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Rally Car Racing 6 Beginner Race Tips

Rallying For Dummies

Admit it, you're hooked. You faithfully watch the WRC and ProRally on the Speed Channel and now you're ready to start rallying. Here are six tips to get you started.

1.Get Off Your Duff And Out To Events Volunteer as a marshal. While you're on a stage, take note of who's quick and watch their line and driving style. Wander through service and see if anyone needs more crew-they will. Consider co-driving. You'll eventually meet someone as anxious as you to get started and they'll need a partner. As longtime co-driver Ole Holter notes, "No matter what car you're in, being with a driver who pushes and knows what he's doing is a phenomenal experience."

2. Go to schoolA few days at Tim O'Neil's rally school ( will save you weeks, months or years of learning by trial and error and probably even a car or two. Not to mention not having to explain to the officer why your caged racecar is buried 50 feet into the woods at 2 a.m. A controlled environment is always our choice for any kind of racing.

Both drivers and co-drivers need to attend a licensing school. O'Neil can help, ClubRallys often have schools before an event and check out The Blue Mountain Region of the SCCA holds a four-day training session for novice rally competitors that includes performance-driving exercises, a national licensing school and concludes with the Sawmill ClubRally. Wherever you go, pay attention to learning to read roads. Seed 8 (beginner) SCCA rallyists are not permitted to use stage notes and the skill can be invaluable when your co-driver drops the route book midstage.

3. Learn To Drive A Slow Car Fast, First "Start in a 2WD car," says Group 2 leader, Mark Brown. "Everyone is starting in a 4WD turbo car and they haven't figured out how to drive yet. Buy yourself a cheap car and go have fun."

"In a slow car you have to keep your momentum," adds Maine Production Class winner, Jeff Field. "It's like Formula Ford or go-kart racing-you don't have the power so you need to keep up the speed."

"There's something to be said for being able to drive at 150 percent," says former Group 2 VW driver Matt Johnson. "Just keep your right foot nailed to the floor, hang on and do some driving. You learn so much more with a slow car because you don't have a choice. If you go through a corner and slide it too much, you're stuck. It will take you halfway to the next corner to get your speed back. If you're ever going to be competitive, you have to be fully committed. If you're willing to push just a little bit harder, you can make up for a lot of money that would have otherwise been spent on a faster car. Driving harder equals less money!" That may be so, but after three years in Group 2, Johnson has taken 2004 off to build a new turbocharged 4WD Subaru WRX.

SCCA Rallycross is a great place to start practicing. Unlike ClubRally or ProRally, you don't need to be an SCCA member or hold a competition license. All you need is a car with seat belts, a battery tie-down, a helmet and money for a nominal entry fee.

Which brings us to your first car.

4. Forget About Ordering Up That Awesome 400-Hp Open Class StiAsk around a ProRally and everyone says the same thing: Save the $125,000-150,000 and buy a used car. Even better, a cheap used car. It's way easier than building a car from scratch, almost always considerably less expensive and you can be racing tomorrow. Remember there are two kinds of rally drivers-those who have rolled and those who will. Log on to Ben's Rally Page ( and look through the classifieds or check out the ads in the SCCA's magazine, "SportsCar" (delivered as part of your membership, for more info). Make an effort to find a car with a solid finishing history. Someone else will have spent the time and effort to sort it out so you can concentrate on driving and finishing events. Seat time is all-important. Spend your money getting to events.

5. Come Up With A Realistic Budget And Spend It Over The Longest Time Possible Lance Smith, the owner of Vermont Sports Car, would love to build your dream ride but gave this advice, "Start slow, otherwise your time in the sport could be very short." And Will Bacon, who sold the Group 2 Acura he raced last year and is now in a shiny new Group N car, points out, "I've been scrimping and saving and working two jobs to do it."

Then there are other expenses. Mark Brown tells us he spent $1,000 just on gas to tow from his home in Colorado to the Maine Forest event and back. Then there are entry fees, food, a dry place to sleep for you and your crew and whatever parts break or wear out.

6. Stay local for a whileUntil you set your sights on a National Championship, there's no need for 2,000-mile tows. The SCCA offers Rallycross events, ClubRally and ProRally events all over the country. There are several regional rally series including the California Rally Series ( and, if you're willing to be dual licensed, championships on both coasts sanctioned by NASA (

So buy a cheap car, keep that right foot down and go have fun! See you at the races.

Race ReportSCCA Prorally Championship Presented By Hot WheelsIt's a lucky thing for Lauchlin O'Sullivan that Doug Havir likes his car. Invited to drive CDP Racing's second Subaru at Ojibwe Forests, O'Sullivan offered his seat to the team boss when repairs to Havir's primary car couldn't be finished in time. "Thanks anyway, but I'll wait for my car and even throw in my co-driver for good measure" was the reply. Despite having to adjust to a new car, a new co-driver and a new pace note system-Havir preferring descriptive notes and O'Sullivan preferring numeric-O'Sullivan was fastest through six of 15 stages on his way to his first ProRally victory.

The rally started in the usual style. Pat Richard, with sister Nathalie co-driving, was quickest through the first two stages. Then a loose coilpack wreaked some underhood havoc and cost the pair 15 minutes on SS3. What had started as a chance to clinch the National Championship turned into a fight for survival. Leon Styles and John Dillon sensed an opportunity to gain in the overall championship fight and were quickest through SS3. Mark Utecht, teamed with Jeff Secor in the Group N Cel-Cool Subaru, were back after a 10-week hiatus and surprised many with a stage win on SS4. Styles was slowed on SS7 when co-driver Dillon became ill.

Chris Whiteman and Mike Paulin, now in a Group 5 SRT-4 and on their way to a class win after team leader Shepard retired on SS11, had a scare on SS7 as well, having to brake heavily in order to miss a bear. Still, Styles and Dillon led at the end of Leg One, ahead of O'Sullivan/Putnam and Brits John Lloyd and Pauline Gullick in a Libra Racing Hyundai Tiburon.

Things really began to click for O'Sullivan and Putnam once Leg Two started. The Richards were fastest through SS9 but weren't challenging for the lead and spent the day trading fast times with the CPD team. Styles and Dillon were still ahead after SS9, but by the end of SS11 O'Sullivan was up 40 seconds. Slowed by suspension troubles, possibly a center differential again, Styles was passed by Lloyd and Gullick after SS10 on the Brits' way to a second overall.

Meanwhile, "I drove the rally of my life," said Mark Utecht. Obviously paying attention to the NASCAR boys, he continued, "Our Cel-Cool Subaru WRX did a great job, the team did a great job and Jeff [co-driver Secor] was spot on with the calls." In fairness, it was a spectacular drive and when Styles and Dillon pulled off the road and DNF'd, the Minnesotan was rewarded with his first ProRally podium finish. Peter Workum and Alex Gelsomino were obviously faster after a two-day test and brought their Autosport Engineering Subaru home in fourth place.

Ojibwe Forests Results
1 Lauchlin O'Sullivan/Scott Putnam 1999 Subaru Impreza 2:09:08.3
2 John Lloyd/Pauline Gullick 2003 Hyundai Tiburon +1:50.7
2 Mark Utecht/Jeff Secor 2002 Subaru WRX (Gp N) +2:33.6
4 Peter Workum/Alex Gelsomino 2004 Subaru WRX STi +3:56.3
5 Jonathan Bottoms/Carolyn Bosley 2002 Subaru WRX (Gp N) +4:12.8
1 Mark Utecht/Jeff Secor 2002 Subaru WRX 2:11:41.9
2 Jonathan Bottoms/Carolyn Bosley 2002 Subaru WRX +3:07.1
3 David Anton/Andrew Coombs 2002 Subaru WRX STi +9:17.5
1 Chris Whiteman/Mike Paulin 2004 Dodge SRT-4 2:23:11.6
1 Brooks Freehill/Sean Elliot 1990 Volkswagen Jetta 2:29:58.9
2 Mark Brown/Ole Holter 1989 Volkswagen GTI +1:59.6
1 Patrick Moro/Neil Smith 2002 Subaru WRX 2:30:17.1
2 Bob Olson/Ryan Johnson 1999 Subaru Impreza +1:46.7
3 Bruce Davis/Jimmy Brandt 1994 Mitsubishi Eclipse +2:24.1
1 Mark Tabor/Kevin Poirier 2003 Acura RSX Type-S 2:37:25.3
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