I want to rally as a crew member!

I want to rally as a crew member!

A great way to get involved in rally racing is as a crew member. Most people think that they don't have the mechanical ability, or know enough about how cars work. The
whole notion of what goes on as a crew member is very much misunderstood. It is not a six second pit stop. Rally just is not that kind of racing. Rally is endurance racing. The pit stops are anywhere from ten to ninety minutes long. There are also instance where work can be done overnight, between

Rally lingo
Here's some lingo you might come across:

  • Service - this is what the pit stop is called. Usually, these last somewhere from 10 to 40 minutes
  • Stage - the part of the race were we are actually going fast on the dirt roads
  • Transit - the part of the race were we are driving at normal speeds on a public road. The transit takes us between stages, or from a stage to a service.
  • In Time - the time of day when the rally car arrived at service
  • Out Time - the time of day when the rally car is due to leave the service
  • Service Vehicle - the van or truck that carries all the tools and parts.

Service Action
What kind of work gets done? Well, this is largely dependent on what part of the car was damaged during Anders' last high-impact parking maneuver. First, the service vehicle arrives at the service area, we have a big check list of things that get unpacked. Some of them are:

  • Take out the big tarp that the rally car will park on
  • Unload the jack
  • Set up the chairs, as there will be a wait before the rally car arrives
  • Listen to the scanner for any news about the team

Then, once the car arrives there are many very ordinary things that even non-car people can do.

  • Clean the windshield
  • Walk around the car looking for new dents
  • Look underneath the vehicle for things hanging down that weren't hanging down before
  • Pull branches and bushes out of the radiator
  • Take pictures

There are also many things that can be done by those with very limited car experience.
Again, lots of this stuff is on a check list.

  • Fill up the car with gas
  • Check the tire pressure
  • Check the oil level
  • Change a tire
  • Attach the night rally driving lights

The lesson to take from this is that the driver and the crew chief know how to fix the vehicle. Anything that is complicated or requires special tools is going to be handled by them.

Rally is Unique

However, even these lists overlook another fact that is unique to rally: the driver and navigator are racing all day, in the middle of nowhere.

This means that if something is needed, like food, or water for the radiator, or duct tape, it is up to the crew to find it. Sometimes that means just asking the crew working on the car next to you, sometimes it means driving into town twenty minutes away to pick up a part. The more people that are available to help with these missions, the better. Some people might be assigned to drive the car over to the technical inspection while others are registering and filling out paperwork.

(Actually, we always pack food, water, and duct tape. People usually come to us looking for stuff. *grin*)

Sometimes the most critical task is making sure the driver and navigator stay hydrated. Overheating can cause severe performance degradation both of those team members, who are driving around with the windows up, perhaps with the heat blasting to combat an engine overheating problem, in fireproof suits with helmets. That gets hot!!!

So you can see that there is much more to being on the crew than just diagnosing an engine problem or replacing an alternator. Those things usually fall into the not very often category. Everyone can help!

Take a look in the Stories section for a look at what has actually happened during some rallies...