Thursday, 20 August 2020

Rallying goes contactless

This weekend the sport of forest rallying will doubtless look much the same. Outwardly at least. The cars and crews will be familiar, as will the roads, trees and ditches, while Officials and Marshals will go about their duties as usual, but there will be differences, both apparent and behind the scenes.

Make no mistake, the sport faces one of its biggest challenges this weekend. The organisers have calculated that each Time Card will pass through a minimum of 7 different hands from co-driver to Results Team, and that could be many more on longer rallies.

That's where the biggest unseen change will probably take place. The West Cumbria & Eden Valley Motorsport Clubs' organising team have been working with Matthew Atkinson and his team of boffins at the rally results and administration service - www.rallies.info.co.uk - to come up with a 'contactless' system and this will be its first try-out on British soil. With no chance for a 'field test' it will be fingers crossed no doubt.

Individual Time Cards will have one of these now commonplace 'QR' codes and co-drivers will be required to note down their own times (and write any queries!), take a photo of the time card and then send it to Results HQ. And if you think they can fiddle the times, remember the Marshals will still have their Check Sheets.

Multiply that by the number of cars, stages and individual Time Cards and you'll see that the backroom team will face a mammoth task. Hopefully the computers will be robust enough to cope - just don't mention school exams and algorithms to any of them.

The system is basically much simpler than it sounds given modern advances in smart phone technology but it does mean that co-drivers will need to have smart camera phones. Perhaps drivers will also need to install USB chargers in competition rally cars from now on. The last thing you need is a flat phone battery mid rally.

Similarly, the various duties of all Officials and Marshals, medical services, radio, rescue and recovery crews will be handled differently. All Signing-on will be done electronically and competitors are required to make a pre-event declaration that their vehicle complies with all the Motorsport UK technical and safety regulations. Having said that, Scrutineers will still be in attendance and may carry out spot checks.

There's a lot riding on this event this weekend as its successful running may well provide the blueprint for the sport to follow next year. As you can imagine, Motorsport UK have also been heavily involved in getting this event off the ground and it's thanks due to M-Sport too for the use of their private facility as it will be extremely difficult to run a safe and secure event elsewhere on the Forestry Commission estate.

Plus there is a good mobile phone signal there as it's not too far from the M6. To keep in touch this weekend, the Results will be on: www.rallies.info

The sport is not out of the woods (sorry, couldn't resist that one!) yet, but there is now a ray of light piercing the lockdown gloom. Fingers crossed for the weekend, and for the future, eh?


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