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Am I missing something....?

2955 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  RallyBrat
As a relative newcomer to the world of USA rally I have been reading/asking/watching everything I can get access to about rally in this country. I have begun assembling a low dollar rallycross GTI ( I was persuaded by contributors to these forums to abandon a BMW for several good reasons), and plan to take a 4 day O'Neill class as soon as my budget allows. At this point I have become confused by a couple of things, and wonder if I have missed something?
First, there has been some discussion about a "three tier" rally system. When I got my SCCA information, I thought it WAS three tiered - ProRally, ClubRally, and RallyCross. So I figured I should start with RallyCross. Right??
Second, there has been discussion about inexperienced drivers crashing out of ClubRally events,and perhaps even ProRally also. Um, I thought the "seeding" system would prevent this. I realize that if you have the money to walk into a Club or Pro Rally you'll want to start there, but aren't there some kind of qualifications?
Third, I've read lots of posts (including some to me) advising new participants with no experience to start with a used, complete rally car. Isn't that a bit much for entry level? Or are people suggesting that RallyCross cars be fully prepared? Or are people simply reccommending that new drivers simply skip the entry level (RallyCross) altogether?
So, like I said, Am I missing something?? It'd be fun to jump right to ClubRally, but I thought I'd follow the course that made the most sense. What does everybody think??

Thanks Gregg
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Rally Cross is not a necessary step in that ladder. It's only there if you want it to be. Personally, I don't have the $$$ to go Club, so I stick to Rally-X in my street Impreza. As I got more competitive I found that I need to have a daily driver as well, but only because I keep breaking things. I have no cage in the Impreza and have no plans to ever build the car for Club. What people mean about buying a fully prepped rally car rather than building one is that you get to save a lot of cash and frusteration that way. If I weren't so hooked on AWD my first Club car would be a prepped GTI or something, mainly so I could afford to total it if I did something stupid. If you really want to get into Club Rally soon, go buy a cheap prepped car off Ben's Rally Page or something, then get used to it at Rally Crosses.

My theory is that there is no need for a more powerful car until you are beating everyone your current car can possibly beat. That's why I still have the 2.5RS (over getting a WRX) - I know there is more speed in it that I have to learn how to use. :)

Anyway, someone with more experince might have better advice, but I'm sort of coming from your level.

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nope, you're ok

Welcome to the fray! It won't be the last time you're confused; I'm confused all the time!

I'm glad to hear you'll be going to see Tim O'Neil ASAP... I had a great time and learned lots!

When we talk about the "third tier" it is someplace either between ClubRally and ProRally or something above ProRally... depends on who's talking... but it is about 3 levels of stage rally. RallyCross is so new that most of us don't remember to count it as a "level"

You don't need a prepped car for RallyCross... when we advise one doesn't build their first rally car we mean their first ClubRally car.

J.B. Niday
Well, here's an opinion from someone new (i.e. only drove in one ClubRally and Co-drove 1). Rallycross is something you can get into with little or no budget. You can run a street car (maybe get some used rally tires) and you can be competitive. All you need to get is a helmet.


Most people want to jump right into a ClubRally (like my wife and I) so they buy a car that's ready to race.

Now if you want to go that route (ClubRally right away) I would recommend a prepared car simply because it's cheaper. You benifit from someone elses hard work and testing. Plus the car is logbooked and theoretically you could race the next weekend. If you really get lucky...you get a great spares package which saves you hunting down spares for your car.

As far as "crashing out on your first rally"...my opinion...those people who do drove beyond their's and the car's limits. Stacy and I went to Headwaters this year and...we were slow as hell...but we finished. :) That was our goal for that event. Over the rest of the summer, we have been testing at our farm and preparing for the next season.

Something you can do if you know you want to get into ClubRally is buy a prepped car, run it in brisk gravel TSD's and rallycrosses. Once you feel that you're ready to step up...you've already got the car. Otherwise, run the street car in the rallycrosses and TSD's and when you're ready...buy a prepped car.

As for the three tier system, most people are talking about the top level being a true "professional series", then ProRally being a feeder to that professional series, and ClubRally being for the hobbyist. People have suggested this to curb the rising costs and to maybe thin some of the fields at larger rallies (at least that's my understanding...someone correct me if I am wrong).

Sorry for the long post but I hope that answers your questions. You can email me off forum if you want too.

SMS Rallysport
#585 Super-Omni
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The seeding system determines your road position, based on your experience and demonstrated talent. It does not prevent you from crashing...only experience and/or good training will do that. There has been some discussion of not allowing beginners to run stage rallies in high-powered AWD cars, but nobody has come up with a fair, safe way to do that yet.

There is no substitute for seat time, whether it's in a rallycross, a school, or muddling along at the back of the pack in a ClubRally.

At our local rallycrosses, we see daily drivers, cars built specially for rallycross, and full-blown AWD ProRally cars...and the latter don't always win.

I did RallyCross this season and but I am cutting it short to prep my GTI for ClubRally next season. I bought the GTI specifically for rally, but I decided to spread out the cost by RallyXing for a season and buying mods along the way. Plus I could drive the GTI daily and didn't need a truck/trailer to haul it to a RallyX. I think RallyX is a good place to start for that reason, but I wouldn't want to just do RallyX if I had a fully prepped car. I learned basics like LFB, general car control and just getting used to how my car feels?shifts/etc. It does not prepare you for the higher speeds of a club rally, however.

I wish the "third tier" would be a "RallySprint" circuit. There is one here in WI and I think it would be an excellent transition to ClubRally. You don't need codrivers, maps, intercoms and whatnot. And it would help prepare new drivers for the increased speeds that they would see on a stage rally. Maybe a season of RallySprint and RallyX would be enough for some?

If you want to do stage rallies right away, then buying a prepped car would be the way to go. Personally, I think I can save money in the long run by building my own cage and prepping the car and applying that knowlege to future cars. But, I'm really into working/fabricating and am willing to take the time to learn how to do it.
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While any experience is beneficial, rallycrosses do little to prepare you for rally racing. Up until approx 3 years ago, there were very few rallycrosses and they are typically not thought of as the 3rd tier. To gradually get into the sport, some type of school is the best and it need not be the full blown O'Neil to start out with (but if you have the money go for it). The Sawmill rally school is a good starter. Also, don't forget there is much more to it than just driving. Work a couple of events to help learn the logistics and procedures. Will make your first event much more enjoyable.
RE: Drivers always find a way

As to the comments on seeding preventing crashes - drivers will always find a way. As a competitor in others forms of racing I have seen riders knock each down on the warm up lap ,crash each other at a rider school race in turn 9 at Willow. At Vegas SCCA roadraces I've seen more than one novice run into the tire wall , keep in mind as a novice you need to finish two races to get a full license.
Now at Rally crashing out of the first event seems even more silly than other sports. At your first event your seed 8 , in other words you get to go out on the stage after eeeeveryone else has rutted up the roads and dragged rocks onto the road. By finishing events your seeding improves so you run a better surface.
As a organizer/competitor I will say Rally Cross is a good way to be involved while working towards the Club level. Also I would like to echo Don Kennedy's comment on working an event.There is so much to learn beyond the driving that working is a way of knowing exactly what is supposed to happen when you get to a control (what's a control?) that worrying about you and the car plus keeping on time is enough to make your head pop.

Tom Grossmann , Las Vegas Region SCCA Rallymaster
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First, thanks to everyone who has responded, especially those who took the time to e-mail me. Your responses have cleared up my confusion regarding the "three tier" issue, and have reinforced my current (although changeable) plan.
To clarify a bit I have a fair amount of experience with race car preparation, having worked in a shop for a few years doing that type of work. I am also an auto tech by trade, with several good contacts to make use of. (But always looking for more - anybody looking for inexpensive, quality part-time help in a rally prep shop or team..?) So I understand and completely agree that buying a used complete Rally vehicle is the way to go. But like Karl my plan is to slowly modify a vehicle as I learn, and hopefully take it with me to the ClubRally level. Of course if I crash it too bad I'll have to buy another car anyway...!
As far as driving goes I have a great deal of experience and training with road going vehicles (CDL, emergency vehicle, and as a BMW tech I have ocassion to "road test" many interesting cars ;) :D :eek: )but off road/loose surface is different. So I think a season of RallyCross and some good schooling is the way to go.
Again thanks to all the responses (both before and after this edit), this continues to be a very helpful and valuable resource!

P.S. The comments about working a Rally or two are well taken. I hadn't really thought about doing so (I worked at Pocono Nascar events for 6 or 7 years and learned nothing I could use as a competitor) but having spectated at Susquhannock (sp?) this year I can see where working a few rally's would be valuable exposure.

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>While any experience is beneficial, rallycrosses do little
>to prepare you for rally racing.

Ignore this comment altogether. :) Rallycrosses are usually held more frequently than club rallies and give you a chance to meet your local rally folks face to face and chat with them. That could give you the contact that you need to acquire or prep your rally vehicle. As far as car control skills go, one could probably learn as much in a rally school or clubrally as in a whole season of rallycross, but if you can't afford to do those right out of the bat, rallycross can give you a chance to drive your vehicle flat out in a safe environment.
Okay, you're correct. I meant purely from a driving point of view. Those other things are very important and a good point.
I found the brisk gravel TSDs that are held around here to be a better prep for stage rally than rallycross. In a brisk TSD, you get to experience things like working with a co-driver/navie, following a route book and driving a road that you have never seen before, which you don't get with rallycross.

Then again, I drive in brisk TSDs and co-drive in stage rally.

Your last comment kind of sounded like you NEED a year of experience before you can do a stage rally. I have done 4 TSD's and 3 rallycross's before and my first stage rally is this weekend. Personally I think that I will be fine if I take it easy. If I go flat out I will likely wreck. Rally crosses were satisfing(sp?) my rally bug for a while but I told my self I had to have the car ready for this weekend's stage race or something bad was going to happen... I just want to do as many races as I can (money permitting).

Just don't think you have to complete a term of "training" before you can race a stage rally. But don't think that your an expert rally driver either. It's all relative to the way you approach a race.

I hope I didn't offend anybody with my comments, and don't forget to take this message with a grain of salt...

You put the two together and what kind of training do you get? I think you get some good training with a combination of brisk TSDs and lets just say liberal RallyXs like Oakland Acres, Rausch Creek, and Beaver Run. They give you a chance to drive on an actual dirt road that's simply a little twistier and shorter than a rally stage. RallyXs teach you to push as hard as you can, to find the limits and characteristics of your car, and to carry speed, while TSDs teach you the routebook, basic organization, and feel of an actually rally road at a more casual pace. The problem comes in, in my opinion, when RallyXers try to drive Club Rallies as hard as RallyXs.

Rausch Creek:


as apposed to the usual cones-in-dirt-lot

(Matt Kennedy photo :))

However, places like Rausch Creek can easily break your car, so a few mods like a skid plate can help. This might not be in the usual spirit of RallyX though...

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rally training

I may get burned at the stake but my experience road racing, solo 2 and ice racing has all been helpful along with slot-car racing too.
How? you ask?
road racing - planning a pace to make it to the end of a 24 hour race and keeping your foot down on a 5th gear turn in qualifying.
After you live thru a 160mph turn, 60 isn't so bad (sometimes).
solo - quick results after a short stint to hone your skill deciding how fast is fast without following anyone - you decide how fast, not the guy in front of you. Results are instant - you can learn if your internal clock is on the fritz. (Many people think - my foot didn't lift, how could I be slow?)
ice racing - learn serenity - a hot head and a lack of a well executed plan mean a trip to the banks and a wait for a tow. Did I memtion rubber to ice is the way to go - NO studs!
slot cars - many starts shoulder to shoulder with other competitors, quick reaction to a random start position and timing. The power never goes on when you expect it, the car starts where it coasted to and the acceleration is huge. The pressure to pass in tight quarters or be passed. - Again, serenity must be learned or you crash (these cars are cheap and you don't have to ride in it).
I'd never be in rally without rally cross - it was a great way to test the loose stuff out and see if it was for me.
You may be the greatest Tech in the world but you can't imagine what happens to a rally car. Little by little means failure by failure and failures cost money in shells, travel and entries. Buy a car that's proven, see what they did and look at everyone else's too. Ater a year or so, start building your own - it is cheaper that way.
Get an experienced navie, they are worth anything when starting out, "two without a clue" are a disaster waiting to happen.
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RE: rally training

Randy's right on all respects above.

I think I learned fully half of what I apply in rally now from a combination of international-level R/C car racing in the 80s and fooling around in Honda Odysseys and three-wheelers (weight transfer mistakes were costly). Slot cars too. No type of competition or experience with motor vehicles is wasted.

Flirting with the laws of physics.
RE: rally training

Instead of R/C cars, I'd think racing SIMS (not just games for the casual player, which includes Gran Turismo 3 :)) like Grand Prix Legends, Rally Trophy (when modified), F1 2002, etc. can teach you even more about driving. They help you build up proper reactions, let you feel how LFB affects a car of a certain drivetrain, try different driving techniques, get familiar with proper lines, how to carry speed through a corner, and adjust to many different cars and physics engines which have slightly different feels. They have the potential to be an amazing training tool, if used correctly.

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