Racing is dirty at rallycross

Paul Grosse

One of the biggest mistakes a racecar driver can make is going off the track.

Grass, dirt and gravel damages their car, increases their lap time, and causes them to loose traction.

However, for rally racers grass, dirt and gravel are the track. In rally racing, a course is constructed off-road.

Rallycross is the most basic, grassroots type of rally racing. Courses are set up in a large, usually flat field and are marked by cones. Rallycrosses are time trial events in which drivers compete against the clock.

Because of the slippery, loose surface of the track, car control is crucial. Driving a rally car can be though of as controlled chaos. The fastest line around a corner on pavement may not be applicable in a rally race.

Rally races also involve two drivers, the main driver and the co-driver. The co-driver has pace notes of the course that include how sharp the turns are, which gear the driver should be in, when the driver should brake and other tips to help them negotiate through the course.

Safety is the most important factor when preparing for a rallycross. The driver and co-driver need to be aware at all times to prevent injury. Deep ruts can form on a track and have the potential to cause a car to roll over. Well-prepared rally cars have a roll cage, racing harnesses, racing seats and other safety measures.

Preventing damage to the car is the second most important thing in a rallycross. Usually mud, water, dirt, grass and rocks are present on the course. These are not things you want flying under your hood, at your radiator, brakes lines and fuel tank.

To protect these parts of a car most rally drivers build a skid plate. This helps protect those vital parts under the hood.

Another important aspect is tires. With any type of racing, the purpose of the tire is to achieve as much surface grip as possible. In most racing that means less tread, lots of rubber.

Rally tires are different. Although they vary depending on whether the track is dirt, gravel or snow, they all have tread that digs into the surface.

Arguably the best type of car for rallycross is one with all-wheel-drive, which have a lot of traction on slippery surfaces. Front-wheel-drive cars are more common because they’re less expensive, and rear-wheel-drive cars do show up occasionally. The right car depends more on what the driver is comfortable with than its drivetrain.

While not as prevalent as other types of races, rallycrosses do occur in this area. The Cincinnati chapter of the Sports Car Club of America has occasional events. Also, the Western Ohio Region SCCA has events in Dayton and Xenia, which are about an hour away from the river.

Those who like to go four-wheeling or muddin’ might find rallycross a similarly enjoyable experience.

If you ever decide to take part in a rallycross, make sure your car is up for a beating.

Then go get dirty.