How to Save a Rally When the Communication System Fails
Photos via: David Cosseboom
Typically when people say anything can happen in rally they’re referring to mechanical issues, offs, or miraculous drives to move up in position. Last weekend at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, however, organizers had to deal with the “anything” happening to their communications system.
The SOFR committee, ARA event organizers, and rally volunteers got a difficult challenge thrown their way early on Saturday morning when, as the cars were leaving for their first loop of stages, radio communications were not connecting across some of the control points.
Cars had to transit SS4-5 while all hands were on deck to find out what was going on. SS6, which still had radio communication was ran.
The problem, according to Brent Short, assistant Chairman of the SOFR was when the high-powered repeater they were using went down.
“We purchased a very expensive repeater for our event this year to try and improve our communications,” he said. “Unfortunately that repeater failed.”
“(As of Monday morning) we do not know if there was a manufacturer defect or exactly what the issue was that caused us to lose communication.”
What caused the outage at this phase was not important at this point, what was keeping the event going in a safe manner.
While things were looking up going into the next loop, as cars transited out of service to SS7 things took a turn for the worse, net control lost all radio communication with stages.
Cars got to SS7 and were unable to start, and without radio communication, RallySafe was used to push a message out to all cars to return to service.
A plan was in place, set up a relay network, and adjust stages to where all areas would have clear radio communication.
Short continues, “Our Chairman Jeremiah Johnson, Clerk of Course Justin Pritchard and other volunteers jumped into action after Stage 7 was transited and the decision was made to return everyone to service to resolve the issue for good.”
“These committee members and volunteers went out in their personal vehicles with HAM radios and worked as relays between the start/finish and Net Control. They really saved the day.”
While it’s obviously a disappointment to all to have so many stages cut from the rally, the dedicated work and quick thinking from all of the event runners helped save the day in time for two more loops of the same three stages to be run, totaling close to 80 stage miles for the weekend.
Not bad considering the circumstances.
While teams were waiting, drivers were able to make the best of the time by engaging with fans who were waiting outside of their favorite drivers' service areas.
Shortly after 4:00 PM cars were prepped and sent out for the start of what would be considered SS10. The rest of the day would be run on what was to be the morning loop to keep from having to re-establish radio communication elsewhere.
Other than the end of the last stage in the loop being moved up a couple miles to a spot with better radio reception on the relay network, the rest of the event was able to continue without issue.
“I want to thank Preston Osborn, Rob Bohn, the ARA Stewards and the entire ARA team at the event for jumping into action and helping us get back to rallying as well,” Short added.
“We will learn from what happened and come back next year better. We promise we will make it up to our fans, competitors, teams and volunteers next year!”