Holy shit – what an amazing event.
Now, prior to participating in my first event on Saturday, I had always had the image of RallyCross somewhere along the lines of flat-brimmed hat wearing douchebags doing stupid shit in the dirt while drinking energy drinks.
To be honest, that does describe some of the drivers. You see, the participants in this event were generally divided into two kinds of people. Complete rednecks, and socially inept Subaru nerds. I’m not sure where I fell.
Still confused as to what RallyCross is? Let me explain. Or rather, I’ll let the SCCA
Imagine a scaled down version of a rally stage laid out on a non-paved plot of land where the course is delineated by traffic cones instead of trees or rocks.
Sounds fun? It is.
Essentially, you are attempting to control the car in a seriously low traction environment. All the skills learned from road racing and autocrossing apply. From road racing, you need to know how to take the appropriate line and gauge braking properly – this isn’t your typical 50 second long autocross course – you’re looking at roughly 2 minutes per run. Muscle memory and brain memory of the course takes a lot longer than in autocross. What you will use from autocross are the skills of car control, or rather, not crashing while the car flirts and exceeds the limits of traction.
A very interesting component of RallyCross is that it rewards consistency. Unlike Autocross, where you get to take your fastest run time, RallyCross adds up all of your lap times. At this event, we got 10 runs. What does this mean? It means it rewards consistency. It punishes over reaching. With a typical autocross, once a good run is laid down you can take risks and try to go faster, and if you blow it, you don’t really lose much – your fastest run still exists. If you blow it in a RallyCross you ruin your entire day. This means you have to dial it back and retain a conservative element in your driving so as not to overreach and suffer a horrific setback. Perhaps this is one of the things I enjoy, as I’m not ultimately a blazing fast driver, but I am a consistent driver.
Of course, driving in the day is fine. You can see where you’re going. This event added a completely new element – we only had 3 clean, daylight runs – then we took a break and waited for the sun to set.
Driving at night is a completely different beast. It is a rush. You cannot look ahead – you must react as you see. By the end of the night your muscle memory has somewhat developed, and you can even “feel” your way through the course as ruts developed in the ground to guide us, but those first few outings in pitch black with only your headlights to guide you is simultaneously exhilarating, and terrifying. A few people at the event actually lost their resolve and slowed to a complete crawl.
The night time is what separated the boys from the men – were you insane enough to push the pace, even without vision? I was. My times improved even in the pitch blackness. My senses sharpened, my adrenaline pumped (maybe it was the Red Bull?). Whatever it was, it was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had in my life. Plus, I actually did quite well against the competition