If you’re a beginner and you just found rallynotes.com, keep reading, your quest starts here.
Building a rally car is something that is very rewarding, time consuming and expensive. My formula is: Take the cost of ANY car and add about $8000 and you will have a good budget for your first rally car. Did eight grand scare you a little? Good, because used rallycars can be found for $5000. That cost doesn’t include the $2000 each of safety gear you’ll be wearing. ($ in USD)
You’re going to want to prioritize your to-do list and start by gutting the car. Any mechanical issues that the model has will need to be solved. (AWS on VR4, Neon head gasket, Rear beam brake bias on VW’s, etc.) This stuff involves lurking on car forums and doing research on what works and what doesn’t in racing. Talk to people who have actually rallied. Don’t spend 1000 hours re-engineering something from the factory. The manufacturer spent a LOT of money to ensure the gas tank was in a safe place. Why are you spending hours setting up a fuel cell in the spare wheel well? You’d be surprised to see how much factory stuff is just fine working under rally conditions. Don’t run too many rally experiments your first time out.
Find a reputable roll cage fabricator. You could do it yourself, but I don’t recommend it. These guys have rally experience, they know what works and what doesn’t. At least consult with one before you start cutting tubes. A basic cage that will protect you in a crash is going to be around $2300 – $2800.
Get some friends to help. Your mechanic buddy might groan when you ask him for help on a Friday night, but secretly he loves it. He loves knowing everything about your rally car, he talks about it at work, and he’ll love when you finish your first rally and bring it into the winners circle with his help. Compensate these guys by paying for their rally weekend. Cover the hotel and food.
Once the cage is in and seats are installed. Upgrade the suspension, and come up with a clever way to attach some HDPE plastic and 6061 3/16″ aluminum skid plates to the underside. I used angle iron on the side sills and some metal skis off the K-member. Then take it out for testing at a rallycross, dry lake-bed, or closed dirt road. You should have already had a conversation with a sanctioning body rally car inspector. Getting a logbook for your first rally car is a major milestone!
Going to start with a brand new co-driver? Go to a rally school that teaches co-driving skills. Rally volunteers have some patience for noobs, but getting 10 minutes of road points because you don’t understand how a time card works is embarrassing.
Read rules, rulebooks, and car classes. You’ve read them once? Read then again. Now all the little details need to get in place. Your orange triangles, your first aid kit, tow hooks, extinguishers, etc. Only after this is all figured out should you sign up for your first event. Do you have everything you need to pass tech at your first rally? I highly recommend hanging out in tech a few rallies before your first one. I learned a lot just watching the scrutineering process.
Your goal is to finish your first rally. You will learn an amazing amount of stuff about your car and yourself in one event. Now you can go forward and refine your driving, your car, and your rally skills.
Want an idea of what it’s like to build and race a rally car? Check out some of the highlights of the rallynotes.com archive. Goals Achieved at Gorman – The Olympus Story – The Black Canyon Video – The 2008 USRC Production 2WD Champions – Rally car project number 2
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