I want to rally as a driver!

I want to drive a rally car!

You want to get involved in rally racing? There are many ways to start. It all depends on how much time, money, vehicles, and energy you have.

Step 1: Go to a rally
You should go to some rallies! The closest to North Carolina is Sandblast in Cheraw, SC. Also, check out NASA and Rally America. These are both sanctioning bodies that provide rules, structure, and insurance to the event. Go spectate, or even better, if you volunteer to help! Here are some typical jobs that you could be assigned to:

  • Control volunteer: You would check in each car as they arrived at the beginning of the stage, and record their time. In this case, you would get to talk to each team as they arrived.
  • Course marshal: Roads that connect to the course need to be blocked off. You would hang out in the woods, getting to watch the action from places that spectators can't get to.

Most folks spectate their first rally. Then they learn they get closer to the action by working and marshalling. Since volunteers often get a free lunch and get in to the awards ceremony, I'd recommend volunteering!

Step 2: Find a local rally team
You could get involved with one of the local teams. There are several in the area that are preparing for the next event, or next season, right now! They could use people for their crew, or perhaps even a co-driver! You could learn all about car prep and how to run a team. There are many, many things on the ToDo list between events. Some of them are very regular car items, like change the oil. Some are more exotic, like building a new skid plate, or welding a roll cage. You can hang out, talk about cars, help build some car equipment.

This is almost always the second step for people getting in to rally. They go to the rally as crew and learn how the event flows. A typical small rally might easily cover 600 square miles of territory. Understanding how the cars traverse this and how the timing and services are all coordinated is
critical to your future success.

Step 3: Go to a rallycross
A rallycross is a very short race that occurs in the dirt. Imagine a very large field. Then place about 100 orange traffic cones in the field to mark out a course. Take about six runs through, add up all your times, and fastest through the course wins!

This is a great way to get involved in rally, since rallycross cars do not require any special equipment. No roll bars, race seats, or skid plates are required, and they are not needed. Any street car can register, and the cost is quite low, about $30 - $60 per event.

Often you'll meet folks at many levels of rally at a rallycross. Everything from people who have never driven on dirt before to national level rally competitors may show up. Definitely try to meet lots of people and learn from everyone.

Step 4: Get everything ready
If you have the time and money, get a rally car together, arrange for some vacation, and head off for exotic forest destinations to tear through the woods! This is what most people want to do, and with good reason: it is a total blast! Here is some advice:

  • Read the rule books. They are online and you can read them there, but I recommend you print it out and spend a LOT of time reading the whole thing.

    Generally you will end up using one or the other, depending on what geographic part of the country you are in. This is where Step 2 comes in handy, talk to your local people.

    Most people start with worrying about what they are allowed to modify on the car. This isn't really a big concern. There is a class for just about everything, so if you want to modify more stuff, that's no problem, you just compete in a different class. Start with worrying about the things that every car has to have and get that finished.

  • Think about the cost. Read about how much rally costs. Rally budgets are like Honeycomb: They're not small, no no no.
  • Get a car. Well, that sounded simple, didn't it? Choosing, finding, and building, and prepping a rally car is difficult and time consuming. That's why we put more detail in the how much rally costs page.
  • Get all your personal gear settled. This means a current, approved racing (not motorcycle) helmet, and an approved fireproof suit. Helmets are currently required to be SA2000 or SA2005. Suits are SFI 5. These items are always expensive, and have to fit. You don't want to find out the day before the race that they don't fit, because odds are you will have to ship them across the country to exchange them. You'll need to get an intercom (Terratrip or Peltor) for your helmet.
  • Attend a rally driving school. This isn't a required step, however, everyone that has attended one of these says that they learned ridiculously large amounts. Schools are a lot cheaper than body work too!
    1. Team O'Neil Located in New Hampshire, two day "intro to Rally" for about $1100, and a three day "Advanced Rally Training" for $2400. This includes the car, and there are special rates if you already have a fully prepped rally car.
    2. Ivor Wigham's European Pro Rally School Actually located in Florida. Looks like a full offering, with cars to rent, multi-day classes, and even an anti-kidnapping course. About $500 a day.
    3. CRS Rally School Looks like a two day classroom event in Nevada, with a rallycross thrown in. $75
  • Here is another getting started discussion, this one from Widget racing.

Step 5: Go rally!

  • Find an event near your and sign up. Check the event calendars at NASA Rally Sport and Rally America. Make sure you find the Supplemental Regulations for the event and read them carefully!
  • Get to the event and buy a membership and racing license at registration. Then attend the mandatory Novice Competitor Orientation session. It's usually the night before the event.
  • Take the car through scrutineering and make sure that it and all your gear are ready to rally.
  • Roll up to the start line and go for it!