The Trans America Challenge 2018

27 May - 17 June 2018



JUNE 16, 2018

Bend to Newberg

Drag Queens

The Pacific Northwest is cooler and lower than almost anywhere we’ve been for the last ten days and this morning, Bend almost felt chilly. There were clouds in the sky and even the Viking duo of Alex Vassbotten and Eric Osland had their thick flying jackets on in the cockpit of their Alvis.

The first Regularity today was to be over the impressive McKenzie Pass but, thanks to forest fire, flood and roadworks the road was closed until Monday morning so, a bit of 48 hour car quick thinking sorted out a re route around the problem and another timed section was seamlessly slotted in as a replacement and, from Bend we drove to Sisters then crossed the Pacific Crest Trail to pick up the original route at the lunch halt in the Korner Post Cafe in Detroit.

After a good lunch alongside an Oshkosh mounted division of the US army, on manoeuvres in the area, there followed another two regularities in the beautiful Cascade Mountains around Pinhead Buttes and the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness on the Clackamas River where we also crossed the 45th parallel, the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole.

The big draw for today though wasn’t anything so lofty, rather the crews were getting excited about something much more basic. A drag race on the Woodburn Strip, in which man (or Janet Howle) and machine, were pitted against each other and the clock and, there could only ever be one winner. The standing quarter mile is an American institution which has helped to breed muscle cars such as the Mustang, the Camaro and the Corvette and, coincidentally we had all three of these represented this afternoon.

Testosterone mixed with gasoline and suffused with burning rubber, is indeed a heady scent and, over three runs down the strip the crews thoroughly enjoyed its near narcotic effect and our own little band top of ‘top fuellers’ drew polite applause from the crowds in the grandstand.

Before each run, every car had to go through process of staging, one of the most important aspects of drag racing whereby the car creeps forward through the start gate and triggers a series of sensors which are linked to the Christmas tree lights, red, amber and green, which let the driver know when to start the run.

Several measurements are then taken from each race: reaction time, elapsed time, and terminal speed.

This was a test on consistency in which three runs had to be carefully matched.

Reaction time was the time from the green light, to the car leaving the line. Elapsed time was the time from the car leaving the start to crossing the finish line. The speed was measured through a trap / gate in the final 20m, giving the terminal speed of the car over that distance.

Despite some desperate efforts with the pedals, nothing this afternoon upset the top three placings. There wasn’t enough time available in three short runs to do any real damage to their overall positions so, David Roberts shot his Triumph down the lane with just enough care and consideration that it would survive another day and hopefully carry him and Jo over the finish line in first place. Mike and Lorna Harrison were almost as guarded with their Volvo despite giving a little extra throttle and pipping their rivals to the post in the second leg. Jim Gately on the other hand, with the home crowd behind him, floored the Cadillac in a do or die attempt to either cement third place or move up a couple of places.

From the track it was a short hop to the night halt, the Allison Inn, where there was something of an end of term atmosphere and growing feeling that tomorrow's drive, despite the presence of a couple of regularities, might actually turn out to be nothing more than a victory lap.

Syd Stelvio



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