One of the great things about the American Rally Association is its accessibility for big budget teams, and grass-roots racers alike. The rally ‘dream’ is actually quite attainable for fans in America wanting to get involved.
Two racers achieving that dream at the 2020 Show-Me Rally were Andrew Gregory in a 1991 Subaru Legacy, and Alex Betlach in a 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS.
DirtFish caught up with each of them right after finishing their first event to learn what lead up to that moment.
Betlach delved into the process of finding the right car for him and his team and then getting it built the way he wanted.
“We got this car about a year ago. We’re from the St. Louis, Missouri area, we ordered it in from Cincinnati Ohio,” he said. “We took a bone stock car, got it to a local shop here in St. Louis, EcoTECH, and they helped us originally get the cage in.
“After that it was all us with suspension, tires, wheels, underbody, anything else with lights and anything else that could really protect the car, and get it together and make it look kind of cool in the process too.”
Gregory, on the other hand, went for something that already had some experience out on the stages.
“We bought the car, it’s originally from the Pacific NorthWest, it has [run as 0 Car] at the Rally America 100 Acre Wood a few times, so we knew it was a well-built car,” he said. “We decided that we wanted to purchase something that somebody with far more experience than us had already put some time and effort and thought into.
“We basically just updated the car, made sure it was ready to go, and here we are.”
Gregory and his co-driver also put in some time getting ready for the racing itself in the safest way they could by utilizing a racing simulator and the Dirt Rally 2.0 game.
“For about a month prior to the rally we put the intercoms on and just practiced. “he said, “[We] made our own pace notes, turned all the assists off and just practiced, practiced, practiced.”
Of course, if you’re going to compete in a rally car it might as well look good while flying through the stages.
Betlach and his team ended up with a black base color, a team logo on the hood, and some nice understated orange and white stripes on the back, all sitting on a set of Method Racing Wheels tucked under some bolted on wheel arches. Not a loud design, but one that made for a very clean, professional looking livery.
Gregory meanwhile went with something a bit more familiar to fans of the great Colin McRae. Stating that they wanted to honor the Legacy (pun intended) of those that went before them, the 1991 Subaru was painted to replicate the same livery used on McRae’s Legacy in 1992.
“We lack some of the sponsors he had, naturally, but we thought we would carry the spirit of the livery over to this car and it seemed to suit it and fit,” said Gregory.
Getting the cars and teams ready to the ARA standards was no big issue according Betlach.
“[It’s a] very smooth process to get into the ARA,” he said. “Their website helps out a lot with just kind of getting you in and telling you everything you need and everything like that.
“Definitely grateful to the sanctioning body for helping us out getting everything to where we’re at right now.”
Gregory, despite noting that there were some complexities involved with the process put it simply by saying, “[With the ARA] if you want to rally, you can rally.”
When the day finally came for Gregory and his team, however, there was some last minute panic when the car failed tech.
“[We] ran into some unfortunate events on Thursday night, “he said. “[We] did not pass tech, we actually had to tow the car back to St. Louis, fortunately we found a shop that was able to do some quick cage updates for us.
“We drove the car back, got into scrutineering, and basically got into the race.”
Betlach described the event saying that although they started off slow they were just getting their feet wet rather than immediately trying to push the car beyond their limits.
“[It’s] probably not what everyone thinks, you just come out here and start going real fast,” he said. “Our thing was we were kinda racing the safety sweep truck.
“For us the goal was to finish the event and to drive the car onto the trailer at the end of the event under its own power. That’s exactly what we did this weekend so we’re real happy.”
“Real happy” may have been an understatement. Despite being the last car to roll into the service area at the end of the weekend, they showed just as much excitement, if not more than the podium finishers.
Gregory wasn’t too far ahead of Betlach, but shared the same amount of enthusiasm and hope for the future.
“[I feel] optimistic, absolutely positive,” he said. “The car’s good, it’s well built. We’ve got a few things we need to fix, for example, brakes – those are really hot and smelled terrible after each stage – but we feel good.
“We feel good about our chances and we intend to participate in several, several rallies.”
Gregory also offered up this piece of advice for anyone who might be interested in joining the ARA and getting involved in rallying in America.
“Find somebody local to you who can point you in the right direction. Lean on their advice, lean on their help, and if you’ve got somebody that will take you under their wing that’s a huge benefit.”
Betlach also shared some advice for those hopeful to get behind the wheel or start a team.
“If you have a question of doing it or not, definitely do it if you have the funds and the means to do it.
“Don’t think it’s too crazy to chase it because myself, I was a sophomore in high school when I came out to my own first rally, I thought it’d be a crazy dream to be here and I’m here now just by putting in the work.”
The ARA is filled with competitors who would agree with Betlach. Drivers who decided to take the plunge, and never looked back or regretted it. Many worked their way up by volunteering, crewing, and co-driving.
If you’re thinking about getting involved, take the advice of those who made the decision. As Betlach put it, “You’ll come out here and not have any type of regrets.”