This article first appeared in the June, 2020 edition of SportsCar Magazine. Everyone can read the current and past editions of SportCar digitally here. To become an SCCA member and get SportsCar mailed to your home address monthly in addition to the digital editions, click here.
Words by Matt Wolfe
Photo by Rupert Berrington
RallyCross has the potential of delivering ludicrous levels of fun, but is your Region maximizing its event potential?
Increasing and sustaining participation levels within a RallyCross program is one of the biggest challenges for any Region. While the DirtFish RallyCross National Championship and DirtFish National Tour bring the best from around the country together to compete, the Regional programs truly form the bedrock of the sport. Unfortunately, growing Regional participation in any sport isn’t easy, so this month we’re going to look at one of the biggest ways to expand your program: making it fun. Yet, while that concept sounds simple, it should be noted that “fun” is subjective, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Therein, it’s necessary to take a holistic approach rather than looking for a single solution.
Course design is essential to everyone’s enjoyment of an event, with an ideal RallyCross course balancing speed, flow, and technical challenges. Going fast is fun, but RallyCross courses shouldn’t resemble a dirt dragstrip. Conversely, if your Region’s courses look like an airplane dropped a payload of pylons in a field, you probably need to remove a few elements – courses that are difficult to follow or don’t flow well can frustrate drivers.
Another simple way to introduce fun and variety into course design is to run the course in the opposite direction for the afternoon session. This is common practice in many SCCA Regions as it provides a new challenge with minimal event downtime. Also, if your site allows for it, try to run as many different configurations as possible instead of always laying out the same course.
For more fun, don’t be afraid to “borrow” ideas from other Regions. There’s absolutely no shame in copying something if it works! For example, Susquehanna Region hosts on a fantastic RallyCross school (as do several other Regions across the country), and Susquehanna also has a beginner’s guide to RallyCross posted on its website. Accessibility is very important to building a fun program, and both the school and guide are great ways to help those new to the sport.
Supplying food for your participants is another great way to promote fun and camaraderie because it gives people an opportunity to gather and chat. The Ohio Valley and Western Ohio Regions do a great job at this – and if you were at the Great Lakes RallyCross Challenge last year, you experienced it firsthand. Great Lakes Division is also famous for its Saturday night bonfires during two-day events, which sometimes result in Sunday morning kicking off a little later than planned.
Fun is often found by thinking outside the box. New England Region has a mixed surface site that is part dirt and part pavement. Events can be held on a RallyCross sanction on a course that is up to 49-percent paved. Mixed surface events present a unique experience for competitors and provides more options for potential RallyCross venues.
Adapting on the fly can also make for fun events. Detroit Region had to do this after a blizzard dumped two feet of snow the morning of an event. Since the Region couldn’t clear the entire site, organizers had a course plowed out and used snowbanks to define the edges. The course drove like a rally special stage, and because few cones were used, corner workers spent most of their day cheering on the drivers. As one participant observed: “It was less like a RallyCross and more like hanging out with my friends.”
Admittedly, planned fun doesn’t always go as, err, planned, but there are certainly ways to increase the chances of hosting fun events. Be flexible, think outside the box, and focus on making the events enjoyable for all participants. And, if you’re reading this, you have ideas of your own, and you’re not an RallyCross event organizer, volunteer!