How to RallyCross: A Beginner’s Guide

SCCA® RallyCross® uses traffic cones to build race courses on grass or dirt fields, eliminating most hazards and barriers, which in turn makes RallyCross one of the least expensive and fun ways to race. The pace of RallyCross is generally below highway speeds, but the courses are demanding enough to satisfy the adrenaline junkie in all of us.

While RallyCross can be as easy or intense as you want, the basics of how to compete are simple.

What You Need

Driver's license: You need a current driver's license to enter an SCCA RallyCross event.

Helpful tip – If you are under 18, you will need both your parents to sign a minor waiver for you. The signature must be notarized or witnessed by an SCCA Registrar.

Vehicle in good working order: Although RallyCross doesn’t require the same safety gear as traditional race cars, your car must be in good enough mechanical condition for competition. The suspension must not have loose or worn parts, the battery must be securely held in place, the tires must have no cords or metal showing, the brakes and seatbelts must function properly, the windshield must not be structurally compromised and there should not be any serious fluid leaks.

Helpful tip – When you get to an event, the tech inspector will make sure your car is ready to go.

Helmet: You will need a helmet when you’re driving on course, but you can usually use a loaner helmet provided by the regional host of the event. If you bring your own, keep in mind it must meet certain safety requirements.  First thing to know is that helmets with ONLY DOT ratings are not allowed. A helmet with a current Snell rating, or one of the two previous rating periods, is required.

Helpful tip – If that is too confusing and you’re not sure if your helmet is OK or not, show it to a tech inspector who can verify if its safety certifications meet the requirements.

How to Participate

Find an event: Go to the RallyCross events webpage at SCCA.com. Enter your zip code to find your region’s event schedule and then choose a race to attend.

Register: Some regions require that you sign up online before coming to an event and some allow you to enter the day of the race. When you find an event, look for details about registration requirements. While costs vary between regions, most events cost between $25 and $60 to enter.

Helpful tip – SCCA members are a helpful bunch. If you arrive early and tell someone you have never raced RallyCross before, chances are you’ll get a quick primer on how the process works. You might find you have a few new friends, as well.

Show up: Once you’re ready and have registered (or know how to register), the next step is to get to the race and join the fun. Because RallyCross® races tend to pack a lot of activities into each day, pay close attention to the schedule of tech inspection, when registration opens, when the course is open for walking, when drivers’ meetings are held, etc.

Helpful tip – RallyCross runs in almost any weather, so make sure you bring appropriate clothing and weather gear, closed-toed shoes and food and beverages for the whole day. Since no loose objects are allowed in your car during the race, plastic organizer bins are helpful to store items while you compete.

Get your car checked out: The technical safety inspection, also known as “Tech,” is where one of your fellow competitors will double-check your car and make sure it meets safety requirements. They will look under the hood, inside the interior and trunk, check your tires, make sure your suspension is tight, verify your helmet is good to go and see that there aren’t any loose items in your car.

Helpful tip – It’s best to come to tech with your car empty and with the hood and trunk open for inspection. Also, if you don’t have a number plate and the inspectors don’t have shoe-polish to write the numbers on your windows, ask them for some low-adhesive painters tape to make numbers and class letters.

Walk the course: Since you will only get a handful of laps, it’s important to walk the course in order to plan how to drive it. You should walk the course at least once and they usually take 5-10 minutes per walk depending on the venue.

Helpful tip – The course should be marked well enough that you don’t have to memorize it, but the better you learn it the faster you will usually go. Also, don’t be afraid to ask other racers to help you plan your race as you walk the course. Just like asking for help when you arrive, you’ll probably make some new friends in the process.

Help Out: One of the things that makes RallyCross less expensive than other forms of motorsports is that the competitors are also the organizers and helpers. That person who helped you sign the waiver? They’re probably driving today. The person who helped you register? Yep, also driving. The tech inspector? Well, you get the idea...

There will be a time period during the day where you will help run the event. This might include recording lap times, directing cars from grid to course or re-setting traffic cones on course after they are knocked down.

Helpful tip – Work and race schedules are typically announced during drivers’ meetings. That’s when you’ll find out what group you’re driving in, which group you’re working with and when you will have some down time to relax, socialize or just watch the race.

Drive: This one is self-explanatory. Before you start your race, there will be an area, or “grid,” where you park between runs while you wait for your turn. Workers there will tell you when to approach the start line. Have fun, monitor your lap times and try to improve them with each run. Repeat until all your runs are completed.

Helpful tip – Look ahead and relax. Looking ahead helps you better see where the course is and relaxing enables you to better feel what the car is doing so that you can improve your times.

So that’s it – those are some of the essential facts of what you need to know and how to race RallyCross. From there, the only way is up. RallyCross has several classes of cars from low-budget to highly-modified, as well as National level competition and Championships. We hope to see you at a RallyCross® event soon.

Words & Photo Courtesy of Greggar Helgeland

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