Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RallyCross: Why You Should Be There And What You Should Bring

Overall 2WD winner of the first RallyCar /RallyCross, Josh Wimpey is a guest contributor to Rally World News this week. Josh and his brother Jeremy make up one of the top teams in 2WD U.S. stage rally.

The first round of the US RallyCross championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) was a ton of fun and you should have been there.
In the past couple of weeks, I have fielded dozens of inquiries about the RallyCross event ranging from what I thought of the course, the racing format, and the spectators, to what kind of car and tires would be ideal for RallyCross.

I can’t pretend to speak to the experience of others nor can I assure you that what follows is useful but I hope it motivates some bench-racers, naysayers, and fence sitters to get involved. So, without further ado:

The Course: The NJMP course for round one was heavy on the tarmac with three dirt sections. While carrying speed and staying clean on the tarmac is crucial, it is the dirt sections that have the biggest unknowns and offer the most potential to capitalize on good driving.

A water truck wet the dirt sections every couple of hours in order to keep the dust down and created a traction situation that could evolve dramatically from one run group to the next. The ideal tire choice and driving style could change significantly over a 15 minute window so there are a lot of strategic elements to be considered.

The Format: Unlike the time-trial format of traditional stage rally, RallyCross only uses a single time-trial in qualifying to sort drivers into the first heat's run groups.
Heat races are a standing start from a grid with side-by-side sprint racing action for roughly 5-laps at a time (4 full laps plus the 7/8ths of a lap you start on).
Lowest cumulative time in a heat gets lowest points, and the points from heat races are used to qualify drivers and place them into the mains, with the top 5 advancing to the A-Main (finals) and the remaining qualifying drivers being placed in additional mains that allow for a last chance qualifier to join the A-Main.

In addition to the traction-driven tire and driving strategy mentioned above, the qualifying and heat races introduce another layer of strategy as only your best 2 of 3 heat races count toward placement in the final races.

When not running solo during RallyCross, Josh is joined by his twin brother Jeremy, who together are a dominate force in U.S. 2WD stage rally. Photo/Neil McDaid/RallyWorldNews
Spectators: Just like stage rally, the spectators are die-hard enthusiasts only now they don’t have to drive for an hour to wait in the woods for two hours to see 30-40 seconds of cumulative action. Just like stage rally, spectators can get up-close and personal with the drivers and crews in the paddock while the all-day action and amenities allow spectators to meet their favorite drivers, run a session of go-karting, and relax with a soft pretzel and beer in the shade.

Ideal Equipment: A long-time favorite of fence-sitters and bench-racers, the ‘ideal’ setup, is a legendarily boring topic like fantasy baseball or Dungeons and Dragons filled with mind numbing hypotheticals that will be built only by the rarest of individuals most of whom will fail to make it around the track even once.

In my opinion, the ‘ideal’ equipment for 2wd is probably the 2wd car you already have and a set of decent sticky tires with at least some tread depth.
I would also advise adding a brain to the list of items to bring with you to the track. If, like me, you don’t have one readily accessible, perhaps you can convince your co-driver to come along and provide the necessary thought support; I brought mine with me to the first event and he was very useful both in his traditional role of telling me to drive faster and in his role of putting together a dynamic strategy on-the-fly to adapt to lane choice, joker lap reminders, tire pressures and everything else that rally drivers aren’t used to dealing with.

OK, I’ll indulge the bench-racers: If you can’t come up with anything else that could possibly chase down a sub 150hp VW GTi, get yourself an old VW Beetle, add 250hp motor, add some decent suspension and keep it under 1800lbs. Enjoy beating everybody!

By Josh Wimpey