High Desert Trails Rally 2016 – Zero Car Duty

HDT 2016 Weather Coming in between stages

HDT 2016 Weather Coming in between stages

Back at it again, at the High Desert Trails Rally 2016. Our closest to home rally. Also one we’re particularly fond of, having won our class in 2011. A fairly high speed event, often >100mph,  and some technical sections and exposures as well. We weren’t there as a competitor though, this year we got the call. As a volunteer as I was given the privilege as being the Zero Car. 

So you think it’s going to be fun, right? Get to drive the Stages, at speed, ahead of the pack and clear of any dust!! All sounds great, until you are hit with the information overload that is rally zero car and fighting the competitive mindset of the rally driver inside me. It was tough, but I loved it. And yes, I would hopefully get the opportunity again one day…..

There was a whirlwind of prep, not just in car prep, but to become a HAM operator to be able to do this position. Luckily, I was given a few weeks notice. As I got to studying I found I had to take the test within a week so they would have time to process and get my license and call sign. As most things rally, just a few days before the event I received my call sign KM6CJD. However it wasn’t until the day of the event I was even able to press a button on an actual radio. So it was trial by fire, and it was awesome…

Just another beautiful day in the desert, rally racing! HDT2016

Just another beautiful day in the desert, rally racing! HDT2016

Though I’ve been competing since 2003 and even volunteered a couple times in the past, until you really pay attention to it, you have no idea how much information is being passed on radio during a stage.

The HAM operators at a rally race provide a necessary communications backbone, and as that suggests, there are several roles at multiple locations along each stage. All of them carry every car through multiple points along a stage to make sure everyone gets from start to finish, and if not that they are attended to quickly.

New Radio Equipment

New Radio Equipment

As Zero car you get to listen to all this real time, listen to your co-driver navigate and read pace notes, try to drive at a slightly reduced competitive speed, confirm all road blocks, cautions and road markings are in place, look for new hazards that may have happened and be attentive to breaks in communications or direct communications with special instructions. It’s really quite intense and different kind of rush…

As a competitor there is a certain amount of stress you put on yourself to be as competitive as you can. Zero car reduces this (a little), and adds a new layer of responsibility to the mix. I took this very seriously, as something I had influence on could likely effect all that would follow. I think this is under-appreciated except by those that have attempted it, and also took it seriously. Not that I didn’t get appreciation, but as a driver without this experience, you have now idea what is involved in an attempt to make things go as smooth and as safe as possible. Not to mention a line of communication, EMT, and road blockages that are all triple checked (and then some) before a competitor is allowed on stage.

Well that was my experience, thanks to a few of you that pushed me into HAM, adding another hobby, I probably didn’t need, but I know I will enjoy…

“73”  –  KM6CJD

High Desert Trails Rally 2016

High Desert Trails Rally 2016

Photo May 06, 6 47 07 PM

Out with the old (terratrip) in with the New (Monit Rally Computer Q-10 + 12v power center.

Out with the old (terratrip) in with the New (Monit Rally Computer Q-10 + 12v power center.

A little "Off" occurred at HDT2016

A little “Off” occurred at HDT2016

 

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