This article first appeared in the July, 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.
Attracting new competitors to RallyCross events is only half of the goal
Being new to something fun is exciting. But after the initial excitement wears off, one is often left at the crossroads of deciding whether to pursue the newfound activity further or to find the next shiny object. Such is the conundrum for many participants at RallyCross events across the country. But while RallyCross might be exciting enough to retain many who are new to the sport, there are also things the SCCA Region can do to help seal the deal and keep them coming back.
Acquiring new members is an essential part of growing and sustaining any program, and keeping those faces coming back is just as crucial. Therein, there are more than a few proven strategies to keep people coming back. As we covered last month, a culture of fun will go a long way toward filling your registration page. Even so, helping guide your new and inexperienced folks will also pay dividends.
Novice walks and new driver meetings are a big help to green racers. Programs like these provide an opportunity to drill down into some of the finer points of RallyCross without bogging down the regular drivers’ meeting with the same information experienced folks have heard time and time again. During those novice meetings and walks, it’s important to stress not only the basic rules and procedures of an event (like the “down and out” cone rule, radio etiquette, and corner worker responsibilities), but also to give some basic pointers on navigating the course both safely and quickly.
Providing novice ride-alongs are also a proven method to bridge the gap between new racers and the seasoned vet. This is helpful from several perspectives as the new drivers get the benefit of instruction from experienced competitors, the instructors help the new drivers get up to speed quickly and safely, and both get to experience the fun of dodging cones on dirt together.
Simplifying the experience can also up the fun for newbies. A little information can go a long way toward removing some of the mystery from navigating a typical RallyCross. Posting a basic timeline and schedule on the event registration webpage as well as some event guidelines can clear up a lot of questions before someone even sets foot on site. At the event, signage indicating where tech inspection, grid, and registration will also work wonders.
Simplification of the experience for new folks applies to driving at the event, too. One of the common questions from new competitors is when they should think about shifting gears. Often, it’s better to instruct them to get the car into second gear and then worry about steering rather than trying to be at redline every moment they’re on course. In addition, if you’re an experienced RallyCrosser and see someone struggling with a particular element or setup for a particular surface, don’t be afraid to offer pointers. A few friendly words may be the difference between that person coming back or them leaving the sport for good.
When you break it down, attracting and helping new drivers get up to speed in RallyCross is the responsibility of everyone in the Club – and ultimately, we all benefit from a healthy program offering deep competition. Though we’re all competing against each other, lending a helping hand builds camaraderie and a better racing community.
Words by Matt Wolfe
Image by Dave Green