Rallying is not just about driving.
Work... work... work... You will be working on your car more than anything else. First getting it turned into a rallye car, second preping it for the event, then fixing it after the event. And when you're done, you have to start all over again.
I would prep a car first, then spend the money for a good school, then find a place where you could practice (gravel pit etc.).
You might want to consider servicing for someone first. Gets you into it and you'll find out what you need to do on a car. Then maybe co-driving. Gives you a little insight about the driving and co-driving aspect. And is less expensive. After that, if you still want to and have money left, drive your car.
I've done all of the above, service, navigating and driving, and it opened my eyes. But as everything else, it's a continues learning curve.
As for buying rallye parts,... most are things you create yourself.
Go to rallies first as a worker either for the rally or a team. Learn by being there. Reading things on the web like here, is like listening to a bunch of drunks in a bar. Hard to sort out.
Richard "drinking to drown my sorrows about dinging Juanita's new Audi while cold running a gimmick rally today" Miller
edited to correct my mispellings caused by too much gin
Also, get in contact with some rally guys in your region and they'll help you out.
Like others have said, start out with spectating to see what it's like and if you like it, then crewing to get a feel for the event (all teams need a dirty work guy to hold the fire extinguisher, scrap mud off the rims, etc. if you don't know the technical stuff) and then possibly co-drive. Still, co-driving will usually cost you half the entry fee (expect to pay $200 or so for a Club Rally) and the cost of a racing suit, helmet, etc. You might also want to do a TSD to get used to the odometer and route book instructions.
Then, driving is possible, of course theres the car, the case ($3,000) racing seatbelts, racing seats (optional) better suspension (especially for those rough Cali roads) better tires, better brakes, etc. Then you need a service van, trailor, spares and it keeps adding up, so you need some deep pockets too
Nobody ever listens to the advice, but you should spend some time
doing all of these and maybe in this order.
Work a rally or two to learn how time controls work.
Help somebody service/prep a rally car to learn about rally car mechanics, even if you are a God at autos, rally cars are unique,
Go to the local SCCA school and do everything you can to learn about the sport,
Spend a year in the co-driver seat,
Buy your first car, don't even think about building one,
Don't rally it the first year, do navigating while you do rally-X's.
Go to every rally close and bring your helmet and suit to fill in
as a co-driver.
Find the best rally shop around and make yourself useful, and ask Q's.
Save your money because you will need it when you start paying the bills, maybe taking on a second job to build up a war chest.
That's for starters...good luck on your adventure.
>Nobody ever listens to the advice, but you should spend some
>doing all of these and maybe in this order.
Of course no one listens since that is how it was done in the past. I started with working controls, advanced to be chief of scoring, paid my own way to crew for friends, then bought a car. Tried co-driving only once becasue I can't stand it.
I got started by running and working TSD rallys. They are a bit more low key than ProRallys but have the same basics for course following and timing.
Worked my first ProRally, El Diablo in Green Bay, Wisc, in December 1975 after reading about it in RALLYE magazine.
Crewed for Bob Neilsen's Saab at the 1978 POR in Houghton, MI. Ran my first Divisional rally with my Datsun 510 in 1979 and the POR a few months later.
I recommend working a few events to get used to control procedures, how rally timing works, what the tech inspectors look for, a little of everything. It will make your first rally competition amazingly easier.