I have a need...a need...FOR SPEED
July 28, 2010 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Tell me everything you know about rally racing.

I'm interested in making rally racing a hobby of mine. Problem is, I've never done it, and don't know anybody who does. What would I as a n00b need to know about pursuing it? Also:

- Is it expensive? What if I don't have a rally-worthy car?
- Generally speaking, is it a women-friendly sport?
- Would I have to be experienced in tuning, modifying or repairing cars?

I would be interested in getting into it for the social aspects, to learn new things, and of course, to drive really really fast. Lazy googling reveals that there are at least 2 rally clubs within 100 miles of where I live.
posted by contessa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should read this awesome story, if you haven't already.
posted by jeb at 6:03 PM on July 28, 2010

I'll let more experienced people chime in about rallying in particular, but I will add that go-karting is by far the best introduction to motorsports and by light-years the cheapest. You can even do it on dirt if that's your thing (and you don't like bikes.)

There are also rally schools that will teach you the ropes.
posted by milinar at 6:04 PM on July 28, 2010

1. Yes
2. depends on what you mean by friendly. I'm from a family with a lot of racing history, so the women in my family tend be ok in that world. that said, it really depends on how you determine friendly...
3. it would help out A LOT if you knew your way around a car. unless you are swimming in cash or sponsors, you are going to need to do all the work yourself.

all that said, it can be done, albeit by the brave and mostly insane. you should check out the story of Bill Caswell over at Jalopnik. If that's not inspiring to you, might be time to decide on another hobby.

I would suggest trying to start out by finding someone local to you who is involved with 24 Hours of Lemons.

also, beat on preview by jeb!
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 6:07 PM on July 28, 2010

Best answer: 1. It depends on your definition of expensive. One definition of 'expensive' is that you make choices about where you want to spend your discretionary income. In this case it is not expensive because it simply takes ALL of your money. There isn't much of a choice involved, it just takes all of it and maybe some more depending on how things go. It's not really about 'affording', but more along the lines of 'can I continue to live indoors' type of thinking.
1a. You by definition do not have a rally-worthy car. No one, except people that are in their garage or racing at this moment, have a rally-worthy car. Many of those people also do not actually have rally-worthy cars but will only discover this once they are driving in a rally.

2. No idea on it being a woman-friendly sport; you'd have to feel out local groups for yourself.

3. You don't have to be but almost by definition you WILL be. It will be a learning experience that will be frustrating and rewarding and everything else in between. Don't sweat it, get some tools, and start ripping things apart!

Seconding Lemons and ChumpCar and local car clubs.

Also, check out this Datsun 510 rally beater article

That Bill Caswell story is one of the coolest things I've read this year. Just amazing.

Good luck and come back and tell us about your adventures!
posted by Skrubly at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2010

Best answer: 1. Yes. Inexperience in particular will add several multiplying factors to this. Even cost effective is only possible with knowledge; this is true even if you just want to compete, but even more so if you want to actually be competitive. Either way, if you don't have a decent amount of disposable income, you're not going to get very far.

2. Yeah, depends. The 'take advantage of the women and take their money' aspect may be quite high (more than usual). But there may be a great atmosphere with the right club and they may welcome women with open arms. There are several motorsport clubs for women that may be a good way to find out the right places to start. Here are two to start off that may have good resources:



3. Someone on your (soon to be) crew has to. it really doesn't in any way need to be the driver or navigator, but if you don't want to pay for some kind of mechanic, then you'll need to fill that role yourself. Even if you don't employ someone, but have a handy friend, then you'll at least need to cover tehir costs for the events and most likely a beer/pizza fund.

However, I'm not sure that jumping into Rallying is necessarily your best approach just yet (apologies if you have already been through this step). Perhaps, as mentioned, spending some time and effort karting on road and loose courses to find out what and how best suits you, and to cheaply build your skill set is time well spent. From what I can tell of your location, you have plenty of options for this.

Investing in learning the basics (rally school, or just muddling through first and then Rally school) will be well worth it. It will be even more expensive that it would be otherwise to make your (inevitable, trust me) mistakes if you do them in a full size car with all the full size parts expense.
posted by Brockles at 6:38 PM on July 28, 2010

Best answer: I am a woman who go-karts. You will not find many women at all in any motorsports. I get a lot of "who are you here to watch, sweetie? When I show up at the track. Then, I go ridiculously fast and that stops. I kind of get a kick out of the patronizing because I know how silly they are going to feel, really really quickly.

Motorsports are a very resource intensive hobby. It takes money - cars, parts, tools, instruction and track time all cost $$. And it takes time. The only way you get faster is with seat time.

I have always wanted to go to rally school. There just aren't any near where I live.

I'll second go-karting as a really fun way to go fast for cheap. I love it. If I didn't have a four year old - I would probably spend all of my time and money on karting. Feel free to memail if you want to chat more.
posted by Wolfie at 6:43 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can win a small fortune in racing, unfortunatly it takes a very large fortune to do so.
posted by WhiteWhale at 7:58 PM on July 28, 2010

It's frequently featured on those "caught on camera" television shows that you see on Spike TV.
posted by crunchland at 8:04 PM on July 28, 2010

Two popular rally forums are Rally Anarchy and Special Stage. Most rallys have lots of opportunities for volunteering and it is a great way to get in close and learn about how things come together (or don't). If you have a 2 meter radio you probably want to bring it.
posted by okbye at 8:26 PM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far for educating me.

First, thanks for the suggestion/links to schools. I hadn't even thought of that - sad commentary on my thought process, since that's an obvious starting point.

I suppose this whole crazy plan of mine is quite a bit more involved than it was in my fantasies!

Wolfie, I might be taking you up on your offer in a day or 2.

Any more suggestions, anecdotes or warnings...bring 'em on.
posted by contessa at 9:06 PM on July 28, 2010

My Dad's best friend did it for years. He loved it. One time when I was like 5, my mom was out of town and I got to ride in the back seat with the friend and My dad. It was so much of fun and of course I spilled the beans. I think my Mom almost divorced my dad over that one.

Dad's friend walked hunched over, and was decrepit looking at a young age from multiple rally-related injuries. He's in constant pain. He says just the driving down rough roads at high speeds ruined his back because it was so jarring.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 11:17 PM on July 28, 2010

I should add that I didn't ride along during an actual race...yikes.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 11:19 PM on July 28, 2010

I've never raced a car or kart, but I roadraced motorcycles for four years. Racing is a battle of cubic dollars. I went racing on the cheap (I camped at the track, did 90% of the work on my bikes myself, bought parts at cost, etc.) and I still spent about $1,000 per weekend in transport fuel, race fuel, entry fees, tires and the like. This figure doesn't include transient costs like upgrades to the motorcycle, crash repairs, tool purchases, instruction, track days for tuning, replacing damaged leathers/helmet, medical bills or anything else.

Car racing won't be any cheaper.

Assuming you aren't a backmarker, it'll probably be easier for you to land sponsorships than for an equivalent male racer. You will probably encounter unpleasantness in the paddock because you're a woman. You should be financially and emotionally prepared to write off your race car and seriously injure yourself in ways you never even thought of (I broke both hands at once. Twice.)

I like the suggestion of shifter karts - why not start out in the shallow end of the pool until you know you can swim?
posted by workerant at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Something that, based on your reply about not considering schools, is probably worth considering.

Be very, very picky about which school you go to. Do not, under any circumstances, go to any that focus on the 'experience'. They will suck and be a waste of money and you won't learn anything. I'd go through the sources already mentioned (women's rallying clubs) and ask them which schools they recommend - stress that you want to learn how to drive a rally car, not find out what it's like to drive one (that'll come soon enough) as that will be a cost wasted. Getting straight in to learning is your best bet, as all of the skills will be applicable to road car driving and make you a more aware and capable driver anyway.

Despite lots of disdain for racing/rallying skills on the road by many, they do actually make you drive safer (and be more aware) even at slower speeds and are excellent for training the right reactions should you ever be in a near accident (skidding, sliding etc). They don't mean they only work at high speeds...
posted by Brockles at 8:27 AM on July 29, 2010

Actually, working up to shifter karts as a first step is an excellent idea. Those things are hellish fast and you need extremely quick reactions as well as the additional mental load of planning gear changes as well. Training your brain to process information at the sort of rate that shifter karts require is difficult, but very useful once gained. It's also one of the cheapest ways of driving that fast.

Once you have that, try out dirt driving with your new skills and see if you prefer that to track stuff. It's usually a definite one or the other decision for most people.
posted by Brockles at 8:32 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: I really appreciate everyone's advice!!
posted by contessa at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2010

« Older What's the best way to print 300 pages worth of...   |   Interesting things to do, see, or MeFi folks to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.