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I know when I started out in rally, all I had to do was show up at my first ClubRally with a car that passed tech and a valid SCCA membership and driver's license.

Kind of crazy when I think about it now. I did attend a Pro Licensing course at Tim O'Neil's prior to my first event in 1999. There was no driving involved. It was mostly an overview of how a rally works and how to get through it as a new team.

So, what do folks think licensing for new drivers should entail? Pay your money and strap in? Doesn't seem too prudent in this day and age of affordable turbo AWD machines.

Should we have requirements for licensing courses/schools like the road racers do?

Should there be a tiered system of licensing for different powered cars?

I know there are probably more variables involved than I can think of, but it seems like a good time to discuss these things while the SCCA revamps things a bit.

Cheers! John
 

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How about this for a start. Keep the current requirements (which can be so variable from one event to another, the 'class' you have to attend) and add a requirement that you must be observed by a license holder whose had their license for atleast 1 year and completed a minumum of 3 events. This observer would be assigned to 1 team only (not multiple teams for an event) and would review the car itself for general preparation for the event (not talking about tech type things, but many other things that make an event successful). They would discuss things in general with the team before the event, atleast once during the event (might require some planning/concessions if that person is also an entrant but it's not impossible) and then a review at the end of the event with an entry of atleast 1-2 paragraphs in the log book (or possibly another form since the log book goes with the car, not the team/driver). This observer probably should be a driver, but could be a team of driver and co-driver. This person would then need to sign off that they saw no observable problems (don't know what the liability issues could be though). The process could start before the event with conversations on the phone to help the newbie be better prepared before getting to the event. We eventually should publish some guidelines for key issues the observer should discuss/look for. My $.02.

Another thought, don't know if anything like this could work in this situation. But in the PHA (Pennsylvania Hillclimb Association) a novice has to run with 3 large stripes on the rear fenders of his car, That way any official on the hillclimb knows a novice without a license right away and can report any unusual/suspicious behavior.

Edit for additional thought #1 ;)
 

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I like the idea of a mentor, and I think in the close-knit community that is US rally, it might even work, despite the subjectivity that's inherent in the plan. This would assure that newbies have done their homework and are ready to rally in a lot of ways...but observing their driving is still a stumbling block.

In road racing, instructors/observers/stewards can watch a new driver all around the course...not to mention having those eagle-eyed corner workers all around. In rally, about all we can do is see if he whacked a tree (bad) or finished (good) with not much better granularity than that. Competitive times could mean a good driver or someone taking a lot of chances and getting away with it. A crash could mean driving 'way over your head, a mechanical failure, or mere
inexperience.

The stewards try to follow up on the newbies, but it's tough to do. The mentor idea seems like it would be a big help there.

Bruce
 

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I think it should be required that a new driver/co-driver attend a SCCA run drivers school...similar to what Ski Sawmill once had. And that these schools are offered often! I've been working on my car for about 1 year and was planning on attending the Sawmill school this past year before the event...unfortunately, they didn't have it. It sure would have been nice to practice/learn/see other before going on stage. The 30 min "intro to rallying" was not nearly enough to be comfortable out on course. Everything sounded good during the lecture...but quickly forgotten when avoiding spectators walking along the course!

I also wanted to attend O'neil or ERS, however the cost was just to prohibitive for a 1 or 2 or 3 day course...$3000+ was my budget for the year just to run club events!

I'm also not opposed to a mentor type system...however at an event, I think the mentor will have enough to worry with his/her own car :)

I also have to say that new competitors should work some events...specifically the start or end control...it really helped me understand what was going on. My dad and I worked Sawmill and STPR for the past couple of years...however this year (STPR) was the first we worked a start...and while we didn't see any action, we sure were busy. And the candy was good for the LDR crew!

While I have no experience (Well, a total of the 8 or so miles I got to run at Sawmill) I'd be willing to help anybody organize such a school/program.

Anyway, thats my perspective as a newbie.

- Andy
#879 - Eagle Talon
 

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I've been an advocate of any kind of school other than the, "if you're still alive, show the red cross" school.
I went to ERS Fla and it cost $1,000 with flight, hotel and rental car. I doubt it is 5 times more costly a couple years later. It was a nice introduction but there is so much proceedure to learn that it just got me familiar with some of the things I'd see at the rally. In no way did I know what to really expect and all those PRB, MTC, ATC, LSMFT, WTF ancronyms!
A mentor system would be nice, and is done in some road-racing regions.
re: rookie stripes...
Because most all of us have grand-fathered into the sport without much in the way of formal instruction, what would you say if some observers in the future had some "constructive criticism" for your technique? Would you hate it or welcome it? hmmmmmmm
rz
 

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Any school has to be expensive, otherwise, with the small amount of interest/participants, it would go broke before it even happened.

What about this: before you race you have to work a control at 1? 2? races. This would give you some valuble experience and help the ever difficult worker situation.

Possibly also "observe tech" for one event? It could be the same event. Observe/work registration?

None of this deals with the issue of driving and navigating, I know. But these suggestions are easy to implement, and at least the new folks would know *how* a rally worked and what to expect. It's stuff we always recommend anyway.

How to observe driving ability... phew. Very difficult. "Mandating" schools means someone has to put them on. If that were easy, we would have more than the almost zero school events we have now.

Anders
 

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More thoughts on rookies

I attended Ski Sawmill and believe it to be the textbook requirement before anyone even starts to mess with real trees.
---
At ERS, they stressed that no new driver should have an inexperienced navie and I have seen how true that is.
In SCCA driver's schools, the instructor does not ride.
I taught driving at track test days and rode - a much more, lets say, "intimate" arrangement and at times, death defying, especially since I owned the school car.
In rally you have a mandated rider. If there were licensed driver-coaching-navie-instructors, perhaps paid by the rookie's entry to help with travel and lodging costs, you'd get a better learning experience than observers discussing how the tree could have been missed after the fact. He could be screaming, "stop stop stop!" right before the fact.
If the driver had already passed a driving competency course like Ski Sawmill before hand, I'd feel better about sending a new driver into the woods with a friend of mine alongside him.
rz
 

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Schools like Sawmill are the next best thing to a professional school, but the fact is that they mostly haven't been economically feasible for the orgianizers. If they can get the roads, they want to have a "real" rally, so they can attract enough entries to pay the bills. This isn't to say it can't happen, but finding people to put them on will be the problem.

The licensing school as it now exists seems to have some problems. It SHOULD cover control procedures, route books, scoring, and safety...in fact, most everything you need EXCEPT how to drive fast. Some standardization is obviously necessary, from what I've been hearing. Having it the day of the rally isn't the best idea, either, but having enough qualified instructors to have it elsewhere (a lot of elsewheres) is even more difficult.

Most of us have an idea what we'd LIKE to see, but the devil is in the details.

Bruce
 

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>Schools like Sawmill are the next best thing to a
>professional school, but the fact is that they mostly
>haven't been economically feasible for the orgianizers.

Could that be because attending said schools isn't mandatory?


>The licensing school as it now exists seems to have some
>problems. It SHOULD cover control procedures, route books,
>scoring, and safety...in fact, most everything you need
>EXCEPT how to drive fast.

SCCA road racing schools don't teach one how to go fast. They teach one how to survive long enough to eventually learn how to go fast. This is a speed based event after all, and people are bound to be going faster than they would on a sunday drive... Thats what the driving instruction was all about at SkiSawmill. Teaching survival skills, how not to get into trouble, and how to get out of it once you ARE in trouble.

>Some standardization is obviously
>necessary, from what I've been hearing.

Actually, having grown up in road racing, I'm quite suprised at the lack of standardized procedures in Rally. This has never been seen as a problem before? I'd suggest pulling as much as we can from the club racing community as far as procedures, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel all the time. I know there are some things that wouldn't carry over, but there are lots of others that can with only slight adjustments.


Nick Polimeni
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www.odysseyhouseonline.com
 

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How bout making Seed 8's not allowed to place in event or class? THis way, they would have no inner ambitions to go fast, cause the reason they are in the rally is to LEARN AND FINISH ONLY. They aren't allowed to do anything else BUT learn. Couple this with a mentor after finishing 1 rally. This way, they still do the lecture/school before the rally, they learn about signage/etiquette/proceedure & then also make it mandatory to work 1 rally control before obtaining a license so they understand the workers POV & importance.

This would be easy to implement, cost virtually nothing, and the newbies still get to have fun & learn without shelling out huge bucks.

JC
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>>Schools like Sawmill are the next best thing to a
>>professional school, but the fact is that they mostly
>>haven't been economically feasible for the organizers.
>
>Could that be because attending said schools isn't
>mandatory?
>

No, it's mostly because there are some fairly high fixed costs associated with putting on a rally, and a school will normally not attract as many entrants as a rally. Even if we make it mandatory, it's tough to budget for a school, because you never know how many students will be coming. If you're putting on a rally, you have a good idea how many competitors are around your area that are likely to show up.

You'll notice that road racing almost never puts on JUST a drivers' school - they couple it with a race or two. From the experience of my region, the drivers' school ALWAYS loses money. This structure might work for rally, but it would push the competitive event to Sunday or the school to Friday...and both have their problems.

Bruce
 

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Personally I think sending a new driver out on a dirt road with a new codriver and a 30 minute show-and-tell, is a terrible idea.

As a new driver, with a new codriver and new car, this year this is what I did.

I went to Tim O's 3 day. I got a mentor - a former pro codriver and ITB racer. I drove as many rally-x as I could make this season to get myself and my car accustomed to each other and dirt. My codriver rode along at 2 of these. We went to the one-time workers course at Team O'Neils (very helpful). I worked STPR (finish) with my mentor and MFR (tech and 00 course opening) with the regions tech inspector. My codriver and I drove about half the MFR roads, following the route book at legal speeds, sometime after the event. I lined up my mentor to work in my crew and sent in our registration for GNW.

I think it was a good plan, except the last part fizzled. We ended up going to the Covered Bridge road rally instead and drove the rally car. That was interesting, but I kept arriving early...

I think new drivers and codrivers should have a path to work up to running a performance rally that includes lecture, hands-on and mentoring before they are turned loose.
 

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>Personally I think sending a new driver out on a dirt road
>with a new codriver and a 30 minute show-and-tell, is a
>terrible idea.

I don't necessarily disagree with your statement, but the rules require the rookie class to be two hours long. I don't find it difficult to fill two hours...I can't imagine a "30 minute show-and-tell."

Bruce
 

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The rally community would benefit tremendously by adopting the kind of procedures developed over many years by the road race fraternity, like hands-on driver training, graduated licensing, and mentoring.

Such effective entry-level programs help newbie racers learn their lessons constructively--i.e. by competing safely, by not crashing as much, and by finishing at least occasionally. Does this sounds like a great way to rally, or what?

I came into rallying after the demise of the generally well-regarded Sawmill school in PA. At my first event I pocketed a license after the briefest of briefings and off we went, tearing into the scary woods all too literally. We managed to survive the early part of THAT particular learning curve, but my friend's poor Fiat will never be the same.

Many Sawmill students learned well there. I know, because I have spent a lot of time riding with them and/or chasing them down dusty stages. A couple Sawmill grads have become my own mentors. Lots of great workers and organizers and other Good Things came out of that program.

As ClubRally gears back up after a tough couple of years, there's a major opportunity to re-institute regional training/licensing programs a la Sawmill. Sure, such efforts would cost some dough. But if, say, certain SCCA budget items were reallocated from buying Speed Channel coverage, who knows what kind of great things could be done?

Cheers,

Dave G
LDR Co-Pilote

"...Embrace loose gravel, beware big trees..."
 

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I?m going to be the devil?s advocate here and ask whether anyone has determined that newbies have historically been a problem? Are there organizers with statistics that show Seed 7?s and 8?s are disproportionately responsible for serious incidents? Is there data that school graduates crash less throughout their career? Is it acceptable when an experienced driver crashes but not when an inexperienced one does? Is it acceptable for an inexperienced driver to crash as long as he passed school? Are the crazies going to crash anyway, school or no school? And is our goal a measurable increase in safety, or enhanced public perception of our sport?

The mentoring program would be a big help for a new team to understand the logistics of rallying, but I'm not sure if the mentor could accurately judge driving behavior for the reasons Bruce mentioned above. Even though experienced marshals (or photographers for that matter) only see each car a couple times, they may be the best available judges of driving behavior.

On my first events, I think a healthy dose of fear made me gradually increase my limits while I gained experience. I also think not racing wheel-to-wheel reduces the incentive to drive over your head to keep up with others, or being sucked into collisions. I, too, was amazed that I was cut loose on my first rally after a two-hour lecture, but at the same time I thought it was great that such personal responsibility could exist in this era of ?it?s not my fault because no one followed me around to babysit me? that is elsewhere in our society. Maybe the days of such freedoms are over, but it would be good to decide exactly what the problem is and set measurable goals so we get the best solution instead of red tape.
 

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I don't know if the UK still has the same licencing system, but when you applied for a Competition rally licence, you were given a Club licence and you had to finish 3 club events and get your licence signed by a steward/organiser. Positions mattered for naught. Then you were entitled to submit your Club licence to upgrade for a National licence. The same rules applied. Then when you were ready for your International licence, you submitted your National along with the required signatures. Substitute Club for Novice, National for Club and International for National. With this goes the mandatory /obligatory attendance of certified rally schools.
 

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>How bout making Seed 8's not allowed to place in event or
>class? THis way, they would have no inner ambitions to go
>fast, cause the reason they are in the rally is to LEARN AND
>FINISH ONLY. They aren't allowed to do anything else BUT
>learn. Couple this with a mentor after finishing 1 rally.
>This way, they still do the lecture/school before the rally,
>they learn about signage/etiquette/proceedure & then also
>make it mandatory to work 1 rally control before obtaining a
>license so they understand the workers POV & importance.
>
>This would be easy to implement, cost virtually nothing, and
>the newbies still get to have fun & learn without shelling
>out huge bucks.
>
>JC
>#595
>www.gnimotorsports.com


I know that I drive fast in the woods even though I have nothing to gain from it. It is just fun! And how would you make it so they weren't allowed to do anything but learn, heck when I go out for my frist rally, sure I want to finish, but I definiately am going to drive as fast as I can. I would perfer to have some sort of education before I go off and fly down little dirt roads, but I am going to do that one way or another.

Otis
 

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>I don't know if the UK still has the same licencing system,
>but when you applied for a Competition rally licence, you
>were given a Club licence and you had to finish 3 club
>events and get your licence signed by a steward/organiser.

When I first got my UK license in the mid 80's I think it was 6 steward signatures to go from Restricted (the lowest level, limited you to smaller multi venue and single venue events) to National (sort of like a Club- in the US) and a further 3 to get international C (Pro- equivalent). To get to International B you need to start worrying about results.

You would present your license to the event steward, if there were no problems with your conduct and you finished the event then you got the signature. As Pete said, positions and speed did not count untill you tried to upgrade past International C.

The license grades have changed now, I think to go from a Clubman (replaced restricted and allowed you to do road rallies and a few single venue events) to National B you have to take a rally school in addition to finishing 2 or 3 small rallies (can't remember).

The National B is now the minimum license to take part in multi venue stage events.

I guess the US equivalent of the current British system would requre you to do a full day school, with driving instruction, plus a couple of rally-sprints before you could get a Club-Rally license.
 

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>I?m going to be the devil?s advocate here and ask whether
>anyone has determined that newbies have historically been a
>problem? Are there organizers with statistics that show
>Seed 7?s and 8?s are disproportionately responsible for
>serious incidents?

No, this is potentially too serious an issue to make a decision based purely on statistics. I'm not sure what the statistics will show but in this case we definitely should not wait until the cows are out of the barn to think about closing the barn doors. (No problem with you being devils advocate, that's usually my job though }> )
 

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I can't speak for other regions, but I know DC Region holds a spring and fall drivers school at Summit Point Raceway. It's a stand alone school that runs from friday night to sunday evening both times. It's always full, but then again, this particular school is about as highly regarded in road racing, as my region's Sawmill School was in ClubRally. ClubRacing also requires 6 hours of on track observation, which usually means two schools, unless someone gets special dispensation.

And speaking to the standard procedures issue: The reason the SCCA club racing program has thrived over other clubs is the fact that you can go to any region in the country and know what you're going to get. They have standard procedures in place for training workers and for running events. While there is slight variances from region to region, on the whole its much tighter organization wise than is commonly found in Rally. At the most recent Sandhills I sat in on part of the Novice seminar held by NASA. Kendall said that they aim to have standard procedures from event to event. Though I'm highly loyal to the SCCA, if they beat us to the punch and put together a much better organisation, I too may go over to the dark side. ;) At least as far as Rally is concerned...


Nick Polimeni
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www.odysseyhouseonline.com
 
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