What's a Rallye?

A car rallye has been described as an extremely large board game: public streets are the board, and your car is your playing piece, and every intersection offers you choices. In each car, the driver, navigator and maybe passengers, carefully follow instructions that direct them along a given course. There is a friendly competition at the finish to see which teams followed the course most accurately. Rallyes come in various shapes and sizes, but they are all non-racing events held on open public roads. Rallye teams include friends, couples, and entire families, and any type of car is welcome. The Rallye Club of Silicon Valley in recent years has produced nearly monthly gimmick rallyes and years ago offered timed rallyes.

Registration? check. Map? check. Instructions? check.  The typical rallye begins with a brief registration, where you are given a set of instructions on how to run the rallye. This will include (1) a page or two of theme-specific instructions and definitions; (2) a page of driving directions; (3) a set of prioritized tasks you must accomplish to earn points; and (4) a score sheet that you will use to record your progress. Total driving is often less than 10 miles. Everyone will get to the finish, but probably no one will make all the correct decisions.

Ready..., Set..., Huh?  If this seems fairly straightforward so far, be assured, it isn't! A Gimmick Rallye provides you a set of instructions full of quirks, tricks, and peculiarities. For example, the theme of the rallye might instruct you to make a left turn whenever you cross any street named after a US President, such as Lincoln Ave, but a "left turn" might be defined as "reverse your direction of travel"! This quirk isn't too hard to do, but it's easy to forget it when you're concentrating on the driving directions. Rallyes typically have dozens of tricks (i.e. "gimmicks") like these, ranging from the near-obvious like this one, to the sublimely obtuse, such as instructions hidden in or on a giveaway. Would a rallyemaster be that devious? You betcha!   Gimmick: a trick, device, quirk, or clever ploy. (Think of a gimmick like playing "Simon Says." The master is attempting to mislead you, and you are trying to not to be misled.)

Giveaway: Something given to each rallyist or each carload, such as a pen, notepad, snack, or water bottle.

“In Which the Party of the First Part...”  A key point in a Gimmick Rallye is that each type of  instruction interacts with others in funny ways: apparent conflicts are common, but there is a strict order of priority for which rules take precedence. Also, some rules are transient, meaning that they come into effect and go out of effect depending on certain conditions. And some rules "float" until you get a chance to apply them. It's really challenging to keep all of these rules in mind, which is why rallyists often run in teams including a navigator and one or more passengers in the car. Experts spend quite a while reading, studying, and highlighting the pages of rules and writing themselves notes and lists. Often, a preliminary copy of the rules is posted for the rallye several days before the rallye. This allows study and discussion, but does not include the route.

The Types of Gimmick Rallyes

Different rallyes use one (or more!) techniques to score your success and direct you back onto the rallye route.

  In a Coursemarker Gimmick Rallye, the rallye creator posted special signs on utility poles where you will encounter them while driving. When you see the coursemarker (CM) at left, you record 24 next to AA on your score sheet, which will be worth points at the finish. And you bring into effect an instruction numbered 24, which will put you back on the rallye route.

A CM rallye will have a sample CM posted at the start. Is it valid? Should it be recorded? Could there be more than one CM? (One was once hidden in the rest rooms!)
 A-B   In an A-B style Gimmick Rallye, each step of the route has two alternative parts. You must determine if each part is valid and if or where it can be done. You do only the part you can do first and record that part on your score sheet. Alternative parts are executed along the same route or a similar route (e.g., on parallel streets). The construction of the route assures that no one gets lost. Example.

1.  A. Turn left on Middle field.
    B. Turn left at first opportunity.

If the first opportunity is Middlefield (one word), that doesn't match part A, but it can still qualify as an opportunity to turn. So you'd record B and do it to complete Route Instruction 1. 

(If you wonder what if both parts are valid and can be executed at the same location, then car rallyes are for you! Your instructions will cover that case.)
 Q-A   In a Question and Answer style Gimmick Rallye, questions are interspersed among the Route Instructions. At the appropriate points in the rallye, you record your Answers on your score sheet. 

After RI 3, what streets meet at the next intersection you come to?

Remember that some words or abbreviations may be defined as non-existent for rallye purposes. And maybe there are more than two street names that meet at the intersection, such as at Jewel, Montecito, and Rengstorff (in Mountain View).
 Photo Rallyes
  At the start of a Photo Rallye, you receive a number of photos. As you follow the Route Instructions, you identify photos that depict the view from your car and record on your score sheet the mileage along the route at which they occurred (using your car's odometer).

The Mechanics of a Gimmick Rallye

Bring any type of car; pens or pencils; highlighters; clipboard(s) for everyone but the driver; paper or sticky notes; and at least one person besides the driver. Many rallyists want an electronic or paper map with a street index. They are helpful, but not indispensable. Whether the sign says FIRST or 1st can make all the difference, regardless of what your map says. If some of the rallye will be in the dark, bring a dim light for reading instructions and maps without distracting the driver and a bright flashlight to read signs and CMs. You may also want a magnifying glass, a hat with a brim, snacks and drinks, and someone you can introduce to rallying.

Registration.   At the start of a rallye, there is a per-carload entrance fee to pay and a liability waiver for everyone to sign. In exchange you get a packet of information, a keepsake (typically a magnet). The registrar will also help you determine your class. First Timers compete only with the other First Timers. (There are typically 0 to 5 cars in each of six classes.)

Read the Rules. Everyone in your car should read the registration packet, even though the rules can be confusing at first, using terms not yet defined, and references to other sections and pages. This page discusses typical types of instructions and possible gimmicks in a CM type rallye, and shows sample pages from a rallye. Highlight potential problems and write down all your questions. Some teams study a map before starting to drive.

Explain that again! The rallye master offers a rallye school or “chalk talk” for First Timers and Beginners. This will tell you how the rallye works and how to use your score sheet to earn points. And the rallye master may give away some gimmicks that you might otherwise have overlooked. Even the easy gimmicks go unsolved sometimes because you are intently looking for the hard ones. If a STOP SIGN is a sign that says "STOP" then what other signs might qualify? A sign reading "STOP AHEAD"? A "BUS STOP" sign? Other ideas?

I have a question . . . After the rallye school, you get a chance to ask the rallye master questions privately. Did you intend to spell this street that way? Am I supposed to have a score sheet with today's date? You don't want your competitors to hear what you have noticed.

Let's roll! When your questions are answered, your team will set out. The route probably includes a "traverse" (without gimmicks) to the correct neighborhood, a series of route instructions, and perhaps additional traverse(s). There is a time limit for the rallye (probably 3 hours after you leave the start), so we know when to expect everyone at the finish, but you should have plenty of time to drive the whole route (which might take you less than 2 hours). Don't hurry. Beginners often have difficulty driving slowly enough to notice details and consider potential gimmicks.

But what if . . .? You are likely to be confused along the route. That's why a rallye has been described as "all the fun of driving around lost, but with deliberately bad instructions"! Your team is likely to pull over to the curb, discuss the options, and go back to read a sign again or retry a few turns. If you are still confused, the rallye master provides a phone number you can call for help. (Newbies get more rallye master assistance.)

Check in. Most rallyes have a "checkpoint" where you stop your car and interact with rallye workers. There may be a saying to recite or a challenge to attempt. At the checkpoint, you may receive additional instructions or changed definitions. You might even be given a snack or a drink. Studying or unwrapping it might reveal a hidden instruction!

The Finish! Rallyes finish at an order-at-the-counter restaurant where you can get something to eat and drink. At the finish, you turn in your score sheet and are given the "critique" (answer key) that describes every gimmick intended by the rallye master. It tells what you should have done and why (often with some where and when). Experienced rallyists can answer questions and share stories about even more devious gimmicks. If you still disagree with the critique after you understand it, there is a protest form on which you can explain your decision and reasoning, potentially earning back points you missed. Awards are typically presented by class about a half hour after protests close. If you have to leave before then, results will be emailed and posted to the web site within a couple weeks of the rallye, and earned awards can be claimed at a subsequent rallye start. 

Let's Try a Rallye 

TRC has a sample CM rallye your team can read and "run" on a map on your dining room table in about an hour. We also offer a Gimmick Rallye Guide that introduces CM and A-B rallyes, explains potential gimmicks, and provides lots of advice. It also includes the sample CM rallye, its critique that explans its gimmicks, a glossary of rallye terms, and a checklist. One team of Stanford first timers beat some experts by studying the Gimmick Rallye Guide before their first rallye!

There is also a small sample A-B rallye available online from another club (that offers one annually around April Fools Day). Try that rallye and then read its critique.

One at a Time

You can get a leg up on your next rallye by checking the rallye web page for its Preliminary General Instructions a few days before the rallye and reading (studying, discussing) them. But don't try to read the sample rallyes and a true rallye's preliminaries the same week. Having multiple definitions and rules in your head at once is even more confusing!

Welcome to Your First Gimmick Car Rallye

We really enjoy car rallyes, and we hope you do, too. Here is some basic advice for beginners:
  • Read everything, even though some abbreviations and terms may not make any sense until a later section explains them. There is normally a pre-rallye briefing part-way through the registration period. Attending it should "orient you" enough that the instructions make sense.
    • Beginners should attend this briefing (sometimes called a “rallye school” or “chalk talk.” You may ask general questions there.
    • Ideally, you will register before the briefing and read the (confusing) papers before the briefing. The briefing will explain them.
  • Ask the Rallye Master (not the registrar accepting money) any questions before you leave the start. Tell the Rallye Master you are a first-timer so they will be extra helpful. Also before leaving the start, we require that everyone in your vehicle sign the club's insurance waiver.
  • In general, unless you have been instructed to go quite a distance, if you've driven 6 blocks without seeing anything you are looking for, try to go back to where the rallye last made sense last and retry it, looking even more carefully. (Your Rallye Master may suggest a different threshold.)
  • If that fails, or if you get lost or confused, you can normally call the Rallye Master from the route. When you call, tell the Rallye Master you are a first-timer at the start of the call, so they can be extra helpful.
  • There are awards at the finish, and you are competing only with your class (the other first-timers), so odds are good that you will win an award if you turn in your score sheet and wait for the awards presentation. If for any reason you decide not to complete the rallye, you must call the Rallye Master to let them know not to wait for you. You may also ask others to explain things you don't understand, though the “critique” is intended  to be understandable.
There are no gimmicks in this section, and it is not specific to any rallye.

Web Resources

After  your first rallye, you should visit our website for: