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How do you add motorcycles to a standard car-only rally?

NASA Rally Sport has been operating rallies with cars and motorcycles both competing together since 2007. There were really no events to model on when we started. Seemingly obvious inspirations, like the Dakar rally, are actually wide open rally-raid events, and their operations are much different.

So, here are the basic lessons we've learned over the years if you're interested in upgrading your car rally to include motorcycles.

The Train
The standard train is:

  • 000
  • 00
  • 0
  • All the rally cars
  • Sweeps.

With motorcycles, the train looks like this:

  • 000
  • 00
  • 0
  • All the motorcycles
  • "Combo Car"
  • All the rally cars
  • Sweeps.

The vehicle between the motorcycles and the rally cars is called the Combo Car, as it has two functions to perform: it is the Medical Sweep for the motorcycles, and it's also the re-zero for the rally cars.

The motorcycle group should always run first. Why? Due to the nature of the vehicle, if there is any mechanical or other problem with a motorcycle, the two humans in the Combo Car can lift a bike off the road to clear a stage in less than a minute. This allows the rally to continue operating on a reasonable schedule. Switching these groups, and running the cars first, means that any extractions end up with a huge gap in the hot stage.

All of the zero cars run exactly the same way as they do when there are only cars. The Combo Car leaves behind the last bike just as a normal sweep would leave behind the last car. When the Combo Car reaches the finish, it declares the course hot for rally car competition just as the normal Car Zero would.

Course Setup
Course arrows are used to mark the course. They are placed at "decision points", in other words, where a person could have a choice of going either right or left, such as a T intersection or a Y intersection. The cautions are also marked. The vast majority of corners are not marked, for the motorcycle rider, the event is similar to an old school "blind rally" where the rally driver had only sparse tulips and had to "drive what you see".

The motorcycles are supplied the standard road book on a 2.25" wide strip of paper. These are usually "pages" of paper 2.25" wide by 3" long, printed commercially, and taped together by the rider into one long strip.

Tech and Safety
The motorcycles are inspected mainly for street legality to ensure they all have a full set of blinkers and lights. The safety equipment that the rider wears (helmet, boots, chest/back protector) is all examined to match requirements.

Night Stages
Yes, motorcycles can run night stages without trouble. NRS requires them to wear two blinking lights on their body when doing so.

Yes, motorcycles can run in the rain. They just need to keep their time cards in plastic zip lock bags.

Motorcycles use the same time cards and time control procedures that all the cars use. You may want to instruct your volunteers to proactively get the time card, as they are often in a zippered pocket and the rider is wearing gloves.

With fewer than 30 motorcycles competing, operationally it makes sense to retain the 60 second intervals between each motorcycle. Since passing and dust are essentially non-issues for motorcycles, they can easily run on 30 second intervals. However, until the field gets to be over 30 bikes, where one would be saving at least 15 minutes, the additional workload on the volunteers doesn't warrant switching to 30 second launch intervals.