Fiorally: A VW Rally Story – 3
[bd] In Part 1, you said Erik brought over a rally video (on VHS!) and you were hooked. Was it really this simple? You watched a video so moving you had to immediately start looking for a used rally car? Beyond this, how did you get started in rally?
Well, hooked is a bit of an exaggeration. But yeah, it started without checking out some videos. We went to went to STPR that summer and man what an experience. I’ll never forget the sound of anti-lag booms echoing through the forest.
After that we signed up to volunteer at Rally Ski Sawmill which was a rally school with a rally on the second day. We worked it the first year with the plan to get a car to run it the following the year. We got the car however we also wound up blowing it up by not changing the cam without adjusting the lifters (it was a solid lifter head but we thought it was a hydraulic). We missed Ski Sawmill the following year and did Sand Blast instead. That was the same year of a tragic accident at Ski Sawmill and it never ran again.
Heh, you should probably be talking to Erik, but yeah, looking back it’s all his fault rally is in my blood. In that regard, I think it was a great situation for the both of us, although I certainly benefited more than he. I didn’t know squat about cars and Erik kinda knew the basics already so I learned a lot from him.
Getting started can be intimidating (at least it was for me), but getting started with a friend made it in a adventure. We split costs down the middle which also made it accessible on a grad student budget. We didn’t do too many events but it was enough to get me hooked. For those looking to get started try pairing up with a like-minded individual, and preferably someone you know well.
[bd] I like how you and Erik got started in rally teaming up on a $3000 car. Having experienced that “ZOMG RALLY ALL THE THINGS!” sensation, personally, I can empathize with the eagerness at getting started. How did you determine $3000 would be enough? Why not something turbocharged and all-wheel-drive? (Like an R32 or – haha – Syncro?)
Well, I think we paid $3500 but our budget was $3000… so we learned early that rally is more expensive than you think it will be! Luckily for my sake Erik had a good head on his shoulder and I think he recognized that naturally aspirated 2wd was the way to go both cost wise and complexity wise. We didn’t really have a plan for how many events we would do so we just took it one rally at a time. We drove the car to events since we couldn’t afford a tow rig, but we rented Uhauls to drive the car back with just in case we balled it. We also went to events with no crew and brought only what we could fit in the car. To this day I’m usually super light on crew so besides having an F150 for towing and a garage full of spares, I suppose not all that much has changed. Oh yeah, there is the wife and kid too.
One this I think we did right was making “turn key” a number one priority to get us on the stages quicker. In the build vs buy debate I’m a huge proponent of beginners buying turn key cars as minimizing the obstacles preventing you from hitting the stages should be a top priority. We’ve all seen projects that never leave the garage. If engineering isn’t your thing, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work on the car and improve it! After that, you’ll be more than ready to build your next car. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, and some complete newbies have built some great cars. But for the money, nothing beats buying a solid used rally car.
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