What’s in the Rally Car Tool Kit? Building a common tool-set.

Here is my common tool set. This represents the tools I use 90% of the time. Put one together for yourself and stop 15 trips to 3 places to finish a project. I on-purpose didn’t put links, because I don’t want to update them, and I don’t monetize this site. Take that as an honest recommendation.

  • Sharpies (regular / fine)
  • Leatherman Style PS
  • AA Tweezers (and small tools)
  • Wera Kraftform Kompakt (screw driver with bits)
  • CRKT Drifter (folding knife)
  • EXTECH EX330 Multi-meter (with box of extras)
  • 1lb Brass Hammer
  • Wiha precision screwdrivers
  • AA LED Flashlight
  • Klein Tools Scissors
  • Wire strippers
  • Flush cutters
  • KNIPEX Cobra self locking pliers

12V Anderson Powerpole(s)

Everything I own that requires 12 volts, I have converted to powerpoles. From tire pumps to solar chargers, rally cars to even an internet router or two – if it takes 12V, it’s got these connectors. They are fantastic, universal, genderless (technically hermaphroditic), and if you know anyone involved in Amateur Radio, they have a truck full of things that power or get powered by them.

From Wikipedia: The Powerpole connector has been adopted by some segments of the Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) community as their standard 12-volt DC power connector for everything from radios to accessories. Two notable groups are Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES). It is more expensive than the older de facto standards of the two-wire trailer plug and the Molex connector, but provides a more reliable electrical connection (both mechanically and electrically), and is easier to adapt to a wider range of wire gauges. [link]

What this means is, in an emergency with emergency personnel, some of those people will be using powerpoles. At performance rallies, most of your ham radio operators will be using powerpoles. I highly recommend their use and a good set of crimpers if you’re going to switch a lot of stuff over to them.

Once you do, you’ll realize you have a lot more configuration options. Now that solar charger can be adapted to charge any of the cars you drive. Your mobile radio can grab power from it or that big battery in the truck. I connect my rally car to a trickle charger with the same connection I use to power its mobile radio, and also the same connection I grab power for my tire pump.

New Rally Challenge: Modern Cars

Last weekend at the Gorman Ridge Rally, Ryan Millen was excited to test out his newly prepped 2016 Toyota RAV4. This alternate car was made for the showroom circuit, and instead of taking the time to “fake it” the team just went ahead and built a second Rally RAV4.  Part of their marketing strategy is that this car is showroom stock; Beyond safety, suspension, and tries – most of a Toyota RAV4 remains. Ryan and his co-driver Christina Fate have been competing in rally events supported by Toyota since last year. On Saturday they got 4 stages in and then never left service. Overheating? Engine troubles? Problems from a slashed tire? Nope.

The car thought it was being stolen.

“Millen/Fate were unable to leave service after stage four because the theft deterrent system on their Toyota RAV4 would not let them start the car! They hope to get it sorted out by the next service. On the plus side, it is really difficult to steal a modern Toyota!”
(From Erik Christiansen RallyData.com Live Text)

rav4When you turn a street car into a rally car there is a list of items that you need to address. Removing the airbags, steering column lock, and adding a race steering wheel. Somewhere in that process the immobilizer that detects that the steering column hasn’t been messed with – even though it was no doubt strewn about the shop for a few days during fabrication – proceeded to no longer function.

CAN BUS; A network for cars where every switch and sensor in your car is not just powered, but a network node that sends and receives data. With its adoption, this computers in cars have become A LOT more integrated. Now instead of “a switch” or “a sensor” performing a function – the Electronic Control Unit is looking for [0F 13 24 AA 09 74 FA 2B], and if your replacement sensor or switch doesn’t have that address it just ignores it. Dashboards and Theft Prevention Systems pass encrypted data over the CAN BUS network to handshake with each other. You can’t just swap out the steering column or the dashboard on your rally car any more. I have a spare ECU for our “new” 2003 Dodge Neon. It had to be programmed with the immobilizer and dashboard at the dealer before it would ever work. These programming tools are not available to shade tree mechanics and are usually thousands of dollars if you can get a hold of them.

In 2016 car systems are so integrated that hot-wiring a car with just copper wires is impossible. Even if you bypass the shutdown relay and override the fuel pump, the fuel injectors will never fire. The most frustrating consequence of these systems is that they are all proprietary. There is software on modern cars that you own, but yet are not allowed to tinker with. From a liability standpoint, it’s just easier for manufacturers to lock these systems down. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are trying to help us gain the access that we deserve: Automakers Say You Don’t Really Own Your Car

What a wiring harness gave us in the 90’s, and reprogramming options helped in the 00’s, the 10’s now require complete standalone engine management systems. You’re not going to coax your Prius into spinning the front tires while left foot braking – ever.

Not getting to finish a rally because of an electrical DNF sucks, and we wish Ryan and Christina better luck in the future.

 

 

Trigger all the things! Social media with IFTTT

IFTTT-rallynotes_newFollowing up on this post: “Getting Started: Social media for your rally team” I want to give you some more insights on pushing content to social media. The included graphic is my Recipes for IFTTT (If This Then That). I trigger events with Instagram now, and I’ll give you some more tips for successful social.

Picture Posts
A picture is worth MORE than 1000 words on Social Media. Text updates are all but ignored by your followers on Facebook, Twitter is getting that way, and Instagram was picture focused from the beginning.

Walled Gardens
Try to post directly on the Social Site of choice if you can. While automation is nice and handy, this IFTTT shared post will hardly bee seen on Facebook, because it didn’t get posted directly to the site. Both Facebook and Twitter suppress outside shared posts, and Instagram is a straight up walled garden. You have to work with the system to overcome this.

  • Facebook owns Instagram. It appears that anything posted and shared is 1:1
  • Facebook “hates” Twitter. It appears that anything shared here is suppressed
  • Twitter “hates” Facebook. Seen a Facebook share on Twitter? It’s a mess
  • Instagram can only post to Instagram
  • Instagram posts shared to Twitter are also a mess
  • Thank goodness Instagram recently added profile switching 🙂

My Recipes for IFTTT
The goal is to get native picture shares on all 4 sites. I now use Instagram to post pictures that also share to Facebook. I use a great IFTTT recipe for native Instagram picture posts to Twitter and I save the photos to my Flickr feed. From Flickr, I post it to the Rallynotes.com Tumblelog on WordPress. New article posts on rallynotes.com (like the one you’re reading) push to Facebook and Twitter automatically, but as I said: They won’t be viewed by your followers any where near the number of times if you posted the article directly to Facebook. Algorithms, YAY! 😀

Let’s talk about “National” Rallies in the US.

CRSvsFRANCE

Rally is acknowledged as a European sport, so let’s start there. Welcome to the California Rally Series! Often described as a Regional Championship, I want to take a moment and make you think about how BIG our Nation is. Here’s a picture of all of the CRS events with a European County laid over it. We Rally in an area the size of France. 😐 From the Normandy coast all the way down to Monaco. That’s what it’s like to go from Idaho to the Prescott Rally; 1393 Kilometers (865 Miles) away! Here we have a Regional Series where the racers will be towing just as much as one would in the French Federation of Automobile Sport – a National Series! Don’t think for a second that all these rallies are “small regional events”. Four of them are over 100 miles of stages, three of those are 2 day events, and all of them draw talented racers from the area.

Towing cars costs money and time, and time costs money. If you are centrally located in the CRS, your average tow would be about 400 miles to 6 events. Like other series, the CRS drops 50% of your events counting to a championship, but you should do 3 events to be in contention to win said Championship. To and from 3 events = 2400 miles @ ~10MPG (maybe you get 12… 😉) = 240 Gallons of Fuel @ ~$480 (maybe you live in AZ… 😉) Drive time? 40 hours behind the wheel of a truck + trailer. Rallies are mostly on Saturdays, some have recce`, some start Friday, but you can bet most of those hours are coming out of your PTO. 40 hours @ $25 = $1000 (maybe you work at a bigger outfit… 😉) – and we haven’t even bought tires or fuel for the rally car, nor paid for the ~$750 entry fee.

Want to do a US National Championship? Okay! Using the CRS’s model we scale this up to 12 events and the two coasts of the USA at an average tow of 1500 miles. To and from 6 (50%) of the events = 9000 miles @ ~10MPG = 900 Gallons of Fuel @ ~$1800 Drive time? 150 hours (~19 Days) behind the wheel of a truck + trailer. $3750 worth of Paid Time Off. $5500 Total. Yikes!

With this monetary barrier, we are no longer identifying the fastest drivers in the county, we are identifying the teams that have very flexible day jobs, and lots of disposable income. This describes a tiny percentage of the ~400 teams rallying in the USA. Three events in the CRS works because of the size of the region and the fact that competitors do on average 2.5 events a year. Six events across the giant United States is simply too much for the privateer or clubman rallyist to handle.

This is why the NASA National Rally Championship (NNRC) is setup exactly the way it is. One event from each region is used, usually towards the end of the year, and they alternate (Pacific / Atlantic) each year. Racers qualify using 3 methods throughout the season:

  1. Power Stage Win – Be the fastest down the last stage in 2WD or AWD.
  2. Podium Win – Get on the podium at 100+ mile event.
  3. Series Leader – Be in the top ten in points for the Pacific or the Atlantic.

It is designed to identify fast drivers. If you are talented, you could win the National Championship Title by only attending 2 events. The first event to qualify in your region, and the NNRC event itself. Which might even be close to you this year. 😀

 

Getting Started: Social media for your rally team

stamp3Imagine the sport of rally in the 80’s. You just got a postcard inviting you to the next rally and the results from the first event of the year still haven’t shown up in your mailbox (post office a.k.a horseback). You scour “Dusty Times” for a write up, and if you’re lucky, they might mention you in the final results for the weekend. Last week you spoke with Bill (the press guy from the rally) on the phone and told him the crazy story about how you passed car 403 on stage 2 with a millimeter to spare, and bullshitted about how your VW with a cam is faster than those silly Fire Arrows.

In order to get the story out you had to physically type and mail it – or call someone who would do this for you. You flip the pages and head straight for the rally section. Pure joy as you see a grainy shot of you and your co-driver with wheels off the ground jumping your European 4 cylinder. You can just make out the tire sponsor sticker on the back fender. Time to call your pal Mike at the local Firestone. “The team made the paper! Now how about a good price on four new tires?”

A couple hours of hard work paid off, and ALL OF THIS can be accomplished in 5 minutes with your smart phone in 2015, but you still have to be willing to do the work. Occasionally rallies that I go to have dedicated PR, but for the most part though, the organizer is own their own to tell the story. Some organizations are much better at this than others, and you generally won’t see a consistent message from rally to rally. Which is why you have to do it yourself, and keep doing it. It amazes me that we have phones that can send text, pictures, and video directly to outer space – yet I frequently see only 2 or 3 tweets and one dedicated instagram’er from a rally with over 60 competitors. 🙁

Why social? Here’s 5 reasons: People love a good story (and love to live vicariously through you) ; You document your adventure for the future; Cyber spectators (more people are tuning in to get the scoop); You can get help at the event; Support from friends and sponsors!
Continue reading

Ready to learn what you need to get into rally?

Run consecutively since 1998, the California Rally Series is presenting the CRS Rally School on Saturday, February 21st, 2015 with the Ridgecrest Rallycross event, the following day on Sunday, February 21, 2015.

This is a great opportunity to show a new driver, co-driver, service crew member, or spouse what rally is all about. There is no one involved in the sport that will not benefit from this workshop. The class is packed with information and covers topics including: car prep, timing, stage notes, team management, and rally driving techniques. There is also plenty of seat time for drivers and co-drivers on practice courses designed to give them the “feel” of real competition. Experienced rally competitors will ride along with you and show you how to use the practice areas to develop and hone both driving and co-driving skills.

  • Intense half-day classroom event with activities designed to teach you stage rally.
  • How to get started in Performance Rallying from basic to advanced topics.
  • Understanding controls and timing, the time card, and activities.
  • Split activities for drivers and co-drivers (break out sessions):
    • Drivers get seat time on our practice course with experienced rally drivers.
    • Co-Drivers practice reading notes on a rally stage with experienced co-drivers.
    • One on one in-car instruction from National Championship Competitors.
  • Designed to give you the ‘feel’ of real competition!
  • This is the best ‘bang for you buck’ rally school in the country!

The Ridgecrest Rallycross is a timed event where competitors race both street stock and prepared cars around a closed course in a huge dirt lot. The tight course controls the vehicle’s speed while making driver control and skill a greater factor than raw horsepower. What is rallycross? Learn more here.

The school’s enrollment fee is only $140, or add the Sunday Rallycross for $180. This year your entry includes a FREE 2015 membership to the California Rally Series! Online Entry is available at the CRSRallySchool.com

Always be co-driving!

One of the things we have done as a team since we started rallying was to walk, notate, and call notes for rallycross. As a new team it gets you used to hearing a voice in your helmet while you drive at 100% concentration. Other than up-rating the corners a bit, the experience is the same as a slow twisty rally stage. It gives co-drivers a chance to practice as much as the driver, and we have a ton of fun rallycrossing together!

Christine shows off her professionalism when we pop the exhaust off during our last run. She simply mentions what she thinks has gone wrong – and without hesitation – keeps calling notes!

[youtube http://youtu.be/lCfacHPjlMU%5D