Running Press On Regardless®

The information on this page will most likely be beneficial to first time TSD rallyists who choose to run POR. In addition TSD rallyists with some experience, but running POR for the first time, may also find some of this information useful. While you don’t need a stage rally prepared car to run POR, some thought and preparation beyond a more typical TSD rally is worth considering.

Vehicles and Vehicle Preparation

While Press On Regardless® in its current form is not the brutal car breaker of years past, it is nonetheless a briskly paced rally traversing unpaved roads through the forests of northern Michigan. You don’t need a stage-prepared rally car to run POR, but you are well advised to give a little thought and effort to preparing your vehicle to run the rally.

The roads used for POR can be traversed at rally speeds in the average family crossover SUV or other vehicle with more generous clearance without damage. Vehicles with low ground clearance are not advised. Obviously smaller, higher performance cars will navigate the course more easily and be more fun to run with. All wheel or 4 wheel drive is certainly a plus. And people have competed successfully in POR with pickup trucks, Jeeps and SUVs other larger vehicles.

Basic mechanical soundness of your vehicle is a starting point. Being stranded in the middle of the woods on some two track in the middle of the night because you didn’t replace that worn fan belt is not likely to be a fun experience. Tires, suspension, steering, lighting, windshield wipers and washers should all be checked out and confirmed ready for the task.

You’ll likely see some of the more serious competitors bring along and bolt up wheels with rally gravel tires. While this can provide a handling boost, it is not essential. Folks do run on just regular all weather tires, although you would be smart to have tires with lots of tread remaining for better grip. Some people run the rally on winter tires, which, with their more aggressive tread pattern, offer some limited improvement over all season tires.

Many hours will be spent running these back roads after dark. Enhanced lighting is strongly advised. A good set of driving lights will be very helpful. At the very least consider upgrading your stock headlights to a brighter alternative. LED bulbs are now widely available and offer significantly improved lighting at a modest cost. Upgrading to higher performance halogen bulbs is also a reasonably priced option, bulbs like the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra, for example.

And speaking of lighting – since you’ll be running after dark you’ll need some sort of lighting so you can read the route instructions and other materials as needed. Headlamps are effective, inexpensive and easy to use, and have become a popular lighting option in recent years. A headlamp with a red lens/bulb is a plus, as red light is minimally disruptive to your night vision.

You’ll want at least minimal supplies to work with your route instructions – a couple of clipboards and a half dozen pens or pencils (these have a way of disappearing when bouncing around back roads at pace!) at least. Many competitors use highlighter markers to emphasize particular aspects of the route instructions; e.g., speeds, short sequences, timing adjustments (pauses and gains), etc. You also will want some sort of digital display timekeeping device. A kitchen timer, a large wristwatch or something similar will work to get started.

A dedicated GPS mapping receiver (Garmin, TomTom, etc.) is highly recommended.

Having a Michigan county road map atlas along can be a life saver at times.

Pack along snacks and beverages. You’ll be grateful you did when hunger strikes while you are waiting to restart the next leg out in the woods at 11 PM! Or if you have a mechanical issue and have to wait a bit to be rescued.

Well prepared competitors will have on board some spares and at least a basic set of tools. Plus, of course, a supply of duct tape and zip ties! Often just having a few items and tools available can get you going again if you run into problems. Jumper cables are a good addition; not only might they save your bacon, but you may be able to help a fellow competitor in need. A tow strap is another smart item to have on board. You could find yourself needing to be pulled out of little off road excursion, or perhaps needing to be pulled out of the woods following an unrepairable equipment failure.

Running POR

Press On Regardless® is intended to be the most challenging TSD (time-speed-distance) rally of the year for the Detroit Region. If you’re not familiar with TSD rallies then take a moment to read the section below titled ‘What’s a TSD Rally?’. A typical POR will cover 350-500 miles over approximately 75% unpaved roads. The rally runs at a brisk, but legal, pace. All speeds are under the speed limit applicable to the section of road being driven. Speeds start out relatively slower during the daytime segments of the rally, but then transition to a brisker pace as the rally proceeds into the nighttime and after dark hours. In years past the rally has run over two days; in recent years it has run on a single (albeit long!) day.

When running POR you will travel over a variety of roads and road surfaces. It is important to remember that this is a road rally, run at legal speeds on public, open roads. Under all circumstances safety must come first. Stay well over on your own side of the road, especially so over hills and around corners. Keep your car under control at all times – again, this is not a speed contest, and reckless driving is not tolerated. Receiving a moving traffic violation during the rally is grounds for disqualification.

Pay attention to fuel management. There are not many (read none) gas stations open in rural northern Michigan in the middle of the night. Running out of gas in the woods in the middle of nowhere at midnight is not a happy time. The rally is broken up into a number of sections, with each section generally taking 2-3 hours to run. Between sections the route instructions will direct you to a section break location. These will typically be opportunities to use a rest room, grab a snack and beverage, and above all – GET GAS! This is especially important in the later sections. Don’t skip the opportunity to top off before you head off into the woods late at night.

Some of the roads used in POR will be narrow lanes and two track trails which meander through state and federal forest land. Some of these roads will have rough and/or soft patches. These locations are prominently flagged in the route instructions. Pay attention! Those spots will be indicated by mileages in the route instructions, and those instructions will include timing adjustments that enable you to slow down and safely traverse these sections without falling behind.

If you’re new to TSD, or are a minimally experienced TSD rallyist, your best strategy for running your first (or even subsequent) POR is to ignore the time keeping aspect of the rally. You will have your hands full and be kept busy just working to stay on course and roughly on time. Instead, drive at speeds 3-5 miles faster than those specified in the instructions to compensate for slowing through corners and stopping at intersections. This will keep you pretty closely on time while not making yourself crazy doing the time keeping work.

To run in a POR is to participate in a fine adventure with a long and storied reputation. It can be great fun to run even if you find you can’t keep up with the speeds and be competitive with the more experienced competitors. The spirit of the rally is embodied in its name – press on, regardless!

Sounds Straightforward – What Can Go Wrong?

Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of things can go wrong while running a TSD rally, and even a bit more so when running POR.

Going Off Course. The vast majority of newcomers to rallying, and even experienced teams, will find themselves occasionally making a mistake in reading the instructions and realize they are obviously no longer following the rally course. This is typically detected when working on instruction that doesn’t fit with what you’re encountering. Example: you’re working on a mileaged instruction that directs you to turn left at a cross road, but when you arrive at that mileage there’s no road. Now what?

One solution to this it to turn around and drive back in the direction you came from until you arrive at the point on the course where you made the error, then resume following the route correctly from there. Note that you will now be behind time, and if running stock class and using the vehicle’s odometer, your mileage will now be off as well. For those reasons it is highly desirable, especially for novices, to focus on route following and not go off course!

If you find yourself completely lost and cannot determine how to get back on the rally course the best strategy is to proceed to the next section break and resume running the rally (press on regardless, remember?) with the start of the following section. The coordinates of the locations of the section break locations will be made available (see 2020 POR Information). If you have a GPS mapping navigation solution available you can enter the coordinates of the next section break location and use your GPS navigator to take you there. Be aware that GPS navigator maps oftentimes don’t distinguish between an unpaved but quite passable county road and some nasty two track trail. Use your head and judgement here – if the GPS is directing you on to a road that clearly looks to you like you have no business going down it, then don’t. Continue on and let the GPS recalculate your route, or stop and look at the GPS (or paper) map and determine another, better choice.

Vehicle Failure: You’re out in the middle of nowhere; it’s late; it’s dark. Suddenly your car quits running. Uh-oh. Obviously your first course of action will be to assess the situation and determine if you can fix it yourself (you did remember to pack those tools and supplies mentioned earlier, right?). If you can’t repair your problem and can’t call anyone because there’s no cell coverage at your location, don’t panic. Every rally has a ‘sweep vehicle’. The sweep vehicle team’s primary purpose is to follow the last car on the course throughout the rally, and to provide assistance as needed to competitors who encounter trouble. So stay put and wait for the sweep team to show up to help you.

Off road excursion: It can happen to the best of us – a mistake is made in judging corner speed, or an unexpected slippery patch is encountered, etc., and you find yourself off the side of the road nose down in a ditch, and can’t drive yourself out. Again – no need to panic. Wait for the sweep team to arrive and you and sweep can work together to come up with the best solution to get you straightened away. Maybe just a tug is all you need – you do have that tow strap mentioned earlier with you, right?

What’s a TSD Rally?

POR is a (TSD) time-speed-distance rally. Each driver/navigator team receives a set of route instructions at the beginning of the rally. The route instructions provide precise, accurate directions for how to follow the rally route to stay on course. Along with those course following directions the instructions also give speeds to use. The specified speeds will vary from segment to segment of the rally, dependent on road surface, visibility, ‘twistiness’, residences along the route, and safety considerations. As a TSD rallyist your challenge is to navigate the course without going off while at the same time maintaining the speeds necessary to stay on time.

Along the rally route, at locations unknown to you as a competitor, will be points, known as checkpoints or controls, where your arrival time at the location is observed and logged. The rallymaster has predetermined the ‘perfect’ time for each timed segment, or ‘leg’, of the rally. He does this by using the mileages he’s taken in laying out the rally course, and the speeds he’s assigned, to compute time, using time-speed-distance arithmetic: time = distance / speed. Your goal is to match the rallymaster’s calculated perfect times at each checkpoint. As currently run POR is timed in seconds. You will receive a penalty point for each second you arrive at the checkpoint which deviates from the rallymaster’s calculated perfect time. You receive penalty points for both early and late arrivals – driving fast to arrive at a control early will only reward with you penalty points. Again, a TSD rally is NOT a speed contest. A perfect arrival time receives no penalty points, resulting in the sought after and much prized zero score.

The score for each leg is independent of the other legs. You cannot make up for a late arrival at a checkpoint by arriving early by the same amount at the next checkpoint. At the finish of the event the winner will be the team with the lowest penalty point score accumulated from all the checkpoints – like golf, low score wins.

There are four competition classes. These are not based on car performance, equipment or modifications, but instead are based on the equipment used for performing time keeping. The classes are:

Stock – You use the car’s stock odometer for distance measuring. You can calculate timing using any method or device provided that you manually enter distance information from the odometer into your calculation solution. Devices/apps that directly input mileage for automatic timing calculation purposes from GPS, wheel sensors or vehicle systems are not allowed in stock class.

Limited – You may use any device that provides vehicle based distance measuring (input from vehicle’s electronic systems, speedometer cable, or pulses from a wheel/axle driven sensor), but, like stock, you must manually input those mileages into your calculation solution. Alternatively, you may use an app that inputs mileages directly from a GPS (internal to the device or some externally connected solution) to perform timing calculations.

Equipped – You may any use any distance measuring and timing calculation equipment and methods you wish. Competitors in the Equipped class typically use dedicated, purpose-designed and built TSD rally computers.

Novice – If you’re reading this material to learn about TSD rallying then you’re almost certainly a newcomer to TSD rallying. You’ll want to run in the Novice class. Equipment rules are identical to those of Stock class. You can run in Novice class so long as both driver and navigator have competed in 5 or fewer rallies.

It is highly recommended that if you’re running POR as novice, and especially so if running as a first timer TSD rallyist, you do not attempt to do time keeping calculations. You will find yourself plenty busy and challenged just staying on course and maintaining approximately correct speeds. Adding timing calculations will almost assuredly cause frustration, off course deviations and confusion.

If you want a deeper peek into TSD rallying check out Scott Harvey Jr’s excellent Beginner’s Guide To TSD Rally.