Whether it’s because your parents were competitors, you were an avid player of Colin McRae Rally as a child or you simply just loved watching the man himself pitch a Subaru into a corner at outrageous angles, we all love rallying. You wouldn’t be a DirtFish reader if you didn’t!
Our chosen discipline of motorsport is an adventure like no other as it travels around a country or area instead of just standing still like most other codes. One of the best ways to experience this adventure is to go spectating.
However, there is a certain art to this. Hardened spectators immediately know what we’re talking about, and often take secret pleasure in witnessing the rookies make basic classic mistakes – usually grounded in a lack of proper preparation.
So if you’re new to spectating and don’t want to fall into the stereotypical traps, you’ve come to the right place. In the latest instalment of DirtFish’s ‘how to’ series, here’s how to spectate on a rally, and crucially, what to take with you:
Planning your day
Spectating on a rally can be one of the most thrilling ways to spend a weekend but you can’t simply just turn up on the day and immediately hit a pot of gold with your viewing spot. With spectating, you’ve got to unleash your inner co-driver and begin scouring over maps to pick out the best location. Some good old-fashioned local knowledge never goes amiss either!
Nowadays, all the information you need should be on the rally’s website. There, you will find an itinerary for the event which will let you know exactly what stages are running, when those stages are running and how regularly they are running.
All of this information is key as it lets you know where you need to be and when, which will enable you and your group to begin to craft your spectating masterplan.
When planning, you will have several important decisions to make. Do you want to set up camp at one stage for the entire day, or do you fancy stage-hopping? Ultimately, that will come down to what kind of character you are.
Staying grounded for the day ensures you should see every single car at least twice (depending on the rally’s attrition rate and whether the stage is repeated) but there’s a thrill in dashing from stage to stage in order to watch the top cars in as many different places as you can.
The overwhelming majority of rallies will have designated spectating zones and subsequently car parks, which will make your life a lot easier when orienteering your way around the countryside.
Rallying takes you to some rather remote places so don’t rely on your mobile phone to bail you out. Once you’re in the correct vicinity though these car parks and zones should be clearly sign-posted so you should be able to enjoy a good day’s viewing with minimal hassle.
Selecting the right spot
That all feeds into the second key facet of spectating, which is knowing the best places to watch the action. Again, your inner co-driving skills will be in play here as you assess the rally route for hazards just like a co-driver would – but instead of noting those places as a ‘caution’ or ‘don’t cut’ you’ll start yelling back to your mates that you’ve found your spot.
There are several different visual experiences you can get from spectating: speed, technical corners, or drama. Finding all three in the one place is nigh on impossible, so most fans will choose somewhere fast or somewhere with drama. Typically, this will mean sketchy corners with ditches, tight junctions, water crossings, jumps or somewhere with a beautiful string of corners.
However, don’t always be lulled into going for the most obvious locations like a Fafe in Portugal or Colin’s Crest in Sweden. Of course, these are spectacular places to watch a rally car but everyone else will be thinking the same, so going somewhere where fewer people will be standing could be of benefit. Although the atmosphere of these famous spots is equally something to behold.
On-stage marshals will keep you right with your safety and where you shouldn’t be standing, but some common ground rules are don’t stand too close to the inside or outside of a corner or directly on an access road, and always make sure you have something solid to protect you whether that’s a tree, a fence or elevation like standing on a level bank that’s above the road.
What you will need
Now you know how to get yourself to a stage and what to do when you’re there, let’s take a slight step backwards and figure out what you need to be taking with you. Quite simply you will want appropriate clothing, sustenance and a map. An entry list is always good fun too so you can anticipate which cars and drivers will next be approaching.
Clothing depends entirely on which rally you’re choosing to spectate. If it’s summer and it’s hot, wear a T-shirt, shorts, suitable outdoor footwear, sunblock and pack something waterproof just in case.
Likewise, if you’re standing in the middle of a forest on a miserable day you’ll need wellies, waterproof jacket and trousers and preferably an umbrella too. But in whatever scenario, always take more than you need in your backpack as you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.
Sustenance is a very personal choice. Again it’ll depend on where you’re going to spectate as some locations have on-site catering, but the professionals will pack a picnic with sandwiches, chips, savoury pastry items, chocolate, sweets and a flask of tea or coffee. In some countries, on-stage barbecues are also a regular occurrence.
But perhaps above all else, what you need to go spectating is your sense of adventure! Be prepared to adapt as spectating isn’t for the faint-hearted.
However if you follow DirtFish’s steps and approach it with the right mindset, you’ll have just as much fun as the crews out there on the stages themselves.