In the US, getting into rallying can be expensive and elusive. Lacking the popularity that it enjoys in Europe and the rest of the world, it’s hard to find events and often it means travelling across the country for one.
Luckily for those that want a taste of rallying and to do it more often, there is RallyCross. Not to be confused with the off-road racing discipline with the similar name, RallyCross is a rising motorsport in the US.
In fact, the Northwest Rally Association, in partnership with DirtFish Rally School, just hosted the nation’s largest RallyCross event – 147 competitors in 11 different car classes simultaneously raced on two different courses with a combined length of nearly two miles. It was the culmination of a four-day event, where the first three days featured RallyCross schools for every level of competitor.
For those unfamiliar, RallyCross in this sense is a form of rallying done on a non-paved plot of land, usually an open field or dirt quarry. The course is marked by cones and typically features very low risk environments and cars are released one at a time in intervals with course works monitoring for cones and penalties.
Without major risks, competitors aren’t required to have extensive safety equipment, such as a roll cage.
One thing that sets apart a RallyCross at DirtFish Rally School, is the course obstacles. With rallying at the heart of DirtFish, the courses feature more stage rally-like conditions with tree-lined sections, fast blind corners, and multiple surface changes.
Competitors enjoy the opportunity to race in an environment more like stage rally during the multi-location RallyCross season. Regardless, many competitors drive a very lightly modified stock car because of the low risk and lack of abuse on the cars. This makes rallycross an accessible and affordable entry point into off-road racing.
Because RallyCross events are held on private plots of land, no roads need to be closed down to host the event. This allows for more RallyCross events to be held throughout the year.
For reference, the Northwest Rally Association is holding seven events in their 2020 championship. Prices for attending each event range from $80 to $150. RallyCross events are structured in a run-work format where competitors alternate between racing and working the course.
This helps keep the cost down for entrants. The SCCA also holds multiple regional RallyCross events spread across the country. In fact, the SCCA just hosted the 2020 DirtFish SCCA RallyCross Nationals as well.
With the minimum risk and car preparation needed in order to compete, fun and unique cars show up to rallycross events. At the recent RallyCross Fest at DirtFish, there was everything from a lifted Suzuki Swift, a Lancia Delta, a Baja Beetle, a rotary powered Datsun 510, a Toyota Tacoma, to plethora of Subarus, and much more.
This creates a fun, relaxed atmosphere as each competitor is there to have fun with whatever eclectic car they chose to race in. It also ensures some exuberant driving as racers wrangle their cars through the mix of courses.
Despite the competitive nature of the events, the comradery between participants is very welcoming and friendly. Whether it is one’s first RallyCross or the 20th, it isn’t hard to find someone to help figure out a driving technique, diagnose a car issue, or suggest upgrades.
With the messy nature of racing off-road, everyone is there to have fun and they want to see everyone else have fun as well. It’s not uncommon for novices to have more experienced drivers sit with them during runs or do the course walks with them.
Often times, drivers that compete in stage rally will bring their stage-prepped cars in order to get more seat time. So, for those looking to get into stage rally, these events provide a great chance to meet stage rally drivers and learn tips on how to begin rallying as well.
At DirtFish Rally School, we often recommend to our students who want to get into rallying, that they start with rallycross. Because of the more frequent events and lower costs, it’s a great place to start and to build car control skills. From there, they can decide if they want to jump into stage rally. Either way, they’ll have fun and get dirty along the way.