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How to Start Rally Racing

Posted on March 1, 2018 – Driving


If you are a petrol head and you enjoy driving very fast in challenging conditions, chances are that you will start daydreaming of taking part in a rally sooner or later. Rallies can be tough, but luckily, you don’t have to start with the Paris-Dakar. There are many events closer to home like Targa NZ for example, and of less demanding levels to cut your teeth on. If you are a complete beginner and are wondering where to start, here are a few tips.

Join a car club

That is exactly how the career of home-grown rally star Hayden Paddon started, with a trip to a local car club. Not only will you meet like-minded people, but you will also have access to an incredible source of knowledge that your fellow car enthusiasts will only be too happy to share. Whether you want to drive, co-drive, be a navigator or an engineer, you will always find someone who will love nothing more than answering all your questions. There is also always a need for help and it will give you a chance to get involved and get hands-on experience.

The best is that you don’t even have to own a racing car to join clubs! You can try the prestigious Auckland Car Club, or contact governing body Motorsports New Zealand to find a list of clubs where you live.

Find a mentor

Once you are a member of a car club, you will no doubt meet a lot of people as passionate as you are about racing. Finding someone experienced who is happy to take you under their wings and teach you what they know is your next step. It doesn’t have to be someone you will race with, it could also be someone who has the same role in a team as that you want to ultimately be in.

Head to a rally school

So you’ve attended rallies, watched YouTube videos on technique and basically devoured anything that came your way about driving rally cars. Great. The question now is: will you actually like driving one?

It may sound like a silly question, but those powerful beasts can be quite intimidating once you are behind the wheel and there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you find out that, actually, driving one of them is not for you. Co-drivers and navigators are every bit as essential to a racing team as drivers and there is also a range of roles such as marshals that may look less glamorous but are the backbone of any rally.

So the best way to find out whether rally driving is in your blood, enrol for a course. At first, go for a day’s introduction course in case you don’t like it, you wouldn’t want to spend a week suffering!

Find a car

Although you don’t need to own a car to race, if you have decided that driving a car IS your thing, you will need wheels. There again, talking things through with more experienced drivers will be crucial although, ultimately, it will be down to what you like driving – and your budget of course.

Before you commit to a specific car, make sure that you test as many different cars as possible to get a feel for what each has to offer, rear drive, front drive, 4WD, etc… And don’t worry if the car you like isn’t too powerful. At first, it won’t make much of a difference to your results and it may actually be easier to take you first steps in a vehicle that can’t go too fast so that you have more time to react. It will also be safer if you make a mistake and have an accident.

Stay safe

Whichever role you play in a team, whichever car you are buying or driving, safety should always be your priority. The best is to have a scrutineer check your car to make sure everything is right – your car club should be able to advise on how to find one.

Safety is more than making sure that the brakes are working though. In case of an accident, fire extinguishers can save your life. The integrity of the roll cage is also crucial. The seat should fit you perfectly and the belts should be well adjusted.

In case of impact, protecting your spine and head is paramount and this is why you should also buy the best helmet and the best HANS (Head And Neck Support) you can afford. If your car is damaged in an accident, you can always get a new one, but you can’t get a new head or a new spine!


Drive, drive and drive again

Just like when you passed your driving test for ‘normal’ cars, extra practice will increase your confidence and your ability to deal with the unexpected and various driving conditions.

This will be all the more important that, in rally racing, you don’t get a chance to do laps before the race to familiarise yourself with the track like Formula 1 drivers do for example. In a rally, you discover the terrain as you drive so building a knowledge base that you can apply on the fly is essential. So whenever you get the chance to drive, take it, nothing else can replace it. Without the pressure of competition, you will also have the time to practice techniques and the opportunity to make mistakes.


Find a job in rally racing

If rally racing is becoming a passion and doing it at the weekend isn’t enough anymore, apply for a position. Depending on your level of knowledge and experience, you could be a driving instructor, help as a mechanic or be part of the teams supporting the drivers. Whatever you do, it will bring you a 360° view of the sport.

If you are looking for a shipping company to import or export your car, caravan or motorhome, get in touch with us!

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