So, you watched Travis Pastrana in his Subaru
the X Games and now you’re convinced that you can get your Mom’s
Outback at least six feet off the ground if you were just given a dirt
jump and the chance. Well, it’s time to put down your PS3 game
controller, turn off MotorStorm, and borrow a helmet. Rallycross
is the closest thing you’re probably going to get to the X games
without any money or talent.
Rallycross is similar
to autocross, based on the fact that there is one car out on the
course at a time racing against the clock. The course is
delineated by cones in a large empty area. The important
difference is that Rallycross is a race on dirt. Yes, you and
your car will get dirty. The other main difference between the
two sports is your autocross time is based on your single fastest lap
around the track (like qualifying), whereas Rallycross is set up like a
stage rally. Each lap is a separate stage, and each stage counts
toward your total and final time.
As a total newb, I made the mistake of blowing a muddy corner at a
Rallycross and sliding off the racecourse. I had to go into
reverse (once I finally found it, bloody Volkswagen!) to get back
on the track. I lost a crap load of time farting around with the
tranny, but since I was a seasoned autocrosser, I really didn’t
care. “I’ll get ‘em on the next lap,” I said -wrong! That
was when I learned the all important lesson about Rallycross, every
lap/stage counts. Just like in the bigs, like in the WRC.
If you want to feel some adrenaline, this will get you there in
spades. It’s awesome. Rallycross is all about pushing
speed just to the edge of control...and holding it there.
Rallycross courses are designed for drifting front wheel drive, yes I
said it, front wheel drive cars, around corners. The pressure of
getting around a twisty dirt track with almost no traction as fast as
possible without making any mistakes (like sliding off the course
like me) gets your blood flowing. It’s racing, it’s dirty
and it’s a hell of a good time.
With nothing hard to hit other than some orange cones, the car wear is
pretty limited. However, the amount of car wear at a Rallycross
is directly dependant on your right foot and the chemical balance in
your brain which measures the “I want to win at all costs” factor
versus the “this car has to get me to work tomorrow”
factor. Doing well does not mean you have to drive you are
jacked up on an episode of "Bait Car". And although
extremely rare, I have seen a car upside down at a
rallycross. Less rare are tires pulled off their beads
(avoidable and fixable). This is off road people. Lesson
here, take it easy and leave the red Monte Carlo Rally Limited Edition
Mini Cooper S at home.
Because the tracks are set up with cones, the tracks are always
changing, which means on your first lap you don’t know where to turn
left, or is it right? Get there early and walk the course.
Sometimes we will do a low speed parade lap around the track while
driving the cars. Just like autocrossing, half your day is spent
racing and the other half is working (chasing knocked over
cones). When you work a Rallycross course you get the joy of
eating dust as each car goes by. Go ahead and invest about $2 in
one of those dust masks for painting houses. There are days when
everyone working the course at a Rallycross looks like they just came
from a building implosion.
You are going to get between 4 to 8 shots at the course (depending on
the time or the weather). Go fast, but don’t go too fast,
remember every lap counts so any off course blunders will haunt you and
keep you far from the trophy table. Stay off the cones, they are
worth a 2 second penalty added to your overall time.
You will be running with people in your class, (similarly modified
vehicles classified by either two wheel drive or four wheel
drive. Whichever class you’re in, try to avoid going on track
right after the water truck, although sometimes it can’t be
avoided. At times the water truck is a necessary evil at a
Rallycross. It keeps the dust down, but it makes the course as
slippery as snot.
These guys and gals like their rally racing. Rallycross brings a
mix of people from the rally side of things, the autocrossing
community, even pro rally teams, all with a single love for sliding in
the dirt and kicking up dust. The guys from the Edmonton Rally
Club also like their pizza and Brew. After a recent event, the
entire crew of competitors took over a restaurant and the beers and
bench racing flowed for hours.
We have trophies and awards at each event. The club has point
systems for the championship. But as far as glory goes, you won’t
be standing on a podium showering Miss November in champagne here…
unless you win “the Eliminator”.
OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA?
This is a relatively new sport. It’s one that hasn’t had each
class taken over by some rich guy who can afford a new Porsche every
year to easily win the national championship. Anyone could rise
up and be "the man" (or woman) in this world of
racing. Every year there is a ton of competition for
the "Most improved" trophy. Maybe ask to jump in a couple of
the faster cars as a passenger to see where you can pick up a few
seconds and study the way everyone drives while you are out
marshalling. I've seen newbies who were consistently last end up
on the podium with a first place trophy within a year.
Like most motorsports, tires is the name of the game. They
actually divide some of the classes up based on the tires you
use. Among other factors, purpose built rally racing tires put
cars in the “open” classes. There is a ton of debate over which
is the hot tire for the “stock” car classes, and the measurement
between tread blocks has to meet a certain minimum to be considered
legal for the class. Just about any aggressive winter tire seems
to be a popular choice as well. There is no real proven formula
(car/tire) to winning at Rallycross. The dirt and lack of
traction is a great equalizer.
Some the guys who win swear the whole thing is done by left foot
braking. However, if you’re anything like me, your left leg is a
clutch leg, and any attempt to use the clutch leg on the brake pedal
only results in stopping way too fast and throwing a passenger through
the windshield. Go-Karters with their fancy European left foot
braking skills would probably do well here.