Get Closer To The Sport Of Rallying

Here’s how spectate, participate and even compete in one of the most thrilling motorsports.

By Fred Stafford

If you’ve been following My Ford, you are well aware of the success Fiesta teams are having in the extreme sport of rallying. Rally racing is thrilling to watch and one of the more accessible motor sports out there. So, if you’d like a closer look at rallying, we’ve prepared this brief primer that can help get you to the sidelines as a spectator, or into the driver’s seat as a competitor.

Where to Rally:

The two national U.S. rally series at the moment are run by Rally America and the American Rally Association. If you want to see the top rally drivers in action, these are the series to watch. Check out their websites for an event near you..

NASA Rally Sport is a solid grassroots organization working to make the sport more accessible and affordable. Instead of one national series, it sanctions two regional series, the Atlantic Cup and the Pacific Cup, that allow competitors to qualify for a final championship event. For a great primer on the sport, check out NASA’s Rally University on its website.

Here are a few options that can help you get closer to the sport:

1. Spectate

Rally spectators can get up close to the action in safe, specially designated areas.

All rallies have designated spectator areas where you can get close enough to the action (and get covered in dust). These areas are identified in spectator guides published by the local rally organizers and can be found on rally websites prior to events. Access roads can be narrow and offer limited parking so be sure to arrive at least one hour before the stage starts. Bring plenty of water and dress for the weather conditions.

2. Volunteer

Working as a volunteer can get you right in the middle of all the action like this group working a start control.

Get closer to the action than you ever could as a spectator. There are a great number of jobs that you can fill as a volunteer that require no previous experience. For example, marshals help manage crowds at spectator and service areas. Start and finish control workers make sure that cars get off on schedule and all finish times are properly recorded. Course workers are also needed to stand vigil at roads that intersect the closed stage roads and make certain that no one wanders onto an active stage. Ham radio operators are also needed to provide communication in remote areas.

3. Join the crew

Rally cars require many hands a service stops, so teams usually welcome extra help.

Rally teams depend upon service crews to keep them running. Obviously, experienced mechanics are most welcome, but there are many jobs you can perform even if you have no mechanical expertise. Because of the conditions, rally cars always need to be cleaned during service stops. In muddy conditions, pounds of mud can collect in the underbody and wheel wells that must be removed so as not to inhibit performance. If you’re interested, just reach out and ask a team. Chances are very good that your offer will be enthusiastically received.

4. Drive or Co-drive

Get behind the wheel of fully prepared rally Fiesta at the Team O’Neil Rally School.

The best way to get a firsthand taste of competition is to attend a rally school. The Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, NH is a great place to get some time behind the wheel of a rally-prepared Ford Fiesta just like the ones competing in the national series. Run by former rally champion, Tim O’Neil, the school offers everything from a one-day introduction to rallying to an intense five-day program that will have you blasting through the woods at rally speeds. Vehicles and all safety equipment are provided.

5. Join SCCA RallyCross

Competing in an SCCA RallyCross is an easy and inexpensive way to see what rally driving is all about.

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) runs regional and national RallyCross series that afford drivers one of the least expensive ways to careen through closed, unpaved rally courses. The best part is that you can do it with just about any street-legal vehicle. No special safety equipment is required beyond an approved helmet. Drivers race against the clock, one at a time. Typically, each driver will get multiple runs on the course.

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