Our start position for Stage 6 is 56! Great to be on the 1st page of the Start Order for a change. It’s a beautiful morning in Auburn and the Ranchero is ready to hit the pavement (or the “Chip & Sealer,” or whatever they call it out here!)
Our speedometer was right on for the calibration run, so it was all on the driver and navigator to execute. The first few legs of the morning had us make our way from Auburn to a Pit Sop at the Shipshewana Auto Museum. What a lovely place, and the welcome by the local folks and the museum was superb! It’s too bad we couldn’t spend more time – we’ll have to go back someday.
Those first couple of legs went by smoothly, though on one, a checkpoint came along too quickly for us to make up about 4 seconds. Rats! We also had some special objects sharing the road which could easily cause significant delays. Those horse drawn carriages are lovely and picturesque and all, but man, can they wreak havoc with cars trying to maintain a constant speed! We were very lucky in being able to get around all of them without slowing down (though one was a real squeaker!)
Not so lucky for Jerry and Joe, the 1955 Olds 98 in front of us. They had to wait to be able to pass one and ended up about 30 seconds or so in front of us. That was to our great fortune because they are a great team and having them in view certainly made us more confident of where to turn!
A big difference in today’s stage and the previous days’ stages is we were surrounded by veteran teams in front and behind (except the rookie team in the 1971 AMC Javelin right behind us. More on them later!) Having seasoned veterans around insulated us to a large degree from the Mayhem of the Rookies of previous stages.
For the rest of the stages before lunch we flawlessly executed the technical instructions. All
that we didn’t know was how well we were doing on the timing. Only one slight hiccup when an instruction indicated “1st paved road” and we almost turned into it because the apron at the beginning looked “paved.” But it was really only gravel, and a quick look up the road showed it was plainly just dirt. It was a costly bobble at that spot for John and Dale when their 1955 Studebaker spun on the gravel as they tried to correct to get back on the right road. They ended up in a deep ditch and needed a tow to get out. But there was minor damage (they thought!) and they were able to continue to the lunch stop.
Lunch was at the spectacular Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI. It is a fabulous location and the cars and automotive memorabilia are fantastic. We did have some time to be able to look around, but again, just not enough time to really enjoy such wonderful cars. (We’re thinking of doing a tour of all the excellent auto museums in this country.)
The afternoon stages began with a series of “cloverleaf” course instructions. These are usually done at slow speeds in neighborhoods with grid style streets. It’s easy to get confused because race cars are going in all different directions at every intersection and in no apparent order. You really have to ignore all the sensory input and focus on executing the instruction you’re on.
The difference in today’s cloverleaf instructions is they are done on the rural roads of Michigan, which are many, many miles of country roads. But it’s no less disconcerting to see race vehicles going different ways at all the intersections! Suddenly, we saw the 1971 Javelin coming in the opposite direction (at a very high rate of speed!) Since they were supposed to be one car behind us, they were clearly out of position. They obviously missed a turn somewhere and were trying to get back in position. (Boy, did that big block sound great as they sped by!) The problem was they literally had miles to catch up to us. To do that before a checkpoint would be quite a feat.
At the next restart point the Javelin pulled up behind us in the proper spot! They had to pass 15 cars before they spotted us up ahead. They estimated the time between us to be 42 seconds so slowed down to increase the distance. A few seconds later they hit the checkpoint! I can’t wait to find out how they scored on that leg!
We finished the final stages of the afternoon with no errors and headed on the transit to the finish at the Ypsilanti Auto Museum. But we encountered some standstill traffic on I-94 along the way and decided to find a detour so we wouldn’t be late. (If you’re more than an hour late to the finish, you run the risk of not finishing for the day.) Our detour worked and we arrived in plenty of time!
We received our scores and Lauren was ecstatic! We were pretty consistent for the day with 3, 4, 2, 5, 0 (Ace!) 4, 3, 2 for a total of 22.43 seconds. That put us at 21st overall for the day and moved us up to 44th in the overall cumulative standings, 22nd in our class.
We’re starting to find our groove!