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Great Race 2006

The Finish

July 14, 2007

We finished with a little help from our friends.
The generator broke the day before in the heat, and the battery was too low to restart the car 100 meters before the finish line. But we crossed the finish line in style with the help of bystanders. Thank you, in this race you are never alone.

In the end we made 6th place, with about 15 seconds separating 2nd to 6th place. While it is a great accomplishment, we have to admit that we were shooting a bit higher. We didn't know our car as well as we thought after all, and unfortunately the reliability faltered a little in the end as well.

And I have to gripe a little about the age factors. On a gross basis before applying the handicaps we scored a mere 4 seconds worse the the ultimate winners. I think that is something to be proud of.

Having gotten very close to the top, now we know what it takes to win. More preparations, more training, more testing, more resources ...

But we had tremendous amount of fun along the way. We enjoyed the rally with old friends. We made lots of new friends. It is very hard to conveye in a few words to describe the exhilerating feeling of a great competition, cameradery and fun this race represents to us. So thank you very much to all the other competitiors and the staff. We had a great time. Let's hope the event stays true to the experiences that we enjoyed so much.

Maybe we will see you next year (more to that on the Great Race blog for car  #12)

Annegret and Uli


Last day of rallying - challenges abound

July 13, 2007

The question of the day, how do you drive a car without breaks?
It works pretty well up hill, at least most of the time. Sorry Tim and Alex that we had to cut you off a little, it was better than to drive into you from behind. At the top of the hill we actually managed to stop by going very slowly and applying the hand break. Ultimately the transmission had to help, we jammed it into P.

5 minutes later the breaks were bled and very responsive with good pressure and we were ready to go. But the car decided to take another brake. Now we had vapor issues, i.e. the gas was boiling / vaporizing. Another 5 minutes of that problem and we made the restart with 1 minute to spare. Can you spell excitement?

We are only sorry that we really could not enjoy all the cheering folks from Big Bear Lake, we were too much focused on keeping the car running and staying in the Great Race.

Otherwise it was a very challenging day, starting in Laughlin, NV at 7.30 a.m. - and 93 degrees. There was a lot of desert driving. Annegret told me 15 minutes into the first leg of the day that she was going to be sick. The road was straight but it had numerous little dips, so it felt like a roller coaster. That feeling passed, and the navigator was so happy not having to figure out an adjustment for that.

We enjoyed a great lunch break in Yucca Valley, the desert oasis. This lunch stop gets very high marks for the nice themed entertainment, and the great food - a salad was a perfect departure from the always present barbecue. Not sure whether Teresa was thinking about her score or the belly dancers.

After our problems up the hill to Big Bear Lake we had an uneventful afternoon of rallying downhill with breaks. Sorry there are no photos of Big Bear Lake, we were slightly preoccupied.

And now the rallying is over. We finally figured it out I thought. And as a twist, we do not even know our scores until the finish in Anaheim, so there is still suspense where this team ended up, and what ling of score we had on the last day. More about it after the reception tonight.

The big finish in Anaheim awaits. And I'll promise a few more photos.

Thank you

Hot, hot, and hot - mystery scores to boot

July 12, 2007

Air conditioning in cars is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Driving in this old "clunker" from Flagstaff to Laughlin was close to unbearable. Dry heat, I don't care but this is way too hot.

By the way, this is really a travelling circus for the locals. Below cars are ligned up in the Arizona desert for the morning start on Route 66.

Before we get to the score line we have to congratulate our friends Jeff Stumb and Bob Dinges. First of all they had the second best score, but unfortunately only 3rd place due to the virtues of the point scoring system.

But what is truely remarkable, Bob had lost his instructions at some point during the rally. Apparently a gust wind just took them out of his hands. Jeff reacting really fast stopped the car. Bob got out as fast as he could to run back to retrieve the instructions fluttering in the wind in the desert. Then Bob remembered that he did not start the stop watch, so he yelled back, "get a mark" on the dash clock. They scored 1 second on this leg. Congratulations to great day and fun little adventure.

This team ran into break problems again climbing out of Kingman, AZ for about 3,000 feet. Annegret has become a pro in pumping the break pedal and still keeping the car safely on the road at the right speed.

The score was mediocre, just 16th for the day. The last 2 legs are a complete mystery to me having lost 17 seconds in just 27 minutes of rallying. There was little difference between the moring legs and the afternoon legs. The only difference I can see, this team sucked in the afternoon. Oh well. There is one more day and we are still 3rd, with a shot at the title.

And we can have fun despite the scores. Instead of an eagle for 1st prize like yesterday I received this really nice necklace from Louise. Thank you.

Good night

Just another day on the Great American Race - and a 1st place ...

July 11, 2007

Boy this was a long day - The Great Race always manages to squeeze out an extra hour when you cross a timeline. We started around 7.00 a.m. this morning and arrived in Flagstaff at 7.30 p.m. MDT - 6.30 p.m. MST or local time. This was easily 400 miles driving, of which 5 1/2 hours were "on the clock" in other words measured timed speed driving.

And the day started off in a panic. David our trusted mechanic forgot to tighten the radiator cap. So just 10 minutes prior to the start we were loosing all our coolant. It simply spilled through the overflow. It is really tough to stay calm, let the engine cool, and poor water into the radiator, while all the other racers got ready for the first start of the day. It is also very comforting that all racers help each other. Stanley was a great mentor during the panic, and everyone shared some water with us. Thank you all.

This initial panic translated into the first leg. The navigator missed the time delayed speed change, and just prior to the first checkpoint an entire instruction. So suddenly we were just 10 seconds behind the car in front of us, clearly the wrong spot. More calculations, and unplanned stop and go to loose the gained time, and then our luck truned. The New Mexico highway department decided to resurface a part of the rally course, leading to a new restart. My errors would have no further consequence. And the luck continued, I had bungled the start, but still managed to score an ace on that first leg.

Now a few cute shots of the day

These are the Sharp's leaving in St. John's, AZ after our lunch time stop.

Even this cow could not stop our progress. Annegret just stared it down, and it decided to leave the road, before she got out of the car.

And we were welcomed in Flagstaff, AZ by a big sheering crowd. Here our friends from Germany are arriving in their Volvo.

So there is just one bit of information missing.

Today we scored 5.55 seconds on 6 measured legs with 2 Aces.

I would never be allowed to put the ace stickers on the car. This is the driver's privilege.

And by the way, this score was good enough for first prize today and we moved up to 3rd overall, just a few points behind the leaders. Cheers all around.

So this was a GREAT day.

Just 2 more days to go. Tomorrow will be hot going from Flagstaff into the Colorado River valley to Laughlin, NV. And we still have to cross the Mohave Desert on Friday. Let's just repeat today 2 more times.

Good night

A good day, a bad day, an indifferent day ...

July 10, 2007

Did I say that this is a very competitive race?
Our time at 3rd place overall was apparently short lived. We made 13th on a tough day that looked very easy at first, to fall back to fifth place overall.

It was indifferent, because most competitors struggled the same as we did. But there is always one who scores well. Congratulations David Reeder.

It was also a good day, because we managed a decent score without having any decent brakes. Sometimes during the third leg of the day Annegret told me, "by the way we are loosing our brakes". The break pedal travelled all the way to the floor without much impact. Some minor tweeks at lunch gave us at least some brake pressure but it was a bit difficult to focus on  the actual instructions. So we missed a sign and a turn causing bad scores on leg 4 and 5.

Good, because we managed to get the car back into the finish so that we actually get points for 13 th place, much better than the dreaded DNF (did not finish) with 0 points.

And this was an easy day, with just 5 turns. Essentially we drove straight all day long just changing speed once in a while. Lucky for us, because we would have had a really tough time without brakes on a more challenging day.

Talking about challenges ...
I had to be reminded twice today that I completely forgot to mention Bruce's splendid performance as a moderator in Sweetwater, TX the other day. He did an excellent job explaining the race, and the troubles with car # 2. Maybe he should apply for the annoucer job on the Great Race? Sorry Bruce, that you had to wait a day for this honrable mention. I realize you can use all the support you can get.

Onto Flagstaff, AZ tomorrow  the first day of the Championship Run. Extra bonus points are at stake and the car is fixed. Wish us luck.

Good night

Lots of rain, hail, thunder and lighting - good scores too

July 9, 2007

2 places and 74 points is all that separates this team from first place. And we have 4 stages to go, plenty of time to move up even further.

We "only" made 5th place today, because Feeney's scored 3 aces, congratulations Louise and Jim. Scoring today was an achievement by itself. For the first time in 25 years, according to good sources, the rally master set the calibration run at 55 mph. The navigator of the team noticed this too but rather late. So it was again guess work, so nothing new there.

In the afternoon we ran into a tremendous storm. Visibility was 0, the water on the road so deep that the car floated nicely, not speak about the hail. We managed fine nevertheless scoring 5 seconds on that leg after a 5:40 time delay for stopping during the worst of it.

And in Clovis, NM we received such a warm welcome that we were overwhelmed. Especially the team from the First Community Bank scored "Best Welcome during the 2007 Great Race" with us. They had build a diner just for us with tasty snacks and drinks. Many thanks to Terry Blaschke, Janet Romero and their team for this truely terrific welcome, despite the threatening clouds of another storm.

And to keep the scores straight, David Reeder will have to shave his legs as promised yesterday. This team did a little better, sorry Dave. It was a drivers day after all and Annegret did just great.

Good night until tomorrow in Albuquerque

Hot day, hot scores, and a really hot team ...

July 8, 2007

This was hot, and the forecast is for even hotter weather down the road.

But most importantly, we had a great score, 5.55 seconds, good enough for 2nd place today. We also moved up the standings from 7th overall to 5th overall. So things are headed in the right direction. Did I mention the 2 aces we scored today. Great driving Annegret.

And it is really nice not having to worry about the car, it simply runs great despite the heat. Thank you David. Car # 120 broke a rim on those big wheels, nursing the car into the finish without a flat. It is good not having to worry about it.

Sorry Bruce that your numbers did not work out, but thanks for all the tips.

And lastly, coming in from the parking lot we got a challenge from car # 1, last years winners, David Reeder and Sawyer Stone. If we manage to beat them again tomorrow, David is going to shave his legs. What more of an incentive do we need?

Good night

Our day off and someone complaints?

July 7, 2007

Today was our well deserved day off. We tested the car, fine tuned some calibrations, and relaxed. Mission accomplished.

But there was another wrinkle. Apparently Bruce objects to my blog from July 1, the day that finished in Chattanooga. Tough luck. Bruce has been complaining all week long that the car arrived too late in Concord for him to get all his calibration factors. Now that he had a day off presumably he had enough time to figure it out. So let's see the scores in the next couple days - you have to make up some ground from 14th.

Good night

Tomorrow is rest day ...

July 6, 2007

How can a rest day be so important?

7 days of intense racing does take a toll. Most people think whether the car will make, but the driver and navigator also need a bit of mental rest. So we will enjoy our day off tomorrow.

Before we get to rest here a brief recap of today.

First I like to share with you the mayhem at start of each day. Steve and Vickie (in read shirts) manage the process distributing the course instructions for the day, precisely 20 minutes before your assigned start time. An integral part to this process is picking a number for the next day's start position - I managed to pick number 1 for Sunday.

We also always try to syncronize our clocks, after all this is a game of seconds or fractions of a second.

All this is a well organized affair that looks completely nuts to an outsider. What are all these people doing crowding this table and car?

For the day, to the positive side, the team is very consistent and we scored another ace. More about that later. On the other side, we still have not been able to string together a score that would win a day. I could blame the speedometer calibration run again with good reason, but that falls short of an explanation. This years competition is so tight that our 10 second score was merely good enough for 10th place today. However, we maintained 7th place overall. The difference between 10th and 2second were a mere 4 seconds on a long day, amazing.

As to our ace, I think this is something to be a bit proud about. We ran our rally and came around a curve to our next instruction only to find 10 or more race cars parked in front of a railroad crossing waiting for the train to clear, actually 2 trains passing each other really slowly. We got a perfect mark for our time into the previous instruction before the railroad crossing and managed to get out of this mess 10 minutes and 20 seconds later with an ace. It is hard to describe the difficulties. There are 10+ competitors trying to figure out the time delays and trying to get out without being crowded by other cars. It's like a 1000 piece puzzle you have about 1 minute to solve.

Unfortunately a good portion of today's course was flooded, shortening the day a bit. This picture shows the lake levels in northern Texas, where some lakes are 23 feet above normal, not to speak about the rivers.

We will take a day off for the blog as well, so have a nice w/e and we will be back Sunday night.

The good days continue

July 5, 2007

It is hard to believe, but things are getting better.
We finished the day 7th and moved to 7th overall, including another ace. But we were clearly not the story of the day.

There are actually 2 stories. In a second I will report on the ace of the German rookie team. But first honors go to Norman, OK for the finish celebrations.

We got into town a little after 6.00 p.m. being greeted by a nice down poor. We actually stayed in the car for a few minutes to wait for the worst of the shower to end.

And on the sidewalk Jeff Pilkington waited patiently for us to appear. He was our host for the evening, and what a host he was. His bank had sponsored 4 cars for the finish and reserved a small restaurant exclusively for us. Great food, a few beers, and very gracious company. This was a very good finish to an already exciting day. Thank you Jeff and thank you to Republic Bank & Trust. By the way Norman OK is much nicer than the photo implies.

Talking about excitement, our stories would pale to that of car 68, Klaus and Maya von Deylen. This German couple has entered a 1964 Volvo. They had it shipped to Halifax from Germany and drove it to the start in Charlotte. But that is kind of standard for them. Today they missed a turn on the interstate to start off. Arriving in the first pit stop in Stilwell, OK Klaus noticed some problems with the driveshaft. He found some locals to help him, found the right part and replaced a universial joint by himself. Remarkable by itself.

Following the repair they got back on the road to catch up with the race. Lunch was already closing down when they got to Muskogee. At the restart after lunch they noticed that they were 10 cars behind. All of this did not deter them. They caught up, got a good hack of the car in front of them (in starting order) and scored an ace, their first ace ever.

Klaus simply said, it was fun driving a little faster and I think the ace is the just reward. Congratulations, that embodies the spirit of the event, to finish is to win.

Tomorrow is the last day before our day off. Everyone is looking forward to this rest day.
Let's score great and move up a bit further. Maybe we can manage 2 good days in a row instead of just every other day.

Good night

Mysterious speedometer calibration - part 2

July 4, 2007

To come to the bottom line, we scored 14 seconds (no a bad score) and are a bit frustrated. There are just too many cars with better scores, which means we have lost a little ground.
We were late on every leg, and interstingly consistently late about the same time as we had been early on our calibration run. In other words, we would have scored great if we would have used yesterday's speedometer factors instead of adjusting them this morning.
C'est la vie.

Otherwise we had a great day driving through Arkansas.

People came out in droves for our lunch stop in Searcy.

We also had a lovely afternoon stop in Paris - no need to go around the world, just go to Paris, Arkansas.

And another highlight, we made the front page of the local paper in Germantown, TN from last nights stop.

So now we know what to do with the speedometer, apparently our car is famous, so what can go wrong.

Wish us luck tomorrow.

Good night

We blew a fuse - and still scored

July 3, 2007

The days are getting better, at least after you have received your score.
But I am getting ahead of myself.

Today started out innocent enough. There was still plenty of guess work in the speedometer calibration. The doubts always linger quite a bit.

And then came the third instruction, drive 50 mph and then turn right. We did turn into the right street, but we did not drive 50 leading up to it. So 3 instructions into a long day and the navigator blew it. However, I recovered nicely speeding up to the car ahead of us, getting a hack (a good time) and restarting a little later back in the right time slot. Result, a 2 second leg. Thanks Greg and Cameron.

Then came the highlight of the day, driving 45 mph for well over one hour on the Natches Trace Parkway. The navigator nearly fell asleep while the driver had a cramp in the right foot.

We had a great lunch stop in Savannah, TN.

After lunch things got even more interesting. Accelerating from 25 to 30 usually is routine. But this time the speedo stayed very steady at 28. It had lost power, the fuse was blown. The driver was a little lost, to say it politely. I asked Annegret to drive 30, the answer was how? If you are used to looking at the speedo needle all day long, it is very difficult to hold speed without that feedback.

We put auxillary power back on, but now the speedo had zeroed at 28 mph. This was too complicated, so we stopped at the next stop sign and corrected the problem. But it is virtually impossible to figure out how much time was lost or gained.

Coming to the real highlight of the day, despite these problems we still scored 11 seconds and moved from 15th to 6th overall. And we had 2 aces. That feels really good.

To boot we had a fantastic finish in Germantown, TN, truely a great host city for the race. Thank you to Brian Thompson from Banzai Marketing & Media, our host for the evening.

Over 300 miles tomorrow and a 7.00 a.m. start. The days are getting longer and the competition is heating up.

Good night

Day 3 - mysterious speedometer calibration

July 2, 2007

You are on a high one day, only to come back to reality the next day.
A very long day, and the score of 35 seconds was only good for 21st. We are spoiled and anything below top ten ...

This is a lesson in investigative detective work. You can never find out exactly unless you would have had a rally computer recording every maneuver. I do know we followed every instruction to the letter. There were also quite a few other competitors with similarly bad scores, all scores late by a considerable margin. All indications are that we had a bad speedometer calibration. It sounds trivial, but 8 seconds per hour make a huge difference on a day of over 5 hours rallying. C'est la vie. Tomorrow is another day.

We keep visiting great car musuems. Tonight we stopped at the Lane Car Musuem in Nashville Tennessee. This was really deja vu for us. This museum focusses on rare European cars, some of which we do remember from our childhood. Well worth a visit.

And we can add another car to the list of potential entries for next year.
What would you think about a perfomance BMW out of the 50's? Great idea for a car rally, right?
Check out the BMW Isetta below. The 2 passengers enter the vehicle through the front window, the steering wheel folds away. The engine sits in the rear over the 3rd wheel. Again, I do not think we would have any issue with 0- 50 acceleration. I think we'd be happy with 30 mph. And can you imagine to ride in this thing on an interstate highway next to the semis?

On this happy note, we'll try again tomorrow.

Good night

And we thought we could not top the first day, wrong!!!

July, 1, 2007

And we thought we could not top the first day, wrong!!!
So here is a list of today's topics:
- Great rally course
- Great score
- Great hospitality
- Illegitimate winners of 3rd place
- New car for 2008

It was a very long and challenging day, which ended in a maze on an old munitions site outside Chattanooga. This was really tough, but also a great challenge. Pages of instructions flew by in seconds, while we had to drive for over 10 minutes for other instructions, all the way wondering "Did we turn into the right street?" 34 Instructions in all, and what's best, just rally traffic to worry about. Since it was a closed site we were by ourselves. But that did not mean that everyone picked the right turn, and it got really interesting finding two way traffic in a one way street - one way street means single lane with a bit of a grass shoulder.

Yours truely scored very well - 4th overall for the day with 10 seconds gross. Things are coming together quite well. Even the driver starts to acquire some consistency. Way to go Annegret.

The highlight of the day, however was the celebration at the finish right outside the Coker Tire headquarters. It felt like a wonderful family get together, great food, better company, music ...
Many thanks to Cassy Coker for organizing the event and to Teresa and Corky for their hospitality. We were looking forward to Chattanooga, and we were blown away.

The only wrinkle of the day, how did Curtis get an age factor for this car. Curtis and Bruce, car # 2, scored 11 seconds, but took 3rd place. His car might look old, but I know it was build this year, while our Studebaker is genuine from 1955. I thought the age factor was supposed to equal the scores for the older cars, Curtis? This said, Bruce thank you very much for sharing all your rally knowledge, it actually works.

And we have found our new car for next year. We can even take on a few passengers. Who cars about 0 - 50 MPH, accelaration factors, and the other navigation mumbo jumbo. This car doesn't make 50 on a straight road downhill. It would be so much fun though.

You can see we enjoyed today tremendously. Hard to see how it can get any better than this. We will try  again tomorrow, we can still make up 3 places after all.

Good night

Wow, what a great start!!!

June 30, 2007

The enthusiasm in Concord, NC was great. There were easily more people at the event in Concord then at the previous 2 starts in Washington, DC 2005 and Philadelphia, PA 2006 combined. Phantastic job!!!! As great racers we get to see lots of different communities, enjoy their hospitality and their food. For my money Concord was easily the best in our experience. And the food earned 3 Great Race stars. Thank you to the organizers and the people of Concord, NC. And we had a great day - score of 13 seconds gross or 12 seconds net after adjusting for the age of the car. This great score was good enough for 23rd. Just to make sure everyone gets this, there were 22 teams better than us. And apparently the age of the car was not a factor at all. Today's winners drive the oldest car in the race, a 1910 Selden, and scored a remarkable 3 seconds gross and 2 seconds net for the day. That's very tough to beat and I hope we can score on car reliability at some point in this race. Talking about the car, there is nothing to report, which is exactly how we like it. Great job Dave. Tomorrow we look forward to be hosted by the Coker family in Chattanooga. Good night and ChooChoo

Can we please get started!!!

June 29, 2007

We have driven the measured mile too many times to count. The car is ready, and the crew is restless. I guess it is time to go for a drink.

By the way we seem to be lucky. Most other crews are lying beneeth their cars fixing something. Still others are "patiently" waiting for the race car to arrive in the first place. The start is tomorrow at 12.00 p.m., so why rush. There is plenty of time Bruce.

Here one photo of the happy crew.

Preparations continue well, but it is time to talk a bit about our friends.

June 28, 2007

First, we have a friend in the tire business. Last year we had a lot gripes about the new tires we had bought from him. They were very inconsistent and had no tread left after the race. So I may be jinxing our luck here, but this years tires - we needed some with tread after all - are very consistent. Things are looking up. Way to go Corky Coker.

Second, we have friends who work with one of the largest banks in the country which happens to be headquartered in Charlotte, NC. I will have to give them a call after the rally to solve a puzzle. Back home I did not waste a second on thinking about cash, because I thought I could find this bank with no problem in this metropolitan area. Far from it, having branches in the neighborhoods or shopping districts seems to be a novel concept. This bank might have a headquarters in Charlotte, but I guess the customers are all in Oregon or elsewhere. There was no bank to be found for miles.

Otherwise it is still hot and humid, we are just better adapted I guess. One more day of preparations and then we get going on Saturday. Can't wait.

Until tomorrow

The car and the crew arrived in Concord, NC just north of Charlotte, NC

June 27, 2007

When we drove up from the airport this morning I was surprised to see fog - coming out of Oregon I would associate fog with low temparatures, but it was warm, over 80 degrees.

Ok, now I know what they mean by summer, hot and humid. I guess

Oregon never gets summer.

Preparations for the race are going very well. I guess we will need a few days to get used to the climate, but the car runs well.

More updates and some pictures will follow soon.

Annegret and Uli


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