In SCCA® Rallycross®, the shortest path to success runs through the driver seat, not the garage. Most RallyCross competitors agree that better performance is easier to find through driver preparation and education than it is through vehicle upgrades. Preparing your car is still beneficial, but driver development should always be the first priority.
While learning how to find speed is part of the fun, the learning curve can be shortened through more formalized and planned education. For most, this means attending a novice school put on by your local region. These are classes that are taught by experienced racers and they’re usually done during the first or second race weekend of the year. These classes not only teach racing knowledge and skills, they also explain the workings of a race day so new competitors feel more comfortable at their first few events. For those seeking an even higher level of education, there are schools such as DirtFish that are specifically dedicated to teaching the art of driving fast in rally conditions.
If such classes are not available, there are still other options. The first is the use of a simulator. While some may scoff at learning through what is essentially a game, sims are now used by teams in most forms of racing, including rally. They not only teach skills, they help students understand car control, develop hand-eye coordination and learn the physics of performance driving.
Some driving principles can be practiced during normal commuting conditions under legal speeds while following all rules of the road. First, start with your driving position. Make sure your hands and feet are comfortable and capable of operating the car effectively and efficiently. Next, work on changing your vision habits. As you will while racing, keep your vision in constant motion, moving from your current driving position to as far ahead as possible. Use the information gained through this practice to plan ahead.
In conjunction with the approaches above, the single most effective way to gain racing knowledge is to simply ask questions of other racers, even if you have yet to compete. While asking a RallyCross competitor for the keys to success may seem counter-intuitive, it is not. Just about every single RallyCross competitor will do anything possible to help you win, even if that means they lose. The fun in RallyCross comes more from competing than winning, so most racers would rather help develop more competition, meaning more fun.
Another crucial way to learn from other drivers is through ride-alongs at RallyCross races. This allows drivers to demonstrate the answers to your questions and provides an understanding of the speeds and terrain of RallyCross.
A list of upcoming, local RallyCross events can be found at here. Find an event in your area and come join the fun!
Words and Photo: Greggar Helgeland