I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you, the readers of bleacherreport.com to the sport of performance rally. Due to the increasing popularity of video games, featuring rally car names such as Colin McRae have become more commonplace. However, as Paul Harvey likes to say: “Would you like to know the rest of the story?”
Rallying is, quite frankly, the primeval ooze from which all motorsports evolved. Back in the very late 1800’s, when privileged people owned the very first motorcars, human nature kicked in and they wondered who was best at working their new machines.
From Paris, owners would venture to a surrounding village, usually to a pub. The first one there would be declared that week’s winner. As time went by, these early racers would have tremendous duels on the wooded lanes and some thought it was a shame that people could not view what these new motorcars could do. Hence enclosed circuits were created and their lies the beginnings of road racing.
Here in the United States, rallying has been popular with enthusiasts since before the Great Race from New York to Paris, in itself a rally of the grandest scale. In 1973 the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) recognized the popularity of teams wanting to actually close public roads for speed contests not possible in the current road rally format, and thus Pro Rally was born. More about speed than precision timing, this type of rallying required a purpose built car and special equipment.
A rally team consists of a specially modified vehicle to handle the jarring bumps and jumps that a typical rally stage consists of. There is a driver and a navigator inside the vehicle, unique in motorsport since the days of the ride-along mechanic in the early days of the Indianapolis 500. The navigator reads a route book or stage notes—depending on the event, feeding the driver important information, as he drives as fast as possible down an unfamiliar road. Some events allow limited recce of the stages, giving teams the ability to make their own route instructions, which are more detailed than the books supplied by the organizer.
A rally team also has a service crew ranging from a few friends to paid professional mechanics who work on the car at predetermined service area locations throughout the rally route.
A rally team tackles various types of driving during an event. The special stages are where drivers are on the throttle, driving as fast as possible on closed pieces of road controlled by the rally organizers. These special stages are linked together with transit sections where drivers do the speed limit and obey all traffic laws. Many events utilize secret control locations on public roads to insure public safety, making sure competitors obey speed limits or making determinations about vehicle worthiness in case of accidents or mechanical failure.
Today, rallying in the United States is more popular than ever. Thanks to the addition of rally cars to the X Games, American rallying is posed to grow like never before.
Due to the unique challenge that rally brings to drivers and navigators, it attracts the boldest personalities and the heartiest of souls. Two time Rally America Champion Travis Pastrana is infamous as a freestyle motorcycle daredevil, with many X Games medals and records to his credit, including the world's first double back flip. His teammate is extreme clothing company founder Ken Block from DC Shoes. These two men comprise Subaru Rally Team USA.
Other equally talented men and women include names like Tanner Foust, Matt Iorio, Chrissy Beavis, Andrew Comrie-Picard, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, Christian Edstrom and hundreds of others pepper entry lists from Maine to Oregon. Teams run in events ranging from drifting Michigan snow to Oregon rain to the hot and humid August days and nights in Northern Minnesota in August.
I feel that the readers of bleacherreport.com will enjoy the event reports coming for the 2008 Rally America National Championship, as well event reports from regional events. This season will also see Travis Pastrana and Christian Edstrom do double duty in both the National Championship and in the Production Car World Championship.
For more information please investigate these informational websites.