When people think of rallying what do they imagine? Adrenaline-fuelled exploits at high speeds through forests with glamour, celebrity status, untold riches, and adoring fans just part of another day at the office? For the top few drivers this is a reality, but for most this is something to aspire to. To be at the top takes time, lots of effort, and a lot of money! So, how does someone get started in rallying?
Ask some soul searching questions
The very first thing that should be done is a lot of soul searching and research. Don’t attempt to go into rallying blindly. As a sport it has inherent risks attached. Make sure that support mechanisms from close family are in place, because they will need to be understanding. Rallying can be a bit of a labour of love, and will certainly be a drain on free time. Time spent doing thorough research is time and money well spent. The technical nature of rallying means there are lots of pitfalls to avoid and decisions to make. Spend time talking to people, attend events, and do lots and lots of reading.
Getting a license to drive
Rallying is a licensed sport and no driver is allowed to rally until they hold a Motor Sport Association license. In order to achieve a license, any prospective driver must take practical and theory tests. The Motor Sport Association (MSA) produces an information pack and DVD for those entering the sport. The pack is an investment and will ensure that all the right boxes are ticked. Tests are undertaken through British Association Rally Schools (BARS). Information about approved schools can be found on the MSA website.
Getting in the know
Finding a local club is so important. A club is a resource of information and experience. Hours could be spent researching information only to find that the information is incorrect or out of date. Rules and regulations change all the time. Having a friendly and enthusiastic face to talk to will help maintain motivation while the all-important boxes are being ticked. The tricks of the trade, good suppliers, and an opportunity to visit events are excellent ways to prepare. Not having a car to rally is not a barrier to preparing for a rallying career. Finding a club should be done through the MSA website, as only recognised clubs are listed.
Finding a Co-driver / Navigator
A driver cannot rally without one, and finding an experienced and skilled co-driver will lead to a flying start. Clubs are a good place to start as they are have members willing to take on the role. The driver / co-driver relationship is one that is built upon trust and understanding. If a co-driver is somebody new, then time spent getting to know each other is really important. It is also not uncommon for people to venture into rallying together in partnership. A co-driver has to meet certain requirements and will also need a license to navigate but there is no requirement for tests.
A matter of personal safety
Rallying is highly regulated, from the car’s specifications to the driver’s clothing. The specifications will vary from event to event. A sound knowledge of the minimum requirements will help to avoid disappointment. Both the driver and co-driver are required to wear minimum levels of personal protective equipment. An absolute bare minimum is for rally specification helmets, overalls, gloves, and boots. Some events will also require fireproof base layers and balaclavas. An intercom system will also be needed. Costs begin at $750 per person and can rise to $2000 plus. Safety is so important so good quality equipment is an investment.
Going it alone
Most newcomers to rallying will be running their own set up. Very few will start the sport with a team drive or sponsored drive. Running a set up is time consuming and expensive. Competing in rallies is just the end result. A lot of planning, preparing, maintaining of the car and equipment, and training are required. Going it alone means that a van, trailer, and a wide variety of tools and spares will need to be stocked. The cost of all of this can run into thousands of pounds. A good way to save money is to buy all of the equipment and tools from one specialist supplier. A van and trailer can be found through local classified ads and on auction websites. Talking to club members can also yield good results with equipment, tools, and spares changing hands at reasonable prices.
Getting on four wheels
Once all the various boxes have been ticked, it is time to think about the car. Before rushing out and buying a car, it is worth spending time thinking about the classification of rallying that most appeals. Cars and their specifications will change from one classification of race to another. Working out a budget, and having a clear idea about the most affordable, and competitive, car will give a solid foundation to a fledgling rallying career.
Cars will vary from vintage classics to high-powered world rally cars. A novice would do well to learn the trade of driving by starting with a low-powered basic car. Specifications will be markedly different from a 30 year old classic to a top of the range car. Getting the correct advice on car set-up and specifications will save a lot of time, effort, and money.
Cars start at about $2000 and can rise up to $500k for a top specification world rally car. Cheap cars might not produce the speed and adrenaline of the top classifications, but it does mean cheap spares equating to affordable rallying.
A simple plan to follow
Rallying is an exciting and rewarding activity. Like all things in life, it is very complex and challenging to get into. Rallying requires a lot of knowledge to meet requirements. Deep pockets are also useful. Before rushing out and buying the shiny helmet with sponsors names emblazoned on the side, spend time doing thorough research. Creating a clear plan of action will help to ensure all requirements are met. Mistakes are very costly and may seriously delay entering those all important rallies. The hours spent reading; researching; talking; and networking will not be wasted. Before long, the adrenaline will be coursing through the veins as the countryside passes by in a blur of speed.