Thursday, April 30, 2009

A nervous wait

A number of Targa's competition stages have chicanes added - they are there to reduce average speeds, slow you down on very long straights, and to add to the difficulty of the event (trust me, it doesn't need much help).

The chicanes are temporary (or the locals might get a little upset) and made of those red or white road works / crowd control barriers. I guess they're a metre and a bit tall and maybe 3m long.

So, three barriers, right entry, go left, right exit. At the end of a long straight and you're at full noise as it approaches - 300m, 200m, 100m - brakes, clutch, blip accelerator, change down, get through and get back on the power. Easy. You wish.

Chicane rule number one: don't hit them. It costs a 5 minute penalty along with paint, panel & ego damage.

On one of the first stages we cleared the chicane by 2 or so centimetres. And since that one I've been treading a little softer around chicanes. I'd prefer to drop a couple of seconds getting through rather than thump one and have it cost 5 minutes.

Rule number two is don't pass another car within 200m of the approach side. I didn't know about this rule until late today.

Car are started at 30 second intervals - if the cars in front & behind you are moving at the same sort of speed as you then you should have the stage to yourself. But if you're a bit quicker then the car in front you might get to overtake; a little slower than the car behind, you might be overtaken. It's one of the most exciting parts of Targa: passing someone who's doing warp factor 5 while you're at warp 6. And the overtaking rules are simple - you get caught, you let them through.

Now mix Chicane rule 2 with the Overtaking rule.

We had almost caught the car in front of us as we were coming towards a chicane. I thought we'd be hugging their back bumper by the time we all arrived at the chicane and they'd let me through as we both exited.

But 400m or so before we got there he moved left, off the racing line, and signalled me past. So I kicked it hard and went for it.

Very heavy breaking into this chicane - I came in way too hot - through we went and one with the rest of the stage ... Which went blisteringly fast (by out standards).

We were chatting with the car we passed while waiting for the start of the next stage - it's always polite to say thank you after passing. And they mentioned that Chicane Rule 2. I hadn't heard of it.

I'll admit I haven't read every single paragraph in the Supplementary Regulations. Do you drive a car? Know every detail of the road laws? Same sort of situation.

I've looked at provisional results on the web site and no mention of a penalty.

So now I'll have to wait until the morning to find out for sure one way or the other.

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