Starlite '93 - Review by Dave Graubart
Eight TRC cars were among the 100 or so entries in the 23rd annual Starlite rallye from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas last December. As usual, this was a 14 hour back-road drive through the mountains and deserts of California and Nevada, in a map-type monte carlo or Pan-Am style rallye. Most TRC cars met for the traditional carbo-loading at the Goleta Sizzler, and then moved on to registration and tech-inspection.
The few hours of studying the maps and instructions were enough to figure out most of the legs and create some anxiety about the rest. There was a new twist in the rules, where experts had no restriction on the direction of entering or leaving standoffs. For a moment, this sounded easier, but then we realized that with a bunch of extra course controls to reach, only one combination of standoff directions was likely to work, and of course, they didn't tell us what that was.
The course started up the coast on US 101, and turned onto a minor road toward Solvang. This was the first lesson in watching mileages, as the freeway intersection was poorly marked. Inmarker 1 was fairly straightforward. Now onto leg 2 which we had been worrying about for a few hours now. The instructions described the inmarker as being on Palmer heading towards Cat Canyon, within 1.0 mile of a flashing light. The section of Cat Canyon between the two segments of Palmer was less than a mile long, so if the light was there, near standoff, it wasn't clear how we could figure out which Palmer had the inmarker. On top of that, experts had an out-of-the way course control on the way to standoff. All attempts to eliminate one Palmer based on time available didn't work. We arrived at standoff, finding the flashing light right there as we might have guessed, and there wasn't enough time to go around both Palmer loops. Keeping an eye out for other traffic on their way out of an inmarker wasn't any help either. So after a bunch of logical reasoning, no sounder than a coin flip, we chose the Southern loop, found the inmarker, and breathed a sigh of relief. As we would find out later, there were inmarkers on both Palmers, and both were valid since there was no way to resolve which one is "correct". This was a monte-carlo first, and a rather strange precedent.
From here, there was a gas break in Santa Maria, and then a long drive along Hwy 166 towards Bakersfield.
It's fairly easy to gains lots of time on 166, and we did just in case it was needed. Legs 3 and 4 looked interrelated for experts, and inmarker 3 was on the infamous and hard to find Honolulu Road. The order that regular and novice cars would go: standoff 3, inmarker 3, standoff 4, inmarker 4; looked like it might not allow us enough time to get an expert-only course control. This would depend on the location of inmarker 4, which of course we wouldn't know until getting to standoff 4. Approaching standoff 4 backwards (allowed for experts) immediately after standoff 3 was the solution. Then we confirmed that we could find the unmarked Honolulu, and then proceeded to drive around the "block" a few times to kill a bunch of time. I had only previously seen the other half of Honolulu Road, and this part was more interesting and worthy of its legendary rallye status. The expert-only course control also drew some smiles out of us. We were to note the name of the bar at a certain corner, and found the Monte Carlo Club there.
Leg 5 had a few twists to it, staring with another out of the way expert-only control to make sure we didn't have any extra time. The inmarker was on often-rallied Caliente-Bodfish Rd near Tehachapi. Experts had to get another control, also on Caliente-Bodfish. Some calculation of time available narrowed down the possible sequence. Experts had to U at the standoff to make it work. The experts had several train crossings going to and from the course control. We were lucky, but many of the earlier cars were caught and forced to skip the course control. Another expert car in the bushes and waiting for a tow truck probably wished a train kept them away. Standoff 5 also announced yet another expert-only course control, which perhaps explained why the instructions described course controls 5 and 7, but not 6. It also explained what had looked like too much time available on leg 6, and SBSCC is known for using up all available time. Some on- the-fly navigation let us pick up this control and head to the last inmarker before breakfast. This standoff and inmarker was East of California City, an area with no visible civilization other than streets. And there were streets everywhere, including some old ones that weren't quite removed when new ones were paved nearby. The map and instructions suggested quite a few possibilities for the inmarker, but it turned out to be in one of the more obvious areas, not something SBSCC is usually known for. On the way to breakfast, Bill and Steve were checking out the performance of their rental car, and had an unfortunate encounter with a better-performing CHP car.
Breakfasts seem to get shorter every year, so the Barstow McDonalds was the most we had time for. The restart after breakfast was unique, with experts held 6 1/2 minutes longer than regulars and novices. Experts also had a course control to pick up before inmarker 7. Looking at both the regular course - more time with no course control, and the expert course - less time, a course control, and backwards standoff allowed, we were able to figure out that the inmarker on Yermo had to be between Coyote Lake and Harvard. Regulars and novices were welcome to do this as well. It was important for all classes to note that there is no interchange at Coyote Lake and I15, just an overpass. We took the freeway to Minneola, then Yermo and Coyote Lake into standoff., got the course control, and then backwards through standoff, and a left onto Yermo to the inmarker with little time to spare. Regular and novices went the same way to standoff, then used their extra 6 1/2 minutes to take I15 West from Harvard to Minneola and to the inmarker. Despite having it figuring out in advance, we did cross the hose .01 early for the first error of the rallye.
Leg 8 had a similar theme. This time the experts had two extra course controls to pick up, and any straightforward course to standoff 8 would miss one of the controls by 10 miles or more. The only solution given the time available was to head out Kelbaker Rd from Baker, U after picking up a course control 10 miles down the road, then pick up I15 towards Vegas, get the other course control on an off ramp, resume I15 East, then head South to standoff on Cima Road, the unsafe inmarker road. This section was made safe only because there was insufficient time to do anything else. Nevertheless, it was a relief to see the car numbers of opposing traffic, to confirm that the inmarker was North of I15. The final leg was in an industrial park in North Las Vegas and posed no difficulties. We were relived to find Ritch and Abby who hadn't been seen in quite a while. Seems a flat tire and wrong size spare killed the few hours since before breakfast.
The hotel and banquet were held at the Showboat Hotel this year, a step down from the recently used Palace Station. The rooms and food were quite adequate, but the location made it a chore to explore the strip. TRC did very well. We ended up 2nd expert with an 0.01. Sue and Alan trophied in regular, Russ and Dave C. got best of club, and Gilbert and Dale got the coveted Starlite Blackjack award for 21st overall, good for a free entry to next year's rallye. And for the first time, TRC got the best club award!