Sometimes we road racers forget not all NASA events are held on closed-course tracks where we all know where to turn left and where to turn right. NASA is the sanctioning body for the One Lap of America and for NASA Rally Sport where drivers need a navigator to tell them where to go left and right. Being a navigator is a busy, stressful and important job reading route instructions and keeping the car and its occupants out of trouble. The top of your legs becomes your desk and dropping important items on the floorboard during an event can be problematic. To solve this problem, we are going to show you how to build a navigator clipboard, sometimes called a rally board.
There are many different types of rallys — also spelled rallyes, depending on who you ask/are running with — which require a navigator. There are stage rallys on closed dirt roads, time and distance rallys held on public roads and gimmick rallys, which are best described as the longest distance between two points. Regardless of the style of rally, all require a navigator to keep you from getting lost. Trust me on this, getting lost does not mean you win the rally. So that you don’t get lost, your navigator needs to be organized. This is where a good navigator clipboard/rally board comes in.
Navigators receive route instructions or a route book to help them guide the driver through a rally. These are often multi-page documents with lots of instructions. Navigators will need to be able to make notes or check portions of the route instructions off during the event. They will also be required to do this in the daytime and the nighttime so having lights on the rally board is essential. We have found that having a large board to sit on the navigator’s lap is helpful to staying organized and providing a workstation in the passenger seat so the navigator can be effective. The board needs to be of a thin material so it does not become a mechanism for injury to the navigator in a collision. Obviously we all hope not to have a collision on a rally, but like wearing a seatbelt, we do need to plan for it.
You can purchase clipboards all day long at Walmart, but I haven’t seen a double clipboard or one that is just the right size for rallying. The larger the better. So the move was to create our own double clipboard using just a few items from a hardware store. We chose blank white board material to use for the board. It was thin and lightweight but thick enough to write on. We also picked up two standard clipboards, some Velcro, pens, pencils and highlighters.
After measuring the interior of our Ford Fiesta ST, the car we would be running the One Lap of America with, we determined the largest board we could place on the passenger’s lap and not affect the driver’s ability to shift gears in the center console was 19 inches. We measured out our design specifications and got to work with the elbow grease by cutting the board with a hand saw.
To hold route instructions on the big white board we wanted to mount two separate clips from the clip boards we purchased. We used a drill to remove the clips from the clipboard backing and then we used some tin snips and a file to clean up the clips and make them a little shorter so we could mount them high up on our rally board. Once the clips were ready we drilled holes in the new rally board and used rivets to hold the clips onto the new board.
Like any do-it-yourself project, this one comes with the usual warnings about not cutting your fingers off while using a hand saw — hand saw does not mean to actually saw your hand. Do not drill into your hand while using a drill and don’t use power tools in the house – at least, when your spouse is home. If you do use power tools in the house when your spouse is not around, remember to clean up all saw dust from the kitchen floor. A rookie mistake is to let your spouse find sawdust in the kitchen when they get home. Busted!
The clips we installed would hold the paperwork on the board but a navigator uses other tools during an event, usually highlighters, pens and pencils. Post-it notes are also very handy to have during a rally. To hold all of this stuff securely on the rally board, we purchased some adhesive Velcro and put the hard portion around writing instruments and the soft portion on the right side of the rally board. This facilitated the securement of the different pens, pencils and highlighters. The Post-it notes had adhesive on the back and we stuck that to the corner of the board for easy access.
Running a rally at night means the navigator needs to be able to see the route instructions in the dark. Using the interior dome light of a vehicle is often a distraction for the driver. We scored some inexpensive book lights from Energizer that clipped to the rally board and illuminated the working area of the board perfectly while not causing a glare on the windshield for the driver. When we run a daytime rally we will unclip the book lights because they aren’t needed.
The rally board project cost less than $30 in building supplies, then we added $20 worth of book lights for a total cost of $50. The build of the project took less than two hours, and most of that time was spent on cleaning sawdust off the kitchen floor. Don’t tell Mrs. Krider. We tested the rally board out at a local gimmick rally with The Rallye Club, a three-hour event, before using it at the One Lap Of America, a week-long event. The good news was the rally board worked. We did not get lost! In fact, using our rally board we picked up an Economy Class victory at One Lap.
So the moral of this story is: build a rally board and go get lost! Or, don’t get lost because you have a rally board? I don’t know, rallys are confusing. Enjoy!
Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues.”