What’s your name? Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
Josh Jenny of Kintnersville, Pa. I am currently employed at Leydon Restorations, where we restore and maintain vintage European Race cars. Additionally I am studying engineering at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pa.
What got you interested in rally?
My first rallying experience came in 2005 at STPR. I went to spectate with some friends and we camped. The trusty Saab of Luke Sørensen drove by and my one friend said that he knew him. I said, well, I’d like to meet him and over the years he has become one of my best friends and currently build and race rally cars together. I got my first dose of direction when I visited Lime Rock in 2005 at the vintage festival. They had the BMW M3 GTR on display there at that moment in time I knew what I wanted to spend my time doing. While I am certainly interested in the racing aspect of things, I really enjoy the challenge of building a capable machine that can serve its driver well.
How long have you been co-driving? Why?
I started Co-driving at STPR in 2008 and have since competed in Rally New York, New England Forest Rally and the Black River Stages. To me, the goal has always been to be in the driver’s seat so from being a spectator, to a crew member and then on to co-driving was all part of the process to get closer and closer. I’m a firm believer in hands-on experience and so I say, what better way to learn about rallying than to be strapped in the passenger side and getting some lessons from from someone who has paid their dues. It’s also a great instance of camaraderie and I’m a firm believer in lasting friendships to be revolving around common interest. Needless to say some of my best friendships are with people I only see a few times a year at most, but when we are together it’s doing something we both love.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. What do you plan to do with it?
The car I am transforming into a purpose built machine is a 1995 BMW M3. Originally purchased as a parts car, I took the proceeds from parting out the interior and other components not needed for racing and funded the repair of the car, which included an entire new front left frame rail and rocker panel. My intentions with this car are endless. I intend to do tarmac rallies, road racing (including endurance racing), hill climbs, autocross and would even enjoy taking it to the local “cruise nights” to share with people how a (relatively) modern race car is prepared and share my knowledge and experiences with other enthusiasts.
You’re building a multi-use rally car. Why? What challenges does this cause? What benefits do you hope to realize as a result?
When I first got into BMWs, I had originally intended to do club racing on road racing circuits. After getting my hands dirty with rallying, I quickly learned that the dynamics of rallying are unrivaled in terms of giving it hell on public roads that you have never been on before with one of your good friends telling you what is 3 seconds ahead of you.
So far, I have been pretty fortunate with the multi-function platform I have created. Be it rallying, road racing, or hill climbing, etc., most everything I’ve done translated really well into the other form of motorsport. I did put a 25 gallon fuel cell cradle in for road racing, which will be excessive for rallying, but other than losing only a little bit of ground clearance, it wont be an issue. That said, my fuel cell is now in the place of my former spare tire well which is obviously a necessity for rallying. Fortunately, I have adapted a common rear-subframe reinforcement set-up on M3’s to accept a spare tire in an equally beneficial location so everything worked out. I definitely feel very safe in the car that I have created around FIA rules and regulations. It far exceeds the standards of most road racing cage/safety specifications, so I am very happy to be over-prepared in the department.
The biggest challenge for accommodating multiple uses was all of the custom fabrication, which also turned out to be the most fun. I have made my own skid plate mounts, side exit exhaust and tunnel, fuel cell cradle, dead pedal/accelerator pedal, roll cage, etc. The list goes on and on and, with each new component, I’m making I’m expanding my capabilities and helping create a superior machine. I’m also constantly thinking, “Damn I hope I don’t ball this thing up.”
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off). How does this affect your current build? How about a time when you narrowly avoided a DNF. How did you press on regardless? How does THIS affect your current build?
As I mentioned before, the time I have spent co-driving and working with Luke Sorensen on his car have been priceless. On one of the lesser moments of glory in our career, we rolled one of the Saabs at STPR in 2008. Between that and a few ditches that approached us a little too quickly, I have had a very firm influence on preparing a strong car, and preparing a safe car. While I initially built my car to have the front shock towers integral with the roll cage, Luke had to learn the hard way that without them his car would begin bending upwards in engine bay due to the rough landings, etc. That and countless other developments we have made over the years are things that I will incorporate into my construction on the first shot, saving me countless hours, money, and maybe a few DNFs because of the experience I gained from the passenger seat.
In addition to building the car, I have also gained a lot of knowledge from being on stage and seeing things fail first hand. Whether it be repairing a broken throttle cable by attaching Vise-grips to them and going down the road, or driving a flatted-tire up onto a boulder to get it high enough to change in the event of a jack that has failed on stage, there are many things we had to figure out before that I will take with me as common knowledge in the future to help save an event whenever possible.
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in rally? The most challenging?
The most rewarding parts of rallying are when you are able to end up on the podium (or often times just finish an event) after having been faced with challenges along the way. When you enter an event with your best foot forward and work together with your drivers and team to repair and maintain your car during an event to bring it across the finish line it is always a great feeling. Through the years we have acquired a very well-tuned service crew that is always ready to crawl in the dirt at 1130PM and again at 7AM to make sure that the car is in peak shape for competition. It is always a challenge to try and predict which aspects of your car will fail and how or why, but it is equally rewarding when you can find a solution to get things back on track.
How many events did you enter last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
Were these events all rallies? How many rallies next year? As co-driver, volunteer, fan, etc.?
This year we participated in STPR in Wellsbore, New England Forest Rally in Maine and Luke did an additional event at Black River that I decided to sit out from to catch up on my studies and help fund my own project. I usually co-drive about 2-3 events per year which has been pretty steady and we also looking to do some rally-crosses and maybe even check out the European rally-crosses at New Jersey Motorsports Park. We have been talking about trying to do a different rally each year that has been too far previously like something out west or maybe head down to Tennessee.
What kind of cash prize structure would entice you to enter more rallies or push the car harder?
We have always been big fans of the Max-Attack program which helps 2WD rallysists out by offering a prize fund to the top finishers. It is awesome when you are able to finish well and get sometimes half or more of your money back in prize funds. It is always enticing to compete in those events because it offers you a chance to rally for much cheaper if you are successful. Needless to say if you are on the last few stages in contention for some greenbacks, it is always a good excuse to keep your foot in it and saw the wheel off as your go down the road chasing glory.
How important are car classes? What class/region do you race in (plan to race in)? How many competitors in your class at each event?
When you are competing at any other level than the Open class, it comes into great play that everyone else gets to compete on a level playing field. Both the Saab we compete in now and my M3 are in the class known as Group 5, which is higher powered 2WD cars. There is always a great group of cars in that class and it is certainly where you see the most diversity. Sure, it is neat to the see the cutting edge technology on the WRXs and Evos, but it’s always a great pleasure to see Greg Healey’s RWD Datsun come down the road sideways, knowing that his car is truly giving him a workout and that it’s not going to just drive itself out of any trouble. I am a big fan of seeing how different types of cars pan out against each other and it’s always so much fun to see just how close they all end up being at different points of the event.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes vs blind rally?
Very sparingly do we get to do recce because it usually necessitates taking an additional day off from work, but the times that we have done it have proven to be useful. On the other hand, co-driving in Maine earlier this year I made a late call to look that we were headed onto a bridge after a downhill off-camber turn. If we had known about that turn, there is NO way we would have had the testicular aptitude to take it nearly as fast as we did! Rallying with pacenotes is enjoyable once you are able to develop a rhythm between the drivers to the point where you are spot on and as a co-drive you can actually dictate the driver’s speed by your pace of reading. I’ve never done any blind rallies, but I would have to imagine there would be a slightly lesser percentage of finishers judging by the amount of turns that can sneak up on you even with a book of instructions in your hands.
Spectators: How would you like to see them addressed in rally and the other types of events you plan to enter?
I think that it is great to have the Parc Exposés and other interactions between rally teams and fans. It is always a pleasure to have someone come up and check out all of your hard work and sometimes even ask for photos or an autograph! I think that aspect of things is also really enjoyed by the spectators because they get a chance to meet their heroes and get to see dozens of ways to build a car to drive through the woods.
How do you get local gearheads involved in rally?
I think the best way I have found is by inviting them along to events or seeing if they want to lend a hand servicing the car. We have been very fortunate to make some great friends of the years that we met through rallying so it is great to introduce new people into this world of mayhem.
What do you see is the most critical issue needing addressed by the rally community today?
How would you address that issue if you were in charge?
I think one of the more controversial issues about rallying is comes with the territory of organizing events, and finding places to hold them. It seems that a lot of rallies you go to there are local people who sit in their yards waving and smiling, but then others who also want nothing to do with it. It is understandably a very touchy subject to bring in 40 teams to your local neighborhood to tear up the roads, make a ton of a noise and then go home to let you clean up any mess left behind. I think the positivity comes from the exposure towns get by bringing in all of these teams and fans to come enjoy their community and help support their local businesses.
On our rally team we have had family members come to most of the rallies and it is always nice to hear about all of the things they discover in the nice small towns while we are out rallying. I think that the best benefit will come from organizers maximizing the return for those towns who host them. If we are able to make it more attractive for the m to host these events it is conceivable that more events could shop up in the future. As I said, Bucks county would be a wonderful venue to put on a tarmac rally, but I can already imagine the list of complaints from those who would oppose it. Certainly something to work on, I would love to see an event in my back yard!
How do you help out at events when you aren’t racing?
Any time I am not racing I am usually crewing at events. I have done plenty of autocrosses in the past where you have to work each time and I think it would be neat to take a trip to a rally we weren’t contesting and see about getting involved in the behind the scenes events.
If you could enter any WRC event, which rally would that be? Why?
If you could enter any event – period – with the Beemer, which would that be and why?
I suppose my car would be best suited for an all tarmac event like Germany or Bulgaria for WRC. I hope to some day to do the Targa-New Foundland rally, that sure seems like a blast. My biggest goal that I have set for the BMW is that I want to one day get it on the Nürburging. Not necessarily an event, but even just a day or two doing laps would make the dream come true. Of course, if I can find a way to swing the 24 Hours of Nürburgring… I’ll be there!
Your favorite Group B car?
I am pro Ford at this point because it is nice to see them investing their time and money into motorsports and it is always nice to see an American car holding its own.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
We all love Stig and Colin, but I suppose I am partial to Patrick Snijer’s efforts in his E30 M3. I recommend running that name through your Youtube search inquiries if you are unfamiliar.
Do you have a local motorsport club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
No local motorsports club per se, but a fair amount of my friends have a race car or two so that helps. It would be great to have something more formal where people can get together and share their works and knowledge.
How often do you get together with other gearheads to talk shop?
Between the garage we all share together to work on our rally cars and working at a place that restores race cars, I can’t remember the last time a day went by where I wasn’t engulfed in motorsports.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
Gee, I have been very fortunate all around. From my direct friends that I rally with who have helped get me started and started showing the way, to the guys at work who help answer my questions and of course my girlfriend, friends and family, I am getting support from all directions in my life and it really wouldn’t be possible without their help.
Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
Olga Orisek that helps run Rally New York and SueAnne Carson of Rally America are always friendly faces we see year after year who really help make things pleasant. When you are so busy getting your car ready, it is wonderful to have the patient volunteers watch you stumble to gather paperwork and sign the dotted line. It goes without saying that we could not doing a single thing without the hundreds of volunteers that help our cause!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned from all of this comes from learning to gain courage and venture into new things. From constructing my roll cage and teaching myself how to weld and machine things, the confidence I’ve gained towards exploring unknown skills has become my greatest asset.
Is there anything else rally-related you’d like to talk about, but hasn’t been asked?
I suppose that rallying cannot be for everyone, but I come from a family who raced sled dogs while I was a child so I am used to devoting your life to something you love. I think it would be great to get more people involved in rallying, whether it be encouraging and helping them build their own car or getting more people to volunteer and spectate. It is still a relatively underground form of racing and I think that there are thousands of people who enjoy rallying who just need to get their feet wet.
Josh is rapidly making progress on his M3 rally car and we expect to see him competing with it very soon. Josh has given us some excellent ideas for moving forward with Rally Gearbox Magazine, and we’ll be sharing them in coming months. Thanks Josh!
- Were YOU into another form of motorsport when you discovered rally?
- What did YOU learn from the experiences of other rallyistas?
- How do YOU get people’s feet wet with rally?