Starlite '97 - Review by Dave Graubart

SBSCC presented their 27th annual event running from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas on December 12-13, 1997. This is a 14 hour map-type monte-carlo rallye combined with an awards banquet and hotel package. Entries were down to just 59 cars this year, but SBSCC continues to pour a tremendous effort into producing a top quality event, and this year was no exception.

TRC contributed eight of the entries (counting one car that forgot to list TRC as their club), most of whom are seen here at the final checkpoint outside of Las Vegas. Several teams had great scores and several team participation pins were awarded.

Driver/Navigator Total score  
Graubart/Oliver 2 Best in club plaque
10 year pins
Errington/Singmaster 3  
Budlong/Jonesi 3  
Bunker/Glick 3 10 year pins
Bell/Kelso 26  
Berger/Dotson 108 5 year pins
Soper/Garofalo 1084  
Dayton/Grossman 1370  

However, a number of non-TRC cars had even better scores, including a record three perfect zeros, so TRC did not take home any of the major hardware this year, perhaps making up for taking home lots last year

The rallye began going South on US 101 to the Santa Barbara county line, and along with a brief drive later on US 99 through Bakersfield, were the only freeway sections used on the entire course. A good rule of thumb is that less freeway equals more fun! Leg 1 continued near Ojai and North on 33 to the first standoff. The route instructions implied that the checkpoint would be to the east, but most of us figured out at the start that this wouldn't leave enough time on leg 2. As we expected, the flashing light for the checkpoint was almost due North. From here, experts and others had to travel to different course controls on the way to standoff 2. Experts had to figure out that a road between their course control and standoff was OK to use, even though the checkpoint could have been there, because if it was there, there wouldn't be enough time to get to standoff another way and back to the checkpoint. There was some pretty dense fog in this area, and the rallyemaster decided to have standoff personel tell contestants that the leg was being discarded and that extra time was being added to leg 3. We didn't think this was necessary, as everyone we talked to had ample time even after slowing down for the fog. The rallyemaster had to make this decision before the first car arrived and couldn't know if the fog would get worse, so it was a prudent thing to do.

After a quick gas break in Bakersfield, we headed North into the oil fields, where fog has plagued several past Starlites. A course control was placed so that the course could be diverted if Greenhorn Summit was closed. The couse control was unmanned, so onward and upward we went. The fog quickly cleared as we gained elevation. Route instructions for leg 3 suggested that the checkpoint was likely to be near the town of Glenville with looping around side roads needed to enter in the right direction. The light visible from standoff showed the checkpoint to be well East of this, near the summit, which was straightforward. The extra ten minutes was not at all needed (but might have been if the fog didn't clear as early), so we were cruising on route 155 at 10 mph for quite a while. There was snow and ice here and there which made for a scenic but slippery drive. Next it was down to Lake Isabella and a flip of the coin to decide which way to go around the lake to get to the other side, then East to US 395. Leg 4 was described in the route instructions such that the checkpoint could have been in one of many places. The standoff, just off 395, made it clear that it was just ahead on the same road.

Leg 5 and 6 looked puzzling for experts. There was a course control that had to be picked up before checkpoint 6, but the time available between 5 and 6 didn't allow for it to be picked up after checkpoint 5. The time available also meant that checkpoint 5 had to be just a bit before standoff 6, on route 136. Assuming this location for checkpoint 5, the time available on leg 5 also left no time to get the course control after standoff 5 which had a restart time. To get to the course control, one had to travel on 136 dangerouly close to checkpoint 5 and standoff 6. But the only solution was to travel on 136 before the breakfast break, turn off of it before hitting checkpoint 5, get the course control, and then backtrack to breakfast.

The ten minutes added to leg 3 was taken off of breakfast, so it was a quick meal. The restaurant in Lone Pine was well prepared for a party of two arriving every minute around 5:00 AM which was a pleasent surprise. Standoff 5 and the restart was located off of Whitney Portal Rd, which continues on to the trail-head to Mt. Whitney. Checkpoint 5 was exactly where expected as was checkpoint 6. From here, we continued East on 190 to standoff 7, then across the Panimint Valley to checkpoint 7. This was the only leg that seemed a little fast. Our computer said the checkpoint was right at the point where it could be staying at the speed limit since checkpoint 6, with no allowence for the occasional sharp turn that couldn't be done at the speed limit. Next it was into Death Valley and sunrise, a beatiful drive that Starlite hadn't used for a number of years due to rediculously low speed limits. Reasonalable speed limits are back and so are we. To add interest to the long drive, there was an optional exercise to figure out the true time at speed limit to a course control. This should have been a piece of cake for us with a rallye computer, but there was no place to calibrate our odometer against the rallyemaster's. We thought we were at statute, but differed from the rallyemaster's measurement by about 1%. This could have contributed to our assessment of the speed on leg 7.

There were a couple of ways to standoff 8. We used the shorter one that was shown as unpaved on our AAA map, but paved on the rallye maps. Indeed, it was newly paved, except for one short gravel section which we could have avoided if we really wanted to. The route instructions listed quite a few possible locations for the inmarker, but the sighting from standoff made it easy. From here, we were off to the final standoff on the outskirts of Vegas. There was no information on the checkpoint location in the route instructions, giving everyone something to worry about all night. But the checkpoint was just around a short block from the standoff making this an easy one. Unfortunately, the standoff workers told early cars that there was a minimum 10 mph approach required to the checkpoint, but didn't tell this to later cars, and the leg has to be discarded.

The finish and banquet went well. Mike Mahneke as always told the tales of the rallye. My favorites:

Many thanks to all of the organizers and workers from SBSCC for a great event. We'll be back in '98!

- Dave