Starting your first rally in a 2WD is the smart bet.

Not only is it the smart bet, but it’s a much better long bet. I promise!
Here’s 5 reasons for starting with rally in a cheap stock 2WD car:

#5. Rally is awesome, but you just don’t know how awesome yet.
I started my first rally thinking “I know what’s going to happen. I know what’s important!” When we barely finished a one day regional rally I had a completely different set of priorities. Stuff that was super important the day before no longer mattered and stuff that I didn’t even think about was now at the top of the list. Now what if that first list of stuff took twice as long to complete? What if I thought engine dyno time and brake bias was more important than just getting on the stages at my first event? Some people never make it to the start line for this very reason.

#4. Everyone loves the underdog, and it’s great to BE the underdog.
An easy excuse is: “The car is slow.” A better excuse is: “I am slow.” You will go out there and get beat by 10+ cars. Now you can do this in a $8,000 beater P-Car you spent 6 months prepping or a $80,000 AWD special you spent all of last year saving for. Let me tell you though – when you start beating much faster, much more expensive hardware – it feels great!

#3. A bone stock 2WD rally car is easily 1/10th the cost.
You think you’ll have money for this – but your girlfriend has other plans. 😉 You’re going to want to move out of that shitty apartment and your promotion won’t come fast enough. You think you’ll catch the eye of some big sponsors, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Rally costs real money, and really fast (top of the championship) rally cars cost A LOT of money. Like a small house in Los Angeles kind of money. You might get some parts discounts, and free paint, but chasing sponsorships can be a full time job.

#2. You will be able to attend more events and get more experience.
How do you get better at something? Practice! Do you rally 6 TIMES with a $20,000 budget, or do you rally ONCE. The more seat time you get, the faster you will become. I know, I know, Subaru WRX rally cars ARE friggen awesome and it’s totally cool to have one, but having one that does 3 rallies and then sits for 2 years is sad. 🙁 The more rallies you complete the better prepared you’ll be for the next one. It’s up to you, Underdog.

#1. You will become a much better driver. I promise!
You’ll have to setup and commit to your braking zone and learn to squeeze every last drop of speed through the corner. You’ll be controlling the throttle and left foot braking as you exit. These techniques are a lot easier to learn slowly on a cheap 2WD car than a super ‘on the edge’ AWD monster. With 2WD you can’t mess up a turn and then just stomp on the turbo to get you going again. Slow 2WD cars teach you to understand the preservation of motion. Don’t worry, when you make a mistake and plow into the outside of the turn – it’ll be a much less costly one.

“Until you finish a rally without lifting, you don’t need a faster car.”
– Tim O’Neil


I know how tempting it is to build a balls-to-the-wall AWD turbo monster car for your first time out, but you must resist! Building a faster car in 2 years will be a lot better than not having enough money to rally in 2 years. See you on the stages! – Kris

13 thoughts on “Starting your first rally in a 2WD is the smart bet.

  1. Before some d-bag turned cross-traffic 40 feet in front if me on wet roads and I totaled it, I drove a ’98 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT (no turbo on the GT back then). I had always thought that when I got my next car I would slowly build the Legacy into a rally car. Nothing crazy, though. I hear what you’re saying about the 2WD thing, but wouldn’t a slowish AWD car have much the same benefits you mention, but with the added benefits to traction? An older Legacy GT is a far cry from a WRX, but it is great on a dirt road. I understand staying away from turbos, etc but why not a normally aspirated
    AWD? Is it because of the competition being stacked with WRXs in the AWD classes, so it’s more possible to be competitive and have fun in 2WD?

  2. Hey Jesse,
    Thanks for your comments!

    Imprezas and Leggys just aren’t in junk yards as much as Focuses, Civics, and Neons. It’s not too much of a premium I realize, but the cost of those parts (engine, drive-train, electronics, etc.) will add up. Now of course if you’re considering an e36 BMW then I guess the cost of your N/A AWD won’t really compare, but I think you see what I mean. Being able to grab a door, quarter panel, and front axles out of a junkyard for $150 means that you’ll have that much more for an entry fee.

    N/A AWD cars certainly drive more like FWD cars that push into turns and don’t often have the power to rotate the back end coming out of a turn. This will teach you to carry speed. I’m not saying “absolutely don’t start with AWD”, I’m just trying to get you into the best situation for a long term stint in the sport. 🙂

    With “Open Light” there could be some opportunities for good class competition. As you might get with a Production 2WD or a Group 2 class. I think a well filled out N/A AWD field can have just as much fun as any 2WD class. Who’s currently competing in Open Light at your local events? The California Rally Series added this class last year! Always more fun to run with friends.

    If you really love the Subaru Legacy – Rally it! I’ve seen a couple of Impreza rally guys start out in a FWD Impreza and take advantage of the parts swap-able nature of the Subarus and move up, as long as your honest with yourself about what power you need as a driver, and honest about your future involvement in the sport. Are you going to take on the Subaru of America team? or are you going to have a blast trading times with your friends at local rally events?

    Bummer about your totaled 2.5GT 🙁 I still love the rims on that car.
    Hope to see you on the stages!
    – Kris

  3. Thanks for the reply, Kris! Great insight into questions I’ve wondered about for awhile. Growing up in the country, I put in a lot of time blitzing dirt and paved backroads in my Probe GT and then Prelude. Driving was and is my favorite thing to do. Rally racing has been a dream of mine for ages, but of course money is always the issue. Although we’re finincially better off than ever, my wife and I have just bought a house and had a little girl. So maybe by the time she is old enough to be my co-driver I will have built a car and be able to afford running a few races in the NASA Atlantic Rally Cup.
    First, I’d just really like to do a 3-day rally school, and that’s not entirely unrealistic. We’ll see. I had to sell my busted Legacy to afford a new car even after insurance, but now I have an 06 Impreza Outback Sport. So maybe when THIS car gets retired it can slowly get converted.

  4. Before moving to Colorado, I sold my DSM collection and traded a rusted out foxbody for a caged 99 Neon with a built engine. Best decision yet, It’s a trailer queen rallycross and track car. The maintenance required after each event is non existence compared to the laundry list of fixes required on my Eclipse GSX after a couple autocross runs. Experiences may vary, but removing turbos and their supporting parts out of the picture makes everything much easier.

    Thanks for keeping this site going!

  5. That sounds like great advice. I’ve been wanting to build a rally car for a few years now. Is there any advice that you could give to areas that I should focus in on the car? Obviously as a novice like you said, that tons of power and AWD is unnecessary. I was thinking maybe along the lines of just safety at first, like possibly a roll cage and weight reduction to compensate. Thank you for any advice you can give!

    • Get a safe cage built and focus on the safety equipment and sitting comfortable in the car. Then work on an upgraded suspension / rally struts. After you run a few rallies with a stock 2WD and some decent struts – you’ll know where you need to go next.
      – Kris

  6. I’m new to this site I really have gotten into ralleys I love off road racing like Baja but ralley seems a hole lot more like me does anyone have any tips on places to get parts ??????carte

    • I race a 1g Dodge Neon, so I just get parts from the junkyard as there are usually 5 1g Neons and another 10 2g Neons available at the yard closest to me.

  7. So, I have a 07 335i, plan was to build a track car. chose 335i because of the turbos, i like boost. Found this page and many others hours of youtube and now is it possible to rally my car? or is the maintenance of the bimmer going to kill me for this autosport?

  8. In a 07 335, if you want to try out dirt, try Rallycross first. If you are unsure about beating up your car, go to an event, sit in the passenger as a ride-along and experience the runs yourself. Ask yourself if this is something you’d want to subject your car to!

    There are many e36 bmws that RallyCross in the Colorado area. I haven’t seen any newer BMWs though so I can’t say how well a 07 335i would do or how much they cost to fix. I personally have a project ’94 325 and I’m finding that the aftermarket support and available parts makes it relatively cheap to wrench on. (Try finding a replacement mirror for a 82 Corolla; they only exist in Thailand) I’ve had the head off so I’m very familiar with the engine bay, and I don’t mind working on BMW any less than any other car, but that depends on your experience and comfort level.

    Constant shop fixes would kill my budget, so to make it out to the events, I have to race cheap cars (like the neon!) and I have to get my hands dirty every once in a while.

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