Oral tradition has it that gimmick road rallyes grew out of extracurricular outings of employees of Western Electric in the early 1960s. The first of them may have resembled treasure hunts, where participants had to track down clues to find their way to a hidden endpoint, with the first carload to arrive winning the event. Somewhere along the line these may have morphed into TSD events – Time, Speed, and Distance. TSDs are divided into legs. Cars are dispatched from a checkpoint, and must try to average a specified speed along the way to the next checkpoint. For each 1/100th of a minute (.6 seconds) their arrival is over or under the par time they are penalized 1 point. Top competitors using Rallye computers will consistently arrive within 1-2 points of par on each leg. Adding one more level of complexity, each leg typically has some sort of gimmick, designed to trick the unwary into taking an alternate route to the next checkpoint, guaranteeing that they will receive a maximum penalty for the leg. By about 1968 some rallyemasters in the Chicago area were getting away from the TSD element, and were focusing on more, and more elaborate, gimmicks.


What is a gimmick? Imagine that you are working with two sets of instructions. One set is general, and tells you everything from what roads you may or may not use, to how to read signs, e.g. for instance if you must read signs left to right and top to bottom a sign written bottom to top would for your purposes be illegible. The second set is more specific, telling you where and when to turn.



You cannot tell it from the map fragment above, but the major north/south road marked with “V60” is actually named Roselle Road. Suppose you are eastbound on Golf Road, and have arrived at the star on the map above. Your next two route instructions read: “Left. North on Roselle.” You also are carrying several pages of general instructions, and one small portion of them reads: “Roads marked ‘dead end’, ‘private’, ‘no outlet’, or ‘alley’ do not exist. Many of the rallye cars are executing the instruction “left” by turning left at the star. You, however, notice that a road with the name “Valley Lake” is marked “alley.” (V”alley” Lake) You continue east on Golf, turn left onto Roselle, then travel “north on Roselle.” The off-course cars, having turned “left” on Valley Lake, will TURN “north on Roselle,” and you will all meet up for the next portion of the rallye.


Having succeeded in dividing the troops, rallyemasters naturally wish to know who fell for the trick. There are various ways of doing this, each involving one more bit of paperwork, a score sheet. One way of finding out who is off course would be to place a checkpoint along Valley Lake. Off-course cars are signed in when they stop. (Rallyists have no way of knowing whether the checkpoint is on or off course, and so will stop and sign in.) Another method is to add a question to the route instructions that applies during this stretch. Usually rallyists will be asked if they passed a certain sign; if the sign is on Valley Lake a “yes” answer will costs them, whereas if the sign chosen is at, say, Golf and Roselle a “no” would be wrong. There are other ways of catching the off-course cars through the use of optional instructions. Most gimmick rallyes use them, but it isn’t necessary to describe them here.


During the late 1960s and early 1970s rallyes were staged at least weekly throughout the year, and drew 100 or more cars. Currently the Chicago area clubs offer about two dozen rallyes, sitting out the winter months. A few rallyes draw 40-50 cars, but the average turnout is 20-25.


In 1985 two friends of mine, Wayne and Kerry Kuhn, wrote their first rallye, and persuaded me to lend support by running it. I had a good time, and began running regularly when in town. There is a ranking system, and I worked my way up the ladder – beginner, novice, master – finally reaching the Grandmaster rank in 1991. At about the same time Wayne had visions of expanding our small club – G.D.I! (for God Damned Independents!) – and persuaded me to write my first rallye. Totally Recalled, inspired by the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall was a harbinger. Everyone agreed it was very hard, and too long. Little did they dream what I had in store for them!


Altogether I have written ten rallyes, one a year from 1991-2000. The third and fourth were CO-written with my partner and navigator Ted Zelman, who has had to pick up the load since I moved to Tucson. Ignoring the legendary Gruesome Grueler rallyes of 30 years ago, which were all-day rallyes with 8-hour time limits and 200 gimmicks, I still claim that for an evening event Ted’s and my Debbie Does Rallyes, an X-Rated Road Rallye was the longest and toughest ever.


Jake's Rallyes


The following are links to some rallye sites.


Chicago Rallye Council


Chicagoland Rallyes


Brand X Rallye Team


Wheels Rallye Team


Rally Central


One Eyed Jacks