You can watch thousands of hours of rally footage; fall in love with Group B over and over and over again, and be moved almost to tears by tributes to McRae, Park, and Burns. You can idolize Mäkinen, Grönholm, Sainz, and Loeb, and follow Ogier, Latvala, Hirvonen, et al., in the current point standings.
Unless you’ve ever actually volunteered at a rally, you don’t know the half of it.
Don’t get me wrong. Rally is epic; the pinnacle of motorsport. I don’t care what they say about F1. High strung econoboxes tuned within inches of their lives, forcibly thrown about the wilderness under any and all weather conditions handily trumps no-expense-spared, tarmac-bound rocket ships driven by primadonnas.
Very much a metaphor for gearhead life, epic rally car action on the cover draws us in, but the stories of the people making up the teams are what keeps us coming back. It’s kept me coming back nearly 15 years at this point, 10 of which I’ve been relatively active in the California Rally Series. Once you’ve experienced regional, clubman level rally, the WRC begins to take a back seat. One is entertainment, the other family.
5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT RALLY
I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a few months. Something else always comes up, though. Fresh from a weekend servicing for Kris and Christine Marciniak (and, to a lesser extent, Erik Christiansen and Amy Floyd) at the Prescott Rally, the desire to share more of my favorite teams, event, and sport is proving just the inspiration I needed. So this week, I’m sharing 5 things I think you should know about rally from someone who’s been involved – but not competed – for a solid decade. (Me.)
It takes a village, rather, it takes a support crew. Nobody does it alone.
Most of us, soon after watching our first rally, get the same crazy idea in our heads. We want to drive ridiculously fast down dirt roads. What gearhead wouldn’t? I mean, there’s just something about wildly sliding around corners, tires slinging dirt and gravel into the trees, flames spitting from the exhaust, that appeals to our inner deviants. Add a yump or two and it’s direct realization of countless hours’ childhood imagination. We were born to do this.
We seek out the ideal rally car project – the one based on whatever recent automotive experience we’ve got. It makes sense, really. Motorsport is serious stuff. You don’t start with a completely new platform. You build on what you already know. And it’s easy to get caught up in building the perfect rally car – even if you buy a used rally car to begin with. What I’m leading up to is how easy it is to get caught up in driving the rally car.
With few exceptions, however, rally requires a support crew. You need a couple people to haul all the tools and spares out to the middle of nowhere and fix whatever breaks on the stages if you’re going to finish. These people seldom get to see the cars at speed. They hurry up and wait for their chance to crawl around hot, filthy race cars out in the elements, testing their gearhead mettle under duress. If you’re lucky, they’ve also got a hot meal waiting for you at some point so you don’t faint and put it into a tree.
Rather than go into even more rally support crew roles, the thing I want you to think about here is that nobody rallies alone. If you want to rally, there’s a good chance you’ve got a buddy or two who would like to join you. Before you go all-in on that fully-built monster rally car, chat up your friends. Build a rally team before you build a rally car. Many hands make light work. Pool resources, share responsibilities, share the seat time. Rally together.
Who is YOUR support crew? How do they help you with your projects? What have you ever wanted to know about rally (but didn’t know who to ask)? Leave a comment. I’ll get you some answers!