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Richta Rally Timing. How to game The System and seven reasons you (probably) can’t…..

"Gaming the system (also cheating or bending the rules) can be defined as using the rules and procedures meant to protect a system to, instead, manipulate the system for a desired outcome. .....structures in companies and organizations [tend to] drive behaviors that are detrimental to long-term organizational success..... For some, error is the essence of gaming the system, in which a gap in rules allows for errant practices that lead to unintended results...... although the term generally carries negative connotations, gaming the system can be used for benign purposes in the undermining and dismantling of corrupt or oppressive organisations."

Many years ago, I used to work in the National Health Service of the United Kingdom. At that time the NHS was dealing with the same issues that the Canadian public health system is now. The Government of the day, wanting to pressure the providers of healthcare to shorten wait times introduced a Key Performance Indicator of measuring the time it took for patients to receive healthcare after being referred by their doctor - the event that started the measurement clock ticking. They also introduced punitive sanctions against healthcare providers who did not meet the expected standards. As a bye, the government didn't offer any "rewards" for meeting the standards nor any extra resources to help effect change.

As a resourceful manager of a service, I saw that if I could persuade the local managers and doctors to allow their patients to refer themselves and then, once we had done the necessary work, ask their doctor for a referral letter, all our Referral to Treatment times would be negative! Put negative numbers into the Department of Health's data crunching computers and everyone's performance data instantly improves by orders of magnitude! And we did it!

Anyway, this little anecdote is an example of how, by careful reading of the rules it is sometimes possible to find ambiguities with which to derive an unintended and potentially unfair advantage - read up on how Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars was able to outsmart the Formula One blue blazer brigade of the time....

Being a past "bender-of-the-rules", I am mindful of the possible ways it is possible to bend the competition rules I am writing and thinking how I can lay events out to prevent gamesmanship.

  • Scenario One. Calculating the target elapsed time for each leg and over the complete stage.

  • Scenario Two. Lurking short of a Control Point to run the clock down.

  • Scenario Three. Making up lost time.

  • Scenario Four. Leveraging neutralised legs for lending "essential assistance"

  • Scenario Five. Plotting the roadbook into Gaia.

  • Scenario Six. Following-on.

  • Scenario Seven. Cutting the course.

Scenario One. Keeping to a time schedule.

On the face of it, it should be a relatively easy arithmetical challenge to read the required average speed for a leg from the roadbook, add up the total distance that average speed applies over and calculate the target elapsed time for that leg. Add up the target elapsed times for all the legs and you should have the target time for the day's route.... Shouldn't you?

Well, yes and no.

Difficulties arise when you arrive early or late at the next CP. Each leg will be timed from the previous Control Point. If you have arrived early (or late) at that CP you will need to subtract or add the time difference to your prepared schedule.

And again for each subsequent leg...

There are some people who have the mental arithmetic abilities to do these sums in their heads, while navigating a course, and riding a motorcycle, but how would they know if they are early or late at a CP?

Well, if you have an audio system in your helmet connected to your phone you will hear Richta giving you a verbal report on your passage through the last CP... again there's a but! You don't know where the CPs actually are. Your friend-in-your-ear has just told you how you did, it didn't tell you how you were doing as you were doing it.

Also, given each leg is timed from the previous CP (and not from the start CP) each leg is a stand-alone entity. Any time penalties incurred cannot be redeemed. They are set in stone. Move on! You start afresh on the next leg...

Average speedometers are one of the "not allowed" pieces of equipment. I can't sit on everyone's shoulder and confirm that an average speedo hasn't been used but remember, an average speedo needs to be zeroed every time the set average speed changes. You need to stop and zero the "average speedo", the ones I have seen are fiddly electronic ones with small buttons that you need to take your gloves off to adjust (loosing time....) or large mechanical devices that will be spotted at scrutineering, start and finish lines.

There is a further hurdle to "schedule doping" that rolls into the next point.

Scenario Two. Lurking.

One of the jolly wheezes rallyists of yore would get up to if they knew they were ahead of time was to hurry through a section and because rallies were often run at night, they would be brightly lit and visible from, well, half a mile off. Knowing they were ahead of time the last half mile would be driven at a pace commensurate with an arrival on time. To counter this caper, event organisers would find themselves setting faster and faster required speeds which eventually in some circumstances led to absurdly high speeds leading to the end of this kind of motorsport in some countries, for example the UK.

As things stand in BC, TimeSpeedDistance regularity rallying (bikes and cars) is permitted in the relevant road traffic legislation. It is presumed to be in our interests to keep it that way. We can contribute to that by keeping leg speeds sane. In order to prevent Time Control lurking and the power spiral leading to ever higher speeds (on public roads) the simple solution is to simply hide the Time Control locations.

Richta time Control Points (CPs) are GPS coordinates. You would never know you are at a CP - unless you hear your phone telling you how well you did over the last leg. The canny event organiser also takes care not to have the CPs in the same place as roadbook waypoints.... the CPs will be somewhere in the vicinity of waypoints but there will be many more waypoints than CPs. The CPs may be anywhere from 200metres before a speed change to 200m after. There may even be an extra CP in the middle of a single-speed leg. You won't know until after you have passed it! Difficult to game that...

The Richta legs and CPs will be set so that it is impossible to score a zero time penalty in any leg - except by accident. If a leg takes 17 minutes to ride, at 30kph it is 8.5km long (5 miles, kind of short for a day that may be 125 miles long)... 17 minutes is 1020 seconds. Each leg is timed to the closest second, over rough terrain. The chances of achieving a 1 in 1000 accuracy, well, I will know these courses and I wouldn't expect to score any "perfect zeros"!

Scenario Three. Making up lost time.

I've already touched on this in Scen 1. There are a number of recognised ways of timing a rally. In Richta there are two names given, Evansville where each leg is timed from the previous start and Maddison where each leg is timed from the previous CP.

If you gain or lose time in an "Evansville" timed event you can attempt to make that time up or lose it by adjusting your speed over the next and subsequent legs. Given I will be setting the leg speeds at the upper end of what I consider to be prudent , the implication is a late rider could be tempted into riding at imprudent speeds over what are essentially wilderness roads. Puts us back in the position of spiralling speeds and legislative outlawing.

In a "Maddison" event, each leg is timed from the previous CP. Each leg stands on its own (so to speak). There is no need or point in adjusting your speed over subsequent legs, you need to be concentrating on the next leg!

Scenario Four. Leveraging neutralised legs having given "essential assistance".

There is a fatalistic mindset of those people aiming to climb to the summit of Everest. It's a death zone and to stop and give assistance to someone in difficulties will probably result in you also getting into difficulty yourself and will certainly put the kybosch on your summit attempt - so people are left to die and stepped over when they do.

We are not in that situation! The requirement will be if you come across someone in difficulty you will stop and lend whatever assistance you can. In the case of a serious injury, that may mean two or three event riders working together to stabilise the casualty, activate their satellite SOS devices and get word out to the outside world. While we may be in what is a "wilderness area", we won't be more than 50km from cell phone signal. 911 works.

Any event rider who pauses to lend assistance and subsequently scores a time penalty max on that leg will have their max neutralised to a zero perfect score for that leg.

Now, imagine two rally riders seeking to metaphorically stuff fish bellies with lead weights. Big-end Bob and Little-end Lol. Bob hatches a plan that he will "lend an essential hand" to Lol on leg 2 and Lol will repay the favour two legs later. Each will claim a zero for their legs... catch is (apart from the blatantcy of their deceit) is that each would have to take a max time penalty on the leg that they had their "spot of bother" on. Also there may well be more than ten, timed legs in a day's ride, minimising the effect of a single zero-leg score. Busted!

Scenario Five. Plotting the roadbook into Gaia.

This isn't strictly a Richta wheeze but a more general roadbook wheeze.

I ask people what class they are entering when they send me their entry fee so that I can be careful not to sent the Gaia track to the roadbook entrants, there is nothing to stop ambitious roadbook rallyists from reverse engineering their roadbooks into Gaia or some other mapping app. Such study takes time, especially if you make a mistake in your transposition.

I will email out the routes, in the appropriate format about a week before the event. The Gaia people are in for a touring ride so there aren't any secrets to be kept. The roadbook people have the greater puzzle.

Ours is an entry-level, grassroots event - no prize money, no titles or glory. Higher level events make the roadbooks available sometimes only with a few hours or no hours notice, by pdf or paper scroll. At this stage of the game, I am not going to be printing up dozens of scrolls. The roadbooks will be emailed out as a pdf for entrants to print or load as they wish. Study them in the two or three evenings you will have to study them - then you have to ride the course!

If, in the future this proves to be a significant challenge to fair competition, I will switch to printing scrolls and distributing roadbooks with only an hour or two's notice.

Scenario Six. Following-on.

Again, this isn't a Richta wheeze but a general rally wheeze, also this isn't anything to do with Following-on in cricket, or perhaps it is. In cricket, a team who bats second and scores significantly fewer runs than the team who bats first may be forced to take their second innings immediately after their first.

In particularly dry and dusty conditions, it is possible for the dust trail kicked up by leading riders to be followed by subsequent riders. It was one of the observations from the GR200 - including when one of the leading riders took a wrong turn and was followed by four other riders who were following the dust cloud.... This scenario is also a potential problem in high-level rally riding where the overnight leader is required to be the first to start the following morning. In the right conditions, dusty or soft surfaces where tyre tracks can be seen all sorts of clues can be gathered.

A one minute start interval is not sufficient to prevent following-on. Sometimes two minutes isn't enough either. Depending on the size of the field, the start interval will be adjusted for the best running of the day. The rider who finished last in the standings on the previous day will be given the option of starting first and not being the last person in, or starting last and having the advantage of following other tyre tracks. Everyone else will draw lots at the start time to decide the start order.

Scenario Seven. Cutting the Course.

You wouldn't dream of it, would you.....? But others might!!!

There may be places where the course could be cut, shortening the distance of the ride. It may be an out-and-back section, it may be two roads that run more or less parallel and the route is up one and down the other.

You can bet your sweet bottom-bracket I will be putting CPs along those sections at at the turn-round point. Miss the CPs and you will score maxes for the leg before and the leg after the missed CP.

The event standings will be arranged to show the scores of the riders who triggered every CP first, followed by those with an incomplete haul of CPs.

How to minimise your time penalties.

  • Ride the roadbook not the Richta waypoints. You won't know where the Richta Control Points are and some will definitely be in places you don't expect. They will not be like police speed traps that with a practiced and alert eye you can spot a mile off.

  • Calibrate your speedo. Read up on how to calibrate the Rally Navigator - Roadbook Reader speedo. Use Gaia to set a course near to your home of a known distance and calibrate your speedo and odometer.

  • Use your odometer to measure distance between roadbook waypoints, not the overall distance travelled. There will be distance measuring errors along the way - no escaping that. If you ride to your tripmeter, zeroed at every waypoint you won't compound your distance errors.

  • Practice riding at a constant speed over different terrain. It's unavoidable that you will be asked to ride at say 40kph up one side of a mountain and down the other side also at 40kph and there may be a CP at the top to give a measure on the way up and the way down. That's the nature of the sport. Use your speedo to keep a constant speed.

I hope to see you soon!

Jonathan 28/11/22

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Jonathan Binnington
Jonathan Binnington

For me, fortune favours the well prepared! I want to try to anticipate as much as predictably might happen, leaving spare processing power for anything unpredictable!


Well, even with the help of my GPS, I managed to go the wrong way in Gold River last year looking for the registration desk. I almost ended up at a high school grad party, but they didn't seem keen on an old man on a motorcycle joining them (especially a newly retired teacher). Very little danger of me trying to "game the system." Just staying on course will be a personal victory.

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