When the Internet Table-Top Rallying Championship was resurrected in the UK last winter after being dormant for five years, there was clearly a market of navigators in waiting. Attracting 234 competitors with many overseas entries, the four round championship raised over £5,000 for charity. Following a couple of summer events which were organised by competitors instead of the regular host “Crow”, a new winter championship has been announced for 2018/9 … but with a big difference. A classic table-top rally requires plotting a route on a map from a set of route cards. In its Internet form the canvas is a digital OS map where you tramline a route and submit it for automatic marking; points being lost for missing undisclosed time and passage controls. For 2018/19, the Internet series has been considerably enhanced to simulate everything a navigator has to deal with – not just solving the navigation. With the route on the map, the navigator/co-driver must now guide a car around the route, adjusting speeds in real time to: maintain the correct average speeds on Regularities; adhere to a (30mph) time schedule on Road rallies; or try to beat the target time (75mph) on Stage rallies. Each rally will demand full concentration for about 30 minutes. Easy? Well, no, because on route there will be restrictions and hazards to take note of. For a start, you must keep to any designated speed limits: 60mph on the road, or 100mph on a stage. But for “safety” (and of course to make you drop time), some sections through villages for example, may limit you to, say, 30mph. Exceed this and you’ll get a warning from the ever-present DSO (Driving Standards Observer); three warnings and you are excluded. Go too fast round a bend and you’ll be off the road for a while; much too fast and you’ll have a terminal accident. But there’s more to consider. You’ll have to wait for the marshal to sign your time card at each control; you may get baulked by another competitor; you’ll have to stop at give way junctions; and there’ll be “incidents” which will delay you even more: drown in a ford, pick up a puncture, or your driver may need to stop briefly for a natural break. To add to the realism, most of the actions are qualified with sound bites: the marshal will count you down at controls; you’ll hear the splash in a ford; the hiss of a leaking tyre; and the noise of a “natural break”. It’s seriously competitive stuff, but you’ll laugh along the way. Because of the real-time nature of a rally, any plotting is straightforward plot and bash. There won’t be time for solving complex route cards which need Googling for a solution, otherwise you’ll be OTL before you leave the start. Some of the rallies, particularly stages, will be pre-plot, but occasionally you will be presented with pacenotes to define the route. And if you want a good thrash on the road, the last section of each Road rally is a Selective), still set at 30mph, but with lots of route “furniture” to slow you down. Is there any more that can be done to add to the real-world aspects of desktop rallying? Ray Crowther (“Crow”) hasn’t finished development yet. “I plan to include driving tests on Regularity rallies where the competitor will have to steer the car around a network of cones. A car ‘preparation’ element is still to come,” he says. “This will allow certain attributes to be selected, such as waterproofing to avoid drowning in fords, and a sump guard to allow faster speeds on. And I’m sure a Street View of the roads being used might be an interesting perspective.” Practice rallies are freely available now and entries are open for the 2018/19 championship with rounds in December, January, February and March. All entry fees will be donated to four charities. Further details are available at http://table-top-rallying.org.uk
  • Article by Ray Crowther
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