I’ve read about this event says it is intensely competitive. Whatever hope we had of winning is now gone. I’m outraged, but really not enough to lodge a formal protest as the Rallymaster need only point to their rules.

But still… a trap on a TRANSIT?? Chickenshit.

We complete the next transit without drama and face a very very long, low speed TSD. It follows a lonely road up in the mountains, barely a lane and a half wide, with a posted speed of 35 MPG, but the route instructions say to maintain an average speed of 27 MPH for 40-some miles. I put the Jaguar in second gear and plod along, with dad marking out time and distance for me every few minutes. I figure it would be hard to convey exactly how that works, so at one point during the segment (I think near the beginning of the segment as I see a telephone wire and a house in-frame, and I recall most of it being out in the woods) I set my camera to movie-mode and let it run as it hung around my neck. Here you go:

If you listen, you can even catch me pointing out a checkpoint as we pass by.

I hope that helps illustrate some of the flavor of TSD rallying.

At the very end of this long segment we pull into a state park parking lot and are told by a course worker that they’ve added a pause of X minutes (IIRC it is 10 or 12 minutes) so we pull off into the shade of a tree while dad recalculates all of his work from the morning for this segment. As I’m sitting there I hear the navigator of the car next to us exclaim… “There are flames underneath that car… I wonder if the guy even knows that he is on fire.” I look over my shoulder and see a Mercury Cougar, one of two or three American cars on the rally, and sure enough he is on fire. I reach over to the passenger side and undo my fire extinguisher… my father is of course oblivious to this… I say “excuse me” while I nudge his leg out of the way. He could have been on fire and probably not noticed, being so engrossed in recalculation! I sprint across the parking lot, ripping the safety straps and pins off my extinguisher, and lie down at the front of the Mercury and start blasting the flames out. A couple other rallyists arrive, extinguishers in hand, but it looks like mine has done the job. I could not really tell what was burning but the driver of the Merc said it was power steering fluid. It was smelly stuff, that is for sure. He eventually pushes the car away from the pool of previously burning fluid, after I wandered back to my car. I always carry a fire extinguisher in my car and other than one, rather amusing close call where I didn’t really use it I’ve never had to use the extinguisher on my own car… I’ve always used them on somebody else’s car! I’m OK with that though… no complaints here.

All fires extinguished, I sit an await our turn on the course. My father has been so engrossed in the navigational calculations that he had no idea that I was just in the middle of a literal conflagration. Gotta love a guy who can stay focussed!

I shoot a photo of the couple next to us in an Alfa before they head out on-course. I’m not positive but I think she’s the one who alerted us all to the fire.

We head out and the course is another really long, low-speed dragger along deeply wooded back roads. Dad gives me the timing and distance and I hold my lead foot off the deck as best I can (my legs are still tired two days later!) We’re pretty confident of our run. The only thing that bothers me is the car’s Ammeter… which wobbles around a LOT, and frequently just gets stuck on the “charge” side of the meter. I end up tapping it a lot to get it unstuck, to the point of distracting my navigator… the last thing I want to do! It bothers me though as it seems like my electrical system is going bonkers and overcharging my battery. We slowly make our way through the TSD segment, and it finishes very near the coast. A long transit leg down US 101 brings us to the Inn at Otter Crest where we park our cars out on the grass on the cliff side overlooking the ocean.

I get directed to my parking spot, and Dad wanders off to register into our room. I decide to figure out why my ammeter is going bonkers… at least beyond my internal monologue about Lucas, the Prince of Darkness. Of course Mr. Lucas has been mostly removed from this car (“gasp” say the purists!) as my distributor is a Mallory and my alternator is a Hitachi. This car seems to eat alternators and to be honest, I want to be able to replace it anywhere in America. This Hitachi was OEM for Nissan pickups for years and years and is available at any NAPA store with a 2-year warranty for about $40. I have replaced it once, on the side of the road, in a matter of minutes… when the Lucas would have had be stranded. Anyway, I suspect that I am over-charging and wire up my voltmeter to the battery and check. The car off it reads 14.5V… a bit on the high side! I fire up the car and rev the engine and my voltmeter reads even higher! I suspect that my internally regulated Hitachi is no longer regulating itself, at least with regards to voltage. I still have my Lucas external voltage regulator, which is installed but bypassed, and try wiring it up again. It seems to help. The ammeter is still bouncy, but seems more stable. The battery still reads above 14V but at least it doesn’t climb off the scale with the engine running. Then I LOOK at the alternator and sure enough, one of the three wires is loose! I reattach it, wire around the regulator again, fire up the engine and EVERYTHING goes back to normal. I slap my forehead and go about packing my stuff to go inside.

I drop off my bags, grab my camera, and head back outside to get some pictures. It is a spectacular location for car photography, with only the attorney-mandated chain link fence destroying the backdrop. Unfortunately I’m shooting directly into the sun – but I get some great shots.

This E-type FHC has an LED reader board plate frame. At various points in the rally it read amusing bits such as: “If you can read this you are off course” and “Where’s Lunch?” =)

I could not resist making a 360-degree panorama of the location.

The oldest car on the run is this 1938 Bentley. It is a very cool old car.

I always like Opalescent Maroon E-types too.

I head to the room and catch a short nap, then off to dinner. I leave dinner at one point to go out and grab some “just after sunset” photos before the light disappears for the evening. The red and blue cars which look so good in daylight surrender their depth and become flat. The black cars however come alive and invite you to dive into their deep, reflective finishes…

I’m still shooting when the light gives up and I can’t find enough to enter my lens and make magic anymore. I go back into dinner in time to get the results from the Rallymaster. Apparently there was an off-course at the parking lot where I put out the fire, which caught out the majority of the rally. We didn’t get caught by it so we have no opinion, but many people are hopping mad. The Rallymaster does not give into the complaints and just smiles an evil smile. The results are passed out and our confidence is eroded pretty far when we see how poorly we did compared to our perception. It is obvious we have odometer drift, as we rack up penalties at the later checkpoints of long TSD segments. We are two minutes, ten seconds late to the final checkpoint of the longest segment. Dad ponders that as we head off to bed.

Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, Getting There.

300sl at sunset

My father and I are heading down to Oregon to run the Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally in the 65E… which of course I am still reassembling. The steering rack arrived Monday. I put it back on the car Monday night, but then issues at work prevented me from finishing the job, which requires a full front end alignment.

I plan to leave for Portland on Thursday morning as the Rally has a Welcome Reception and (more important at the moment) Technical Inspection of the participant’s cars at 6pm Thursday at Monte Shelton Motors in downtown. Thursday morning I bring the car to Les Schwab’s store in Arlington for some time on the alignment rack. The mechanic is half the age of the car, or less! He’s a bit intimidated but with some help and encouragement from me he gets the job done. One issue comes up… my freshly rebuilt steering rack shows some free play on the inner tie rod end on the driver’s side(!) This prevents the toe-in from being set accurately – but the car is as close as it can get.

on the alignment rack

I drive off towards Seattle to pick up my dad. The car feels great. I can feel the loose left front on occasion, but overall it is in much better shape than before. No more steering wobble at higher speeds. Mom & Dad have been visiting my little sister and her family the past few days. I find their hotel and pick up dad, and we say good bye to my mom, who will be off to my house to visit Sue & the boys. We drive down I-5, stop at my office, then continue on to Portland. The car, which refuses to allow the right turn signal to operate the whole way south to Oregon, comes to its senses and operates perfectly for the Technical Inspectors. Go figure!

The collected cars for the rally are quite nice. LOTS of Alfa Romeos, as would be expected for an Alfa club rally. Several E-type Jaguars too. Three series 1’s, a bunch of 1.5’s and one series 3. The latter has a six-weber carb setup, which I think looks so much better than the original factory quad-Stromberg.

s3 v-12 with 6 Weber carbs

We pass inspection… yeah!

I pass the evening reception looking at, and photographing cars. Enjoy:

Can Am Poster at Monte Shelton Motors

The last image above is a poster from the old Can Am series on the wall at Monte Shelton Motors.