Time to Prep for DirtFish RallyCross National Challenge Events

SCCA’s RallyCross® season is at hand, and the first DirtFish SCCA® RallyCross National Challenge event of the year will take place July 20-22 with the DirtFish Dixie National Challenge at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, followed by the DirtFish Finger Lakes RallyCross National Challenge August 10-12 at Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York. And while RallyCross doesn’t require much more than you and your car, a little bit of driver preparation goes a long way toward fun and performance. Let’s look at a couple methods to prepare for racing.

1) Cross-train. RallyCross shares elements with many other disciplines of racing. Because of this, they make natural training grounds for RallyCross. The most common crossover is undoubtedly SCCA Solo®, also referred to as autocross. This is the closest discipline to RallyCross, especially in course layout. It’s not uncommon for some competitors to compete in both events regularly, often in the same cars with little to no setup changes. Karting is also a very common form of racing used for training. While some kart racing is quite sophisticated, your local karting facility with its own rental karts will suffice for RallyCross training. Track days at your local road course, such as those offered by Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack, are also another obvious choice. Though they may not be races, they do provide valuable seat time and familiarity with your car at speed. Any activities that increase and broaden your skills makes for more performance come race day.

Training in different disciplines also improves your adaptability, a skill that is valuable in RallyCross due to changes in venues, terrain and conditions. Speaking of conditions, whatever you cross-train in, don’t wait for perfect weather. You won’t have any control over the weather when racing RallyCross, so you’re better off learning how to deal with it. As one RallyCross competitor explains, “One day of karting in the rain taught me more than a few dry RallyCross races put together.”

2) Allocate time for the course walk. It’s fun and not just a preview of the race, it’s your chance to develop your race plan. Many drivers have devoted countless hours to the art of analyzing courses. Here are a few of their most valuable tips.

- Make time to analyze the course. Some drivers walk it more than once. Using the time to learn the course and strategize your race will give you the confidence to run your first lap at speed rather than learn the course.

- Plan ahead. Experienced RallyCross and Solo competitor Norman Hayton explains, “The racer who wins is the one who has a detailed course plan. Where to place the car, where to brake, turn, apex, etc. This allows him or her to execute with the fewest mistakes. Just as importantly, though, be willing to adapt when the plan doesn’t work or the course changes. This is probably where I gain most of my time.”

While on your course walk, discuss it with other competitors. Asking questions here is just as encouraged as it is elsewhere at RallyCross events. Ask more experienced drivers to voice what they see, what they’re thinking and how they plan to execute once they’re racing.

3) Broaden your RallyCross experiences to expand your skill set. Have more experienced drivers ride with you and critique your driving. Drive somebody else’s car and, if possible, change classes and/or drivetrains. Ride with other drivers and learn from their approaches and techniques. Teach somebody with less experience than yourself. You’d be surprised what you learn when you’re suddenly charged with imparting your own knowledge and experiences. Using these approaches will broaden your RallyCross knowledge and skills.

Words and Photo by Greggar Helgeland