Tips and Tricks

GOING THE DISTANCE

Success in any sporting event depends on having the right equipment. A World Series cricketer uses the right bat, an Olympic cyclist rides the best bike, and so it is with motorsport.

Although anyone who is well prepared and observant can win the Italian Connection Trophy with the most basic equipment, being even more prepared will make your potential victory even easier. Although the ICT uses one of the most basic forms of navigation, what the experts call a “route chart”, something that even the most inexperienced navigator easily comes to grips with, there are other ways to make the navigator’s task that little bit easier not only for him/herself, but the driver as well.

First an explanation. As mentioned, the route instructions for the ICT are given as a route chart – that is, the route is given with a series of cumulative distances from the start of each division. These distances are supplemented by information telling the navigator what direction to take at that particular point. As an example, the instructions might say that at 25.50 kilometres from the start you are required to turn left off the freeway, then at 26.30 you are to proceed straight on, and so on. The entire route instructions are given in this format, with a distance and an instruction given for each turn. With a reasonably accurate odometer in your car, the instructions should be easy to follow.

The navigator’s task then, is to tell the driver where and when to turn by reading the relative distance off the car’s odometer, which is straightforward enough. The only difficulties are (a) that the navigator will need to lean over to read the relative distances off the car’s odometer, and (b) to continually calculate at what distances turns are to be made at or where observations (route checks) are to be found. In our example above you will note that the distance between the two distances given is .80 (26.30 minus 25.50 equals .80). Therefore, if at the start of the rally the car’s odometer reads 8543.0 then the figure given above (.8) needs to be added to that 8543.0 giving us 8543.8 and so on for all the other instructions for the duration of the event.

While most navigators can get away with this by indulging in a little mathematical calculation for each turn, it also requires the driver (who has the odometer directly in front of him, unlike the navigator) to keep his/her eyes on the constantly changing odometer at all times. Previous Italian Connection Trophies have been won using this method but, for a little financial outlay, there is a much easier method. Many of you will have seen the supplementary odometers fitted in rally cars and tarmac classic cars – the proliferation of these must suggest that serious competitors go to great lengths in selecting their equipment to ensure compliance with the official route.

After-market odometers come in all shapes and sizes, are driven in various manners and have a list of extra features to suit almost every need. The most popular brands include Terratrip, Brantz, Philtronics and Monit and all have either an LCD or a digital display. Depending on the brand and model, their  features can include reverse reading (for when you overshoot a corner), average speed calculation, fuel consumption, speed readouts and more. All have two scales – one to record overall distance and another to record intermediate distances (eg: from corner to corner, instruction to instruction). The units are accurate enough to allow the unit to record distances to as little as one metre and can be calibrated easily to suit your particular car or other vehicle. They can also be calibrated on the run or to read accurately after you’ve changed wheels or tyres (ie: from road tyres to rally tyres).

Usually mounted on the dashboard directly in front of the navigator, they are driven by electronic pulses either from a probe mounted on the front wheel hub, via the speedo cable, by a gearbox sensor or (in most modern cars) by an interface working off the electronic speedo. The largest of the units is about the size of an A5 sheet while the smallest, the Monit, is about the size of a packet of cigarettes. A bracket attached to the dash is usually required to mount the odometer which in some vehicles with plastic dashboards and passenger airbags, can be a problem. The advantage with the Monit unit is that it can be mounted using double sided Velcro tape and can be hidden out of site when not in use.

Many of you will be familiar with Halda odometers, a mechanically-driven device which has been around for more than 60 years. Haldas are driven by a series of toothed wheels via a cable and T-piece from the gearbox via the speedo cable, and are a useful device if you want your classic car to retain that period look. They are in high demand thanks to the popularity of classic rallying and as a result command prices of up to $2000 on the secondhand market. Our advice: nice to have but go for a Monit instead.

The purchase of a supplementary odometer is highly recommended. They are moderately expensive but will pay for themselves time and time again, can be moved from vehicle to vehicle, retain their value well, and are simple to use. If you plan to run in events where distance calculations are critical, you could do no wrong in investing in a well-known brand. All cost between $650 – $850 and a probe or speedo interface will set you back about another $100. We highly recommend the smallest unit, the Monit. It is increasingly being used in both National and International rallying because of its superior capabilities and can be calibrated quickly and easily

All the odometers and probes mentioned above are available on line from specialty motorsport equipment retailers. Why not treat yourself to one? You won’t regret the purchase and navigating with one will be a doddle.

WHAT ELSE DO I REQUIRE?

Other than an odometer mentioned above, the only other pieces of navigational equipment required for the Italian Connection Trophy are a calculator and at least one and preferably two A4-size clipboards to hold your route instructions. You could also carry a few spare greylead pencils, an eraser and a pad of Post It notes. That’s about it – oh, and a trailer to carry the winner’s trophy home in!