Not the highly competitive, suicidal high speed events run by highly modified cars in god-forsaken wildernesses, like the East African Safari in Kenya.
I’m talking about more sedate, below-the-speed-limit, civilized events run on public streets and designed for little British roadsters or even “family sedans”. I used to compete and officiate in a lot of those when I was in college and was an active member of the USF Sports Car Club. My ride was a ’64 VW Beetle.
A lot of these events were strictly for fun, scavenger hunts and puzzles where you had to answer questions about landmarks on the route and navigating by incomprehensible instructions mimeographed on paper forms. There was also the “hare and hound” event where the rallymaster took off first and dropped lime bags at intersections along the way, and subsequent cars had to guess which turn to take, keep track of mileage, and verify his guesses by locating the next white mark on the pavement. Scoring was by adding up your odometer mileage at the end of the trip–the winner had the lowest, hence the fewest mistakes.
The more “serious” competition was the T.S.D. (Tme, Speed, Distance) rally where the instructions guided you through one or two hundred miles of country roads, given you frequent speed changes. Along the route the officials would have checkpoints set up where your arrival time was recorded. Those who came closest to the calculated time. won! You were penalized extra points if you showed up too early, to discourage speeding..
In practice, you got your car into a long line, a number was painted on your windshield with shoe polish, and you were handed a sheet of instructions and speed changes as you left the stating line, the cars leaving 1 or 2 minutes apart. A typical instruction would be: “Maintain a speed of 21.4 MPH, exit parking lot and proceed L on WHODAT Road.” (Yes, there actually was a WHODAT Road, we tried to send our competitors into the real boondocks.) A measured mile was provided so you could correct for odometer error. Each driver depended on his navigator, who read the instructions and calculated the average speed using tables, a Kurta Calculator, or a slide rule. This was before the age of pocket calculators. Now you know why European cars have the speedometer and odo where the navigator can read them! After driving around the boonies for some time, making many turns and speed changes, you’d round a corner and there would be a checkpoint where an official would clock you in and give a receipt with he elapsed time for that leg. A typical rally lasted about 4 hours, covered about 150 miles of back roads, and had several checkpoints. The overall average speeds totaled between 20 and 40 MPH. They could be run day or night, and as in any LEGITIMATE automotive competition, were NEVER canceled due to bad weather.
My best performance was in the SCCA Florida Regionals; 3rd place, Barefoot Division (Factory Odometer, no mechanical calculator). From Noon to Midnight, about 400 miles. Our total cumulative error was about 30 seconds.