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


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!
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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

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

This is not a Press Release

Preface: I spend a lot of time thinking about marketing and the image of Rally in the US. If this interests you – keep reading!

frank-pressNot too long ago – Everything you read, watched, and listened to was output by a handful of media companies. Your only way to “make the news” was to put out a release that was crafted and polished with your message. You needed to catch the editors attention, draw them in for a short story, sprinkle in sponsors, and tell them where they could get more. Writing press was a good way for a low budget team to be just like a high budget team. On paper they look the same: Cute story, couple of photographs, shout out to a brand, see you next time.

Who reads these anymore? They certainly aren’t actually printed, and my carefully honed list of websites who publish press – publish everything. Once you start publishing everything you get a fire hose of information that no one really wants to read. Plus your message gets diluted down to practically nothing: “Sport you’ve never heard of has guy racing for points by Ovaltine.” How do I craft a message about Rally to everyone? Be boring and as vague as possible. 😉

Now what do we do? Well, some of the bigger teams, events, and companies have just moved their prepackaged press message over to Social Media. They post 60 times a day, every post has no real depth, and they are fire-hosing Twitter and Facebook along with every RSS feed tagged #rally #usrally. They ignore the “Social” in social media. Just shouting from mountain tops to no one in particular. After a few rallies they stop paying their PR person, get burned out, and the updates just stop or the fans tune out.

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The 2013 California Rally Series – Rally School

California Rally SeriesIf you are at all interested in rally driving. If you want to know what it takes to be the next National Champion. If you want to learn the details – everything from time cards to stage notes. You need to sign up for the CRS Rally School and Rally Cross – Saturday & Sunday, February 16 & 17, 20013 in Ridgecrest, CA. Hands down – the best money spent Rally School in the country! Drivers will get a detailed classroom course on car handling and then will practice with instructors. Co-Drivers cover notes & navigation in the classroom and then head out to practice with current and past co-driving champions. Rally-X drivers will get all the details on classes, car prep, and improving their technique.

We’ll be out there with the NEW rallynotes.com Dodge Neon! – Kris

October 21st – Glen Helen Rallycross video

Here’s three runs – three different angles – from the Glen Helen Rallycross on October 21st 2012. I think this video best demonstrates that it’s more important to get into an area with traction, then take the true “racing line”. Hopping from dry patch to dry patch may not be a straight line, but it’s faster then losing time in the mud. – Kris


Kris talks tow hook & skid plate [video]

We got an email from Peter asking about our front tow hook and he also wanted to get some more details on the skid plate setup. I go over the details here:


I don’t know if something like this will be a continued segment on rallynotes – so hit up the comments if you enjoyed!
– Kris

Cool Suits Revisited

There are two companies that manufacture these products: Fresh Air Systems Technologies (FAST) & Cool Shirt Systems The shirts we currently have come from FAST and continue to be great after many rallies and repeated washing. Cool Suits are made up of several feet of capillary tubing sewn onto a heavy duty T-shirt. Tubes connect to and from a cooler full of ice water, the pump pushes ice water through suit, and you stay comfortable while attacking stages in 100+ degree heat. The sensation is a lot like wading into a cold pool, but after a few minutes you stop sweating. Sure, you’re racing around with 15 pounds of water, tubing, and a 12V pump, but calm and comfortable does a lot more for the psyche then hot and sweaty.

I’ve seen a handful of homemade cool suit shirts, but I still believe that the technology and labor that goes into making the shirt is worth their cost (around $150). I would be stabbing a needle into that thin tubing for sure! The supply tubes, cooler, and pump on the other hand remain entry level and parts are easy and cheap to come by. If you built or even mildly prepared your rally car, then a bilge pump and some epoxy won’t be hard. Setting it up exactly how you want while saving $100 is nice too. Our original cooler has seen better days. A softer plastic Coleman Cooler, the top needs to be ratcheted down tight (read; squished), and now both companies use a harder locking cooler in their design. My connectors were damaged by a spare tire, so I decided to upgrade the whole kit.

Cool Suit Cooler Recipe:
Engel UC13 13 Quart Dry Box Cooler
Rule Submersible Bilge Pump, 500 GPH
51545K24 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Socket, 1/4 Cplg, 3/8″ Male NPT

Supply Tubing:
51545K74 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Socket, 1/4 Cplg, for 3/8″ Tube ID
51545K91 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Plug, 1/4 Cplg, for 3/8″ Tube ID
Insulated Gray Silicone Rubber Tubing 3/8″ ID, 1/2″ OD, 1/16″ Wall Thickness

All of this, some 3/8″ PVC, and some glue can be sourced for about $200

“Intended for recreational marine use only”
& cool suits apparently…

I still feel a little jaded at buying a $19 bilge pump in a $15 cooler for $200, but at least I came up with the supply tubing the first time around. We still make sure the ice water line goes to the Swedish kid first, and then over to the Italian girl after being pre-warmed. :p I added some additional insulation over my existing silicone tubing. Keeping those tubes off the floor helps with any heat transfer from the 120 degree car. The next step is sourcing an off the shelf 12V DC speed controller for a little less then the $150 one offered. A small 10 Amp circuit should do, and oh look at that – around $20. 😀 I’m thinking of making an even simpler circuit that will just pulse the pump on for 10 seconds and then rest for an adjustable amount of time with a MOSFET and a 555 timer. If that’s not in your bag of tricks – stick with the switch on the dash 🙂

The best money you’ll ever spend on rally.

For the 15th consecutive year, the California Rally Series is presenting the CRS Rally School on Saturday, February 18, 2012 with the Ridgecrest RallyX rallycross event, the following day on Sunday, February 19, 2012.

The School’s goal has always been to present an affordable and convenient way for people to get off to a great start in the sport. The 8-hour 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/riders 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.

Students must provide their own vehicle for the driving practice but any standard street vehicle is acceptable. Properly equipped vehicles will be provided for the co-driver practice sessions. Two or more students may share one car for both the school and the Sunday rally cross. A helmet with a Snell 90 or newer sticker is required for the driver’s practice.

The Ridgecrest RallyX is a timed, speed event where competitors race both street stock and prepared cars and trucks around a coned 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. The RallyX is open to almost any vehicle meeting the minimum requirements. Drivers must be at least 16 years of age and minors must have a parent or legal guardian present to participate.

The school’s enrollment fee is only $120. Your entry includes a “working sack lunch” Saturday afternoon and Mexican buffet Saturday night. along with an extensive set of classroom materials. Entry in the Ridgecrest Rallycross on the following day can be added to the enrollment fee for only $20 more. Regular entry to the Rallycross is $40. Both events take place in Ridgecrest, California. Complete details and online registration can be found at CRSRallySchool.com.