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andyc740 04-30-2010 08:49 PM

Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
Last weekend I rode out to the Big Bend Open Road Race (BBORR) in Ft. Stockton. I'm still working up the trip report, but I wanted to post a teaser.

The trip report will likely get to be a long one, discussing open road racing, timing, my ride there and back and probably a few rabbit trails along the way. If you get a bit saddlesore, feel free to pull out and find your own road home. Till then, I'll be your road captain.

Here's your countdown:

andyc740 04-30-2010 08:57 PM

Part - I BBORR Introduction
The Big Bend Open Road Race (BBORR) is held the fourth weekend in April every year in Ft. Stockton. The race is on US Highway 285 between Ft. Stockton and Sanderson, Texas, a distance of 60 miles.

Last year I managed to weasel my way aboard the timing crew (through Texas Mile connections) and had a ball. I was even invited back this year, so I made it a point to go. The trip amounts to a 4-day weekend with two days at the road race sandwiched between two 500-mile bike rides. Who could ask for more?

Some background on the BBORR for you: It's billed as the Most Challenging Open Road Race in the World. The BBORR starts just outside of Ft. Stockton on Hwy 285 and runs to Sanderson, 60 miles South. The race is against the clock, so the racers start one by one. When all the racers are across the line at Sanderson, they turn around and run back to Ft. Stockton. The goal is to be the person in your class with an average speed closest to the class speed for the 120 miles of the race. There are limits on how fast or slow you can run. You cannot exceed your tech speed for the class or go 30 mph under your class speed (or 70 mph, whichever is lower). Speed traps along the course monitor the cars' speeds. Anyone outside the limit is disqualified from the race.

The summary of classes and speeds:

The race is very competitive. In the 2009 race, the top 30 finishers out of a field of 159 were less than a second off the average speed for the class. Ten drivers were disqualified for either exceeding their tech speed or going too slow. Frequently, there are only hundredths of a second separating the top finishers in a class.

Many of the drivers use GPS to track their speeds. Others are hand-timers, relying only on stopwatches. The cars can run with or without a navigator. The ability of the teams to finish within a fraction of a second of their average class time makes timing the race very critical. How do you measure elapsed times well within thousandths of a second at two places that are 60 miles apart? More on that later.

The Bruce 04-30-2010 09:36 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
This is going to be interesting for sure.

Duke 04-30-2010 11:06 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race

I cant imagine even being within 1 min of actual of two points 60 miles apart, and that is pretty easy math, but 1/1000th... :eek2:

andyc740 05-01-2010 07:09 AM

Part II - An early start, Corpus Christi to Orange Grove
I was all wound up and didn't sleep much the night before the race, so I was packed and ready to go pretty early Thursday morning. As usual, I have a more complete picture album of the trip on Picasa.

This is me. In case you can't tell, I'm really excited.

I decided to take the back roads from Corpus Christi to Sanderson, rather than I-10, so I headed out FM 624.

I stopped for some gas station breakfast tacos in Orange Grove and saw this rig at the gas pumps. I'm sure some of the wags on this board have a creative explanation of what we're looking at. I think it's the rig that restocks the straws at the gas station.

It was starting to look like rain, though there was no rain in the forecast.

andyc740 05-01-2010 07:16 AM

Part III - Orange Grove to Dilley
I always get a grin out of this sign leaving Orange Grove. It's wrong.

FM 624 is not too exciting to ride. This is a typical view. There is one overpass and two stop signs in almost 100 miles of road. Evenings, I'll see more deer than cars on the road and I don't usually see deer unless they're standing in the ditch waving at me as I go past. I tend to see more deer in a car than on a bike. What they're doing in a car, I'll never know.

The wildflowers were nice, though they looked blurry. Maybe because I got up so early.

This is 82 miles from that sign in Orange Grove. See any gas station? Distance from the sign to the next gas station in Cotulla is actually 95 miles. Whenver I see the Orange Grove sign, I always mentally picture a biker having to push his bike the last 13 miles. Actually, in the picture it looks like someone ran out of gas and had to pull over to the side.

Rabbit trail (you've been warned): I don't know what it is with me and numbers, but wrong ones always bug me. One morning I wondered if my two mugs of coffee really added up to the six cups the coffee maker said I drank, so I got out our 2-cup measuring cup to find out. It turns out the cups marked off on a coffee pot are 6-oz. cups, not the 8 ounces they're supposed to be. I checked every coffee maker at Wal-Mart to see if any of them said anything about their 10-cup coffeemaker being 10 6-oz. cups. Not one did. I'm getting shorted two cups every time I make a pot of coffee. I figure I have the grounds for a lawsuit.

andyc740 05-01-2010 07:23 AM

Part IV - Dilley to Sanderson
I hit I-35 at Cotulla, went north a few miles and gassed up in Dilley, then headed out FM 117 through Batesville to Uvalde. There's some nice farmland along 117.

The day was rather dreary and drizzley, so I stopped in Uvalde and put on raingear before I headed west towards Del Rio on Hwy 90. One of the trip's more interesting moments came a few miles west of Uvalde. I was out in the country, 70 mph speed limit, and the car ahead of me signalled right, slowed and edged onto the shoulder. Just as I went to pass, the car swung all the way across the road to the left side, still signalling for a right turn. Because the road was wet, I couldn't get too aggressive with avoidance maneuvers, but I did manage to miss the car. I left some skidmarks, but they weren't on the road. I'm trying to figure out how to mount a train horn on my bike.

I stopped and visited for a bit at the bike shop on the east side of Del Rio, stripped back out of the raingear, and gassed up again in town, figuring I'd stop for lunch at one of the towns between Del Rio and Sanderson, not knowing there wasn't much town to those towns. This is near the Pecos River crossing. Quite a change in scenery from Uvalde.

Right after I took this picture and stowed the camera, I noticed a tarantula at the edge of the road. By the time I got the camera back out, the tarantula disappeared down his hole. Rats.

Finally, I spotted a store in Dryden that looked like it might have a lunch counter. Sure enough, they had an awesome hamburger. At least that's what the menu said, "Awesome Burger." Pat, a local, came up and opened conversation with the line, "I have to buy dogfood by the pallet." Apparently he was at the store to sign for a load of dogfood that had been delivered. He lived in the compound I saw east of town with an RV or two, a small wind-generator and several visqueen-covered greenhouses. He was living off the grid, he just hadn't gotten too far off the highway.

AnotherAggie 05-01-2010 05:42 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
Nice teaser pic. :-P Open the string and the first thing you see is a Cobra. :drool:

TWTim 05-01-2010 06:06 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
The BBORR is always a lot of fun. We had the WTORR (West Texas Open Road Race) near Midland a few years ago, but it caused a lot of controversy and was never held again. IIRC, the winning unlimited car averaged something like 205 miles per hour.

Motorcycles, for a variety of reasons, are not allowed to participate.

CT90RR 05-01-2010 07:01 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
Can't wait to read this, it's going to be good!!!

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:00 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race

Originally Posted by AnotherAggie (Post 739253)
Nice teaser pic. :-P Open the string and the first thing you see is a Cobra. :drool:

Hold on to your hat. There's more to come!

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:08 PM

Part V - Sanderson, Check-In, Bud Powers
Twenty miles down the road, about 2:00 in the afternoon, I arrived in Sanderson. The BBORR starts with two days of practice sessions in Sanderson on Wednesday and Thursday. Practice is required for rookies, optional for returning racers. Practice is held on Hwy 90, west of Sanderson with flaggers stationed at the highway to allow practice only while no traffic is on the road. The Tech Inspection crew inspects the cars showing up and the town of Sanderson hosts a dinner for the race crews when practice winds up Thursday afternoon.

I checked in at the Sanderson headquarters with Kenda, the race coordinator, signed the liability waiver and got my green course-workers wristband.

A display was set up, honoring Bud Powers, a legendary racer from Alpine.

Bud raced his first BBORR in his yellow El Camino in 2001. Bud was 80 years old at the time and 80 was his car number. I saw him run last year in 2009 and 88 was his car number. Bud passed away October 2009 and the BBORR folks were retiring his current car number, 89. They had also put his car on the race logo this year.

The tech inspection team was busy doing tech inspections.

And Rocinante was in some pretty good company.

This Shelby Cobra kit car was built by a fellow, Doug, from Denver. His brother-in-law, Randy, was along as the navigator. They told about coming over Raton pass in the car and counting 11 thunderstorms spread out in front of them. In a car with no top. They managed to get through dry without driving through any of them.

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:35 PM

Part VI - Dinner and a Party
I'm going to resist the urge to litter this trip report with all the pictures of cool cars that I took. If you want to see the cool cars, go to my Picasa album. I may put in a few just for flavor. (If you believe that, I've got a nice, big bridge in West Texas to sell you.)

Once practice wound up, food was served at the pavilion in Sanderson, provided by all the townfolks. While waiting for feeding time to start, I noticed a couple one table over eyeing me and finally went over to talk to them. It was Lee and Mary Jo from Hatfield, Arkansas, hometown of CMA. I met them last year at the hotel and had a great time visiting with them. It was nice to see them again. I didn't get their picture however. These are some random people eating or waiting to get fed. [Dabney says the fellow in the blue T-shirt is George Hansard, president of the Pecos County State Bank, the outfit that sponsors the rally.]

The grub was pretty good and even included some cabrito. If you check out the fellow's BBORR T-Shirt on the right, you'll see Ol' 89 on it.

About the time I finished eating, Dabney turned up. Dabney is the head timing official for the BBORR (and most other open road races in the U.S.) and the source of my invitation to the BBORR. Gotta be nice to Dabney.

After dinner, I rode the 60 miles up to Ft. Stockton, checked into the hotel and relaxed for a bit. Thursday night is the crew party before the race, held at the Swiss Clock Inn every year and put together by the racers themselves. One fellow usually shows up with a 2-stroke powered blender, the DJ starts cranking out oldies and the party is on. Crazy hats are the order of the night and I was well-equipped this year. However, I forgot to bring my camera to the party, so you don't get any pictures. My favorite hat this year was the fellow from Alberta, Canada, wearing a flamingo on his head. It was soon 10:00, the time I usually turn into a pumpkin, so I headed for bed.

In the morning it was time to check out the rides in the parking lot.

This is a tech sticker on one of the cars.

poser 05-01-2010 09:41 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
do they let bikes run in this?

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:49 PM

Part VII - Friday Morning, More Tech Inspection
Friday at the BBORR is a light day. Registration and tech inspections move to the city park in Ft. Stockton for the late arrivals. Dabney usually is putting together his mess of timing gear to make sure it works. This is the registration crew. The blonde on the right is Kenda, the race director.

Charlie Friend showed up with his generation 2 Corvair. It's powered by a small-block V8 crammed into where the back seat is supposed to be and can hit 200 mph, which I saw him do in last year's race. He's always entered in the Unlimited class. Gen-2 because he went off-road several years ago at a race in Nevada in his previous Corvair and flipped end over end a number of times. Somebody has video of the wreck, but it's never been posted to the internet.

Charlie's previous Corvair was my first brush with the BBORR. My wife and I went out to Arizona 3 or 4 years ago and spent the night in Ft. Stockton. This outrageous Corvair was parked in the hotel lot. Charlie walked by while I was drooling all over his windows and he told me he was in town for the race. I said, "What race?" and the discussion was on.

Back at the park, the local high school kids were doing a brisk car wash business. If you think a lot of Corvettes show up in these pictures, it's because there are a lot. Seventy-three Corvettes were entered in the race. The second most common car was the Mustang with fifteen entries. My favorites are the Cobras and Ford GT's. And Charlie's primer-red Corvair.

And the Ft. Stockton First Baptist Church was on hand, passing out cold bottles of water.

The church team leader told me about a time an early-season snowstorm dumped 10 in. of snow on town, closing I-10. The church put up a number of stranded travellers in their rec center.

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:54 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race

Originally Posted by Tim Kreitz (Post 739262)
The BBORR is always a lot of fun. We had the WTORR (West Texas Open Road Race) near Midland a few years ago, but it caused a lot of controversy and was never held again. IIRC, the winning unlimited car averaged something like 205 miles per hour.

Motorcycles, for a variety of reasons, are not allowed to participate.

You'll be pleased to know a promotor is working on another West Texas Open Road Race to run from Marfa to Presidio in October. If Dabney does the timing, I'll probably be there, too.


Originally Posted by poser (Post 739336)
do they let bikes run in this?

No. It's pretty car-centric. Somebody want to start an open-road race for bikes? I describe myself as their token biker. I tell them I hang out with biker-trash all the time, so I thought I'd come to the race and hang with the car-trash, instead.

andyc740 05-01-2010 09:59 PM

Part VIII - Tech Inspection Pics
I know I said I wouldn't put in too many car pictues, but here's a few pics of cars that showed up for tech Friday morning. How about a '91 Jaguar XJS (with the V-12 engine):

An '08 Audi R8 attracted quite a few groupies.

Even several trucks were entered.

But, as I said, my favorites are the Cobras:

poser 05-01-2010 10:06 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race
you can post as many pics of cars as you want, and that Audi is SA-WEE-TAH!!!! :drool:

andyc740 05-01-2010 10:30 PM

Part IX - Timing Equipment
How do you time a race down to the gnat's eyebrow when the finish line is 60 miles from the start line? It's all done with smoke and mirrors. Just kidding. The key to the system is using the GPS satellites. They provide more than location, they also broadcast time accurate down to the microsecond (for any non-tech types, that's a millionth of a second). The timing equipment uses GPS time signals to synchronize the time between the start and finish using these black boxes.

This system was put together mostly by Ed, who is also doing the trap speeds at the race, at the Texas Mile, and a number of other West Coast High Speed Shootouts. If you've been to the Texas Mile any of the past several times and seen the big digital speed display, that's Ed's baby. Here's a link to a picture of the fastest bike at the mile with Ed's display in the background:

The GPS receivers are tied into a laptop and into some backup timing equipment. A laser beam system at the finish trips when a car crosses and feeds the exact time to the computer.

A timing tree was designed and built by Steve for the races. It's programmable for starts at cadences ranging from 3 minutes to 15 seconds. Steve and Dabney are discussing how they'll do the equipment tests.

Here's a shot of the starting tree and the finish-line laser set up last year. Once all the cars have finished the first leg and are in Sanderson, somebody loads up the start tree and hustles it down to the other end to start the racers on the way back.

Actually, the laser is on the far side of the road. The receiver is in the picture. Don't ask for too many details or I'll be out of my depth in a hurry. I'm just the gopher.

Click on the timing tree to see how it works.

In this clip, it's set up for a 30-second start cadence. Since the start tree is driven off a GPS-based time signal and the laser at the finish line interrupts a GPS-based time signal, they can get pretty accurate elapsed times, probably better than 1/10,000 ths of a second.

andyc740 05-01-2010 10:38 PM

Re: Good Times at the Big Bend Open Road Race

Originally Posted by poser (Post 739351)
you can post as many pics of cars as you want, and that Audi is SA-WEE-TAH!!!! :drool:

Ok. I'm all caught up now with what I'd written so far for the Ride/Race report, so I'll leave you with a few car photos and try to get back to the report tomorrow. We haven't even started the parade, much less the race yet, but it's almost time for me to turn into a pumpkin. :giveup:

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