The Unfair Advantage 

A friend many of you likely know, Bill Caswell, recently made the recommendation that I read a book called The Unfair Advantage. It’s a autobiography by driver Mark Donohue, whom I had never heard of. Mark was a top driver in the 60s and 70s during the early years of motorsports and his book is an incredibly easy read and highly entertaining. I highly recommend it and there is a plethora of knowledge to be gained reading it and discovering one man’s path to a successful career in motorsports.
There are nuggets of wisdom in every chapter and I feel compelled to share some of these for those who may never read the book. Many are tenets by which I preach when it comes to motorsports. All are worthy of contemplation.
Chapter 1:
This Chapter talks more about how he kinda liked cars but only on a whim decided to go ice racing and got a little into racing. Through a chance mutual friendship he got invited to dinner with Roger Penske who gave him “one tip of great value.” “If we were going to go racing, we should only go first class. Racing is very expensive, he said, and it was important to only go racing with cars we could afford.”
He took this advice to heart and realized that there was no way he could afford the expense to race his Corvette so sold it and bought something better to start in.
I can’t help but read this and think of how many people involved in rallying over the years that I know that started out with a street WRX and that was where there first interest in rallying came from. One thing I know for a fact is that the majority of these “want” to race their WRX but never do because it is too costly. The few that make the leap and build their turbocharged Subaru do not last in the sport long term. I can only think of one friend that rallied a turbocharged WRX that is still active and he quit for five years before coming back in an Open Light car in recent years. The rest are on the sidelines, most are likely there forever.
Chapter 2:
Mark was racing successfully as an amateur at this point. He was winning events but had just lost to a team that technically was on illegal tires. He protested and the protest was approved but after a friend gave him some advice and he withdrew his protest and allowed the other guy to win. That advice was, “You proved your point but he would have beaten you either way. You’ve got to win your victories on the racetrack or they won’t mean much.”
Luckily in rallying this is never as much of an issue but it is an important one. Some people may take the outlook that cheating is part of the game, protests are required, and use every competitor disadvantage to your advantage. You will come out better in life if you lead by example and with ethics. No one cares about the guy who won over a technicality. No one cares about the guy who won against no competition. Rally and every rally series will continue to flounder until everyone realizes this. Success in motorsports is about beating excellent competition, not about over spending, out engineering, or creating special classes to win.
Chapter 3:
The entire final chapter…
“If that car taught me one thing it was that I wasn’t made out of money. I couldn’t do any more than I had the cash in hand for. When I no longer could afford new parts, it was time to get out. I didn’t see Formula Junior as any great steppingstone to a big professional racing career when I got into it, although it was obviously going to get me further than an Elva Courier. On the other hand, it was a big waste of money to just show up at Formula Junior races and not win. I have to get back into a class where I could win some races again.”
If every racer could learn this lesson motorsports would be more popular and successful than football. Okay, maybe that is a stretch but imagine if everyone took the outlook that they needed to race something cheaper and that they could win their class with instead of choosing the route of increasing spending to try to compete with a higher level.
I can instantly relate to this. My first built rally car was a very high spec Merkur (Ford Sierra) and was a replica effort of the old WRC cars from the 80s. I wanted a car that could be the fastest 2WD rally car at any event and would only be held back by the driver. After spending way too much money I had a car that I couldn’t afford to properly race and that I had spent so much on that I couldn’t mentally commit to the thought of destroying it at any time. That fear, the fear of motorsport financial ruin, leads to more lackluster driving than any lack of skill or fear of death. I sold the car and all parts for around 1/7th of what I had spent and cleaned my hands. I then built the car I could afford, that already had power and handling and could be built and raced for under $10k but still be competitive in it’s class.
Early in ANY career, the most important thing is seat time, practice, and effort. Drivers that do one event per year or have no competition seldom improve. There are many more great words of wisdom and entertaining stories but these are the ones that stood out to me as important to every driver out there.


Sponsorship vs. Partnership 

I contacted one of my suppliers last year to let them know how instrumental they have been towards the success of my racing season. They are an OEM parts supplier and have a massive inventory and super easy to use website with fair prices and fast shipping. I included a picture of me jumping the BMW during a CHCA hill climb event. Surprisingly the CEO responded to my email about an hour later and cc’d their Marketing Director. He followed up with me and told me I should apply for their sponsorship program, a program where you basically earn discounts for social media posts and post likes for discounted parts. I thanked them genuinely and told them I was not interested in any sponsorship.
Wait, what? I turned down an offer for discounted parts, parts I probably already buy, in exchange for simply adding their hashtag to posts I already make? That seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? The thing is, I don’t believe in sponsorship, I believe in partnerships.

What is the difference?
A sponsorship is broadly defined but in motorsports and by my definition it means discounted parts or labor in exchange for promotion of a brand.
A partnership, again by my defininiton, means free parts, free labor, or direct financial assistance in exchange for promotion of a brand.
The difference is subtle but very important to me. What I define as sponsorships in my opinion devalue all products and hurt the motorsports industry. This is best described by an example.

Let’s make up a company so as not to single any company. Norslip brakes offers a “sponsorship” program. You go online, fill out an application, send in a few pictures of your “race” car and they approve the sponsorship. Yes! You just got your first sponsorship! You may not realize that they never turn down an application but that is irrelevant. You now have the opportunity to support their brand and save some money, what does that hurt?

Norslip sells their products through a diverse distribution network of big box online retailers like Summit Racing and Speedway Motors. Anyone can be a dealer for Norslip, they offer a tiered dealer offering. $5k minimum, 20% off if you spend over $5000 per year, 30% up to $20k, and 40% over $20k. The $5k min will keep most small dealers away and will redirect them instead to the wholesale distribution branches of places like Summit and Speedway. Guess what they probably offer dealers in their network? 20% off, the same they offer their sponsored teams. So you are getting the same price for the product as your local retailer. You are also the primary customer for the local retailer so they now will find it harder to sell or carry this product or recommend it as they can’t compete with the manufacturer direct. Summit and Speedway probably always have them at least 10% off with free shipping and you avoid paying sales tax. Norslip themselves probably sell them on Amazon for nearly 20% off with free shipping. They are hurting their brand by making it no longer special though they are getting huge benefits in visibility at race tracks at zero cost. They have suckered you into buying their products by making you feel special. You are giving them free advertising in exchange for a discount that you probably could have gotten from existing dealers and this happy feeling leads you to use a product that might actually be inferior.

Brands offering these types of sponsorships devalue their brand image and hurt small dealers. They sucker us into using their products by making us feel special as sponsored drivers. As a race car driver I am in the search for the fastest way around a track or down a stage. Balancing affordability is important but I am never striving for the cheapest way. As a shop owner I search for the products that will help my clients achieve this same goal. There are many products I believe in but cannot offer my customers through our storefront because they have devalued their brand so much that it will actually cost me money to competitively sell the product.

Sponsorship such as described takes no investment nor requires any commitment or effort from the manufacturer. They are taking the only commodity you have to offer and getting it for free.

Racing takes tremendous effort to do. It’s expensive, it’s hard, it requires epic amounts of time away from home, family, business, work, and life obligations. There really is no cheap way to do things and be successful. Perhaps budget conscientious, but never cheap. If you are going to go out there and freely advertise and essentially give away the only commodity you have to a company that is sponsoring you in a way that actually requires zero effort from them you are devaluing that commodity.

At Rally.Build we have had a few partnerships in our history, some have turned out great and continue to this day, others left a sour taste. We continue to promote brands and companies we like and believe in even when we have no vested monetary interest. We try our best to give back to the sport through direct monetary contributions to series, events, volunteers, and facilities that make rally great again. We envision a rally world in which teams are partnering with companies giving them financial incentives to advertise on their cars. A world in which the best drivers are tested in an achievable championship with strong competition that creates a spectacle that fans want to watch. Where top drivers don’t bankrupt themselves trying to make it and disappear forever but rather find places driving for top teams. One in which businesses like Rally.Build, Rally Ready, DirtFish, Team O’Neil, Team Illuminata, Broken Motorsports, Primitive Racing, Heavy Metal Motorsports, JRD Tuning, ChaseRace, Dave Clark Motorsports, Susquehanna, Davenport Racing, Trackside, Dmack USA, Streetwise, Feal, and the many other currently operating rally businesses can thrive and support each other, our competitors, and our series of events.

So, what should a privateer team do? Focus on sponsorships from local businesses and figure out how you can give back to them. If a performance clutch kit costs $600 and you could get 20% off by putting that sticker on your car you now know what that space is worth to you. Go to any locally owned store and ask them to sponsor you for $120 and in exchange you will drop off a 5×7 framed picture, drive in the local parade during fair season, and give them two Saturdays of on site promotion (parking the rally car out front of their business.) Over deliver and you may see another $120 next year. Maybe you and the owner become friends from this relationship and the next year he wants to do more.


Rally tires 101 – How to pick the right rally tire for your rally car 

We just started selling Federal rally tires which made me realize I should write a post on rally tires! In the US market there are also Maxxis rally tires, Pirelli rally tires, Hoosier rally tires, Dmack rally tires, Black Rocket rally tires, IndySport rally tires, BFG rally tires, Michelin rally tires, MRF rally tires, Dunlop rally tires, Yokohama rally tires and probably a few others I’m forgetting. And these are just the rally tires we have seen in Rally.Build in the past six months!!! So how does one go about choosing which rally tire is best? I am not going to answer that question, I am going to share the things I think about and contemplate when it comes time to buy a new set of rally tires. This is mostly from a stage rally perspective for those competing in American Rally Association, Rally-America, CARS, and NASA Rallysport but many of the concepts can easily apply to SCCA rallycross.
Since everyone likes acronyms let’s call it the SWAPP.
Size
Wear
Availability
Performance
Price

Size – What is the car and how much power. It is silly to use a 215 width Dmack WRC tire on a 100 hp Open Light Impreza just as it is silly to try to run a 175/60R15 on an Evo. Gearing can also be affected by size and running a shorter tire can improve gearing. Wheel well fitment depending on offset of the wheel is also important, more so in recent years with more wheels and users aiming for that stanced look. My general rule of thumb is Group 2 or Open Light is best suited to a 185 or 195 width tire where higher HP Group 5 and Open class machinery can use a 195, 205, or 215. These aren’t rules but more a starting point. If you happen to run a 13 or 14″ tire you are lucky as there are only about two brands even making those tires so you really just find a balance of availability and performance.

Wear – What compounds are available and what compound do you need? Most rally tires sell their tires as soft, medium, and hard compound but the only ones that the compound REALLY means anything is Pirelli, BFG/Michelin, and Dmack. These are the companies testing and developing specialty rubber formulations for rallying. The rest likely take an existing compound from their line up and knowledge from off road, snow, moto, etc. and use it with very minimal testing. If you are using Pirelli or BFG/Michelin it is fairly easy as their compounds are based upon ambient temperature. The rest is out the door. I am of the belief that many of the companies use compounds closer to off road moto tires and that the surface is more important than the temperature. Harder packed surfaces require the soft compound and looser surfaces prefer the harder compounds. We have seen this in real world applications with the soft Maxxis outperforming a medium at a rally like 100AW and the soft Federal showing good wear and excellent grip with the hard Maxxis wearing excessively at the Lands End Hill Climb which is very hard packed and typically 80-90+ degree ambient temps. A medium compound is often a great solution to balance grip, longevity, and multiple events/surfaces.

Availability – We live in a global economy and anything can be found if you are willing to sacrifice time and money. The BFG/Michelin is still considered the best tire available but you now have to order them from Europe and they could easily get into the 4-500 per tire range! Other tires can easily take 3-6 weeks to source or longer. There are two formats supported in the USA. Privateer imported tires such as Dmack, Federal, Dunlop, Black Rocket and MRF that are brought in by small rallyist owned shops in container quantities are usually easy to source though they have a limited supply of tires. Manufacturer imported tires, such as Maxxis, tend more towards a direct to consumer format.

Performance – This is hands down my favorite topic. Let’s start with the most obvious. The tires developed for WRC, that being the top end BFG/Michelin, Pirelli and the Dmack DMG+2 (the fancy 215 width Dmack, not the standard ones) are the best tires for performance. There is no doubt about that, they were developed for the highest level of competition and are priced accordingly. For the other brands, who’s opinion do you trust? Theoretically you could have Driver A, a top level driver tells you that his brand is the best rally tire he’s ever used but half the space on his car is of decals for that brand, another brand was tested and developed in conjunction with Driver B with great results yet Driver C claims that this other brand of tire has the best lateral grip of any tire he’s driven on. Driver A is likely sponsored by the manufacturer so his report is biased. Driver B might have been a top driver in the US with by far the highest budget but does that make him any good at tire development? Driver C makes heavy claims for someone consistently finishing in the bottom half of the pack. I am no more qualified to make any claims about tires or recommendations either yet I constantly am discussing tires with customers. I am constantly collecting anecdotal evidence of my customer experiences and individual performances combined with my prior career in medical research as a biostatistician helps me identify trends. These are about all that we have to go on and usually it guides us more towards what is worse or does not work than anything. We have cut open most major brands to assess construction difference and compare sidewall thickness but even this leads only to hypothetical conclusions, “perhaps the thinner sidewall in this one area is why people have seemed to experience more punctures?” At the end of the day, most brands out there work great for most drivers. The cheapest tires will understandably leave some time on the table but the midrange tires are mostly within 95% of the performance of the best tires.

Price – There are three factors to price. Tire, shipping, and mounting. If you have a local shop like Rally.Build that offers free mounting and saves you on shipping costs then you may just be saving money over that alternative tire. Having an experienced person mounting your tires will save you in the long term. I have seen new rally tires permanently leak at the bead and new rally wheels damaged from inexperienced mounting. The $5 special may be just that. Your local company also supports your local events and having local rally companies is conducive to having more rally events so it is always best to shop local.

Conclusion – What should you buy? You should buy the tire that is going to work best for you based upon your goals. Go volunteer at some events that you are hoping to run in the future and start asking the privateer drivers about tires? What sizes and compounds. Call your local rally shop and find out what they sell and recommend for the events you are doing. I am always available by email and love to talk rally stuff!


A short guide to getting started in rally 

You’ve always been interested in motorsports and rally. You have done a season or two of rallycross and you think you are ready to make the next step to stage rally. This post is for you. I suggest everyone go and do at least a few rallycrosses before diving in to stage rally. I’d also suggest volunteering at a rally. There are a ton of ways to do that, crew for a team, volunteer for the rally as a marshall, timing, etc. Now you will probably be chomping at the bit to make that next step to becoming a driver.
The first thing you may have to change is your mindset. The most common thing people that want to rally but don’t say is, “I can’t afford it.” The mindset of those that successfully go rallying is, “what can I do to afford it.” Sometimes this might mean a second job or overtime, often it simply means budgeting and lifestyle changes. For example, one friend started rallycrossing in his new WRX. He wanted to make the next step so he sold the WRX, bought a cheap mid-90s Subaru with cash for daily driver and built a VW Golf for rallying. The car change alone likely saved him a few hundred a month, money that he could put towards rally. Real motorsport is expensive in both time and money. Unless you can afford to pay a competent shop like Rally.Build to do everything for you, you can plan on spending probably at least 100 hours working on the car to get it ready. It doesn’t matter what car you choose to build, you will probably spend in the 6-10k range over the purchase price of the car getting the car prepped. An event weekend costs 2-3 days of vacation time and $3-6k on entry, fuel, lodging, and tires. If you can’t envision making this happen, you might consider sticking with rallycross and autocross for now.
So, you are ready to make that next step. The primary advice I give to everyone at this point is this.
Get on stage as quickly as possible.
Let that be your main motivation and it will help guide you in everything from car choice to engine swaps. The next big piece of advice I can give is this:
The car you already have is potentially not the car you should build.
You might be saying, “but I KNOW everything about my car already!” Or “I have a garage full of spare parts” but none of that matters. If you know everything about your car you are smart enough to learn about any other car. There are reasons why certain cars dominate fields and it is because there are cars that are better than others. The lamest excuse for losing is that your car sucks and breaks or is never going to be competitive in the class it fits in. An emotional attachment to a car is a very quick way to placing dead last or never even starting. Do some research and decide where you want and can afford to begin. That’s not the point of this post so I’ll breeze over a few considerations.
If you must rally AWD, you should start with an Open Light Subaru Impreza. A 2.2L or 2.5L naturally aspirated is plenty of car and a decent place to learn. If you must have a turbo, you will not be competing in Rally America and must stick with NASA Rallysport events for at least a handful of events. There are only two cars to consider, Evo or WRX/STI. Plan on the $5-10k per event range for competing in turbo AWD. You “might” be able to do it for less, but likely you won’t be competing for podiums.
My preference for all entry level drivers and for 2WD is the E36 BMW. The cars have enough power stock, there are easy powerplant upgrades, decent rally specific support, and a running car can be had for $1-2k. Some other decent options that could be considered, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, Volvo 240, Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Acura Integra, Foxbody Mustang, Merkur XR4ti and the almighty Mk2 VW Golf though regional considerations as to rust and ability to find cars should be taken into account.
Now, you’ve got your car figured out, now it’s time to get on stage as quickly as possible. Seriously, GET ON STAGE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Life will never stop throwing curve balls at you. Having a halfway built rally car in the garage that you have never raced creates a weird form of depression that will have negative impacts on your life. Trust me, I’ve been there, given up relationships, friendships, and jobs during that phase. If you have driven a rally, or even a few rallies, that effect is very dulled or even non-existent and your long term outlook is better than if you have a pipe dream money pit.
So how do you get your car on stage quickly? Budget, planning, and goals. Be realistic. If you think you need to swap engines and are going to do the roll cage yourself you will not be at the rally in three months. Maybe that rally next year. The first thing you should do is save $3-5k to pay the cage builder. Yes, you might be able to do it yourself, you might have a friend who is a good welder and has built roll cages before. But the money you spend on the cage builder will be smartly spent. If shops charged fair wages, roll cages would be in the $5-8k range. Ones that track their hours closely charge that. Those that don’t are essentially subsidizing the difference for you. And this is hours of experienced builders doing work for you. It will take you longer and that is time that you can either be earning money or earning goodwill. If you’re saying, well I’m single and have a ton of spare time. I say go get a second job. If you’re saying, I’m married and the time in the garage is my break. I say, you don’t have time to build your own cage and be a good spouse, especially if you want to rally this year. This is even more multiplied if you have children. Spending every night in the garage while you spouse does all the work then plops down in front of Netflix binge watching series after series is not a healthy relationship, even if they say it’s okay. Now if they are in the garage with you, that’s a different story, but also fairly rare.
Now for the list of things you need.
Seats
Harnesses
Skid Plates
First Aid Kit
Spill Kit
Fire Extinguishers X 2
Rally Tires (and the correct size wheels, 14″ or 15″ work. Used rally tires can be okay for first few events. Avoid retreads for stage use.)
Good brake pads
Good brake fluid
Oil changes all around (engine, diff, gearbox)
If you’ve picked the correct car, that is really all you need. You should consider any maintenance that may be needed or overdue such as a timing belt service, water pump, thermostat, suspension bushings, etc.
If you can swing it, rally suspension is a must. However, I think it is better to go rally on stock suspension or cheap replacements such as the KYB GR2 struts until you can save for a proper set of rally suspension. Do NOT settle for cheap options such as Hotbits or K-Sport or similar. There are eight or nine different options out there for affordable gravel suspension, most of them being unsuitable for real rallying. There are a few companies using the Bilstein 50mm universal strut for gravel applications. These are in the $3-4k range and are a decent starter setup. If you are rallying an obscure applications, there are companies that will build to suit with this strut though it will cost more and often requires additional fabrication ($$$) to finish fitting to the car. We sell DMS Rally Suspension out of Australia. We have been rallying on these struts successfully for over a decade. They are a strong and proven adjustable rally strut and start in the $4k range.

You’ll notice I said NOTHING about building that cool engine, gearbox, etc. Leave the car NEARLY stock for your first few events and just get out there and drive! You’ll also learn from others what is a smart thing to do and what you should not do. Internet wisdom from car forums is so often biased towards street cars and dyno queens and completely unapplicable in rallying. I typically will free up exhaust a little bit and do a high flowing drop in air filter to start with. In a RWD car, a LSD with lowest final drive (higher numerical) you can find is a must but not required (I’m still racing on a 3.15 LSD and trying to find time to build my 4.10 LSD). If you have an AWD car, you might try to source a rear LSD but don’t worry too much about it otherwise. FWD you likely have few affordable options and it requires removing gearbox and labor that is beyond the goals of GO RALLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It also quickly can lead to project creep like different gear ratios, lightweight flywheels, and fancy clutches. Save all that until after your first rally.

I hope you have found this post useful. Rally.Build was formed by three regular rally guys trying to make it easier and more affordable to rally and to grow the sport within our local market. We have helped so many new drivers get on stage quickly and with success. We have also watched our friends and customers come and go from the sport. Some are gone forever, others are gone temporarily. Here are just a few examples of what leads to people not rallying. Opened a business that takes all time and money, got married and had children (does not always mean quitting rallying, but sometimes does), decided to go to grad school, started racing cross country mountain bikes, was injured in an accident, spent all their money (one was an inheritance, another was rallying on second mortgages and spent over $100k that they’ll be paying off for 10-20 years), and lastly did not feel comfortable with the risk/reward ratio of rallying. Life happens, any of this could happen to you at any time. Thus, if you want to rally, get out there as quick as you can! Build it fast, race it soon.
-
Grant


Brake Better to Go Faster 

This article came across my news feed today.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a32702/why-youll-never-learn-to-be-fast-until-you-get-rid-of-your-fast-car/

It was well timed as I have been thinking on this subject for some time. First things first.
Driving a fast car is usually super fun.
Driving a “slow” car is usually super fun.
Winning is always super fun.

The important take away from the Road and Track article is that driving a slower car means that your entry speeds are lower and thus it is easier to get to the ideal cornering speeds. This is even more important in the low traction environment of stage rallying. Think of all the things that happens under braking on gravel. Weight transfer, tires skidding, back end gets wiggly, etc. This is all multiplied as you increase the speed with which you enter corners and becomes so much easier to mess it up.
I want to expand their thesis. I’m not going to say drive a slow car. I say, drive a simple and cheap car and leave it nearly stock. I love the E36 BMW for this reason. The 2.5 or 2.8 I6 engines have plenty of power and are cheap and reliable when left pretty much near stock. I know this because I have been demonstrating it for the last four years. I park the car, when it’s time to race, I check the fluids, air pressure, load it on the trailer and go race. Occasionally a might break a few things, control arms and the like but I mostly get to focus on trying to get the car to it’s limits. The major upgrade on the car in 2016 was elimination of the brake booster and installation of a dual master pedal kit, available on our website. This was a huge change and allowed me to fine tune the brake bias to my driving style and always have a reliable pedal. In the events I did in 2015 and 2016 I was about 3 seconds per mile faster in 2016 with just that major change. When you consider that I am currently only 2 seconds per mile behind the fastest two cars, a S54 swapped BMW and a turbocharged Integra, both with nearly double the horsepower it really is amazing that brakes mean that much.
I have been known to say, “project cars suck.” Project cars are almost always projects with a goal of making more power. LS engine swaps, turbo swaps into GC cars, etc. Plenty of people taken away from driving for months or even years on end chasing a little more power. There is nothing wrong with this but remember, driving is usually super fun.
I have one friend in Canada that said to me once, “After I crashed my first rally car and I had started building my second one I had an epiphany. I enjoy the project much more than the end result. I like building the cars way more than I enjoy driving them in competition.” He went and got a job at a top motorsports shop and is now one of the top rally technicians in the north building wicked cars and getting paid to do it.
I have another friend that does an event or sometimes two every year or two. He loves his Subaru but it is a stock 2.2L and super slow. He is swapping in a turbo engine. More power to him! Honestly if I were only doing an event or two per year I’d make it worth it and build a faster car. But with more power comes more expense, more tires, more issues, and ultimately that leads to less seat time. This is an anecdotal statement but it is without doubt the absolute truth. A competitive open class rally car (turbo AWD ~300 hp) will go through twice the fuel, twice the brake consumables and two or three times the amount of tires as an open light car (NA 2.5L ~180-200hp).
Let’s go back and remember what we said earlier.
Driving a fast car is usually super fun.
Driving a “slow” car is usually super fun.
Winning is always super fun.

There was a video once of Travis Pastrana riding along with Dave Mirra during a testing/practice session. The only thing Travis was critical of was his braking. There is a reason Motocross riders often successfully transfer to four wheel motorsports and it is brake control. The closer you are to the limit, the easier it is to be at the limit. In most motorsport the important limit is not your top speed in the straight sections but your top speed in the corners.
Lastly a quote from seasoned rally veteran Mad Mike Halley, “The apparent fascination with the idea that more horsepower immediately translates into better stage times continues to mystify me.”


Rallying in Colorado 

One common inquiry I get often is from people new to Colorado asking how to get involved in rallying here.
Rallying in Colorado is making a comeback. There are a few resources you need to know about.
CHCA – Colorado Hill Climb Association – chcaracing.com
These guys put on a five event gravel hill climb series that is awesome. The Temple Canyon, Buena Vista, and Lands End events are three to NOT miss. The CORE events are super fun too with usually a little party atmosphere if everyone decides to camp, easy spectating with a great diverse course.
Which leads me to:
CORE – Colorado Offroad Extreme
Open March – November on weekends this is a 800-1000 acre offroad park. Has a dedicated 2 mile rally sprint course, two rallycross areas, and about 15-20 miles of rallyable tracks around the facility.
They held two 30-40 mile stage rally type events there in 2016 as well and are tentatively planning to do it again this year. Season passes are $200 individual, $400 family and for sale now and allow you to go drive there anytime there aren’t events going on.
ColoradoRallycross.org or their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/ColoradoRallyCross/
10-11 event rallycross season, mostly at CORE and a facility in Colorado Springs called the US Truck Driving School. They open their season with a rally school and competition weekend in early March at CORE. Great group of people and fun laid back dirt rally style racing at lower speeds that you can do in any car.
Rally Colorado – https://www.facebook.com/RallyColorado2017/
For actual stage rally there is an effort by Rally America to add two events to their national calendar, Rally Colorado in July and Rally Wyoming in August. Not much info is known about the Wyoming event yet but the Colorado event is progressing and they post updates to their facebook page as stuff moves along. Most of the rally guys around here tend to stick with a few events, 100 Acre Woods rally in Missouri is well timed with our local seasons and we’ve been going most years for over a decade. Rally Idaho is also usually easy to fit into a schedule with some excellent roads with easy transits and while still a full day length, a relatively easy tow to the event. Some travel to SW events such as Prescott or midwest events like Ojibwe but not as regularly as the closer two. There is a desire to add a few shorter rallysprint type events to the region but that is still in the works.

We are up to 25-35 regular rally competitors, mostly based on the Front Range at this point and growing fast as new cars get built and veterans get back into it now that there is some competition. We made a big effort in the past few years to affordably build more cars and provide affordable parts and help for building cars and it seems to have paid off.
We, Rally.Build started three years ago officially though we’d been doing stuff like building cages and selling parts for 12 years, we just became more formal and got a shop location that you wasn’t hidden in a random industrial area of North Denver. We are there every Tuesday night and Saturday day. Tuesday nights are often mostly alot of talking about rally and drinking beer so is always a good time to meet people and absorb info. Saturday we try to get work done in the shop and is our busier retail day so not as many people hanging around chatting about rally like Tuesday nights are.
Welcome to Colorado! Hope to see you out at a few events.


Lands End Hill Climb Post Race Report 

We’ve had a few days to try to adapt back to the real world. I ended up leaving Denver around 10 pm on Thursday and arrived at the service area at 3:30 am, just in time to watch some of the meteor shower before resting my eyes for a few hours on the bench seat of my 91 Dodge Cummins pickup. Woke up early on Friday and headed out to the secret testing facility, a 2.3 mile gravel road. A few quick passes on this road and I had my brake bias dialed in and figured out what tire pressure I wanted to run the new gravel tires on. Some quick testing of braking and shifting showed a flawless car with none of the previous issues! 100 MPH to 50 MPH to 2nd gear pitch into a 90 right with no problem! Stoked for the race! Spent the rest of the afternoon tidying up a few things on the car, writing pace notes, and drinking a few beers with the rally crew. Slept a second night on the bench seat of the truck.
First day of practice went great. No issues with the car. I did manage to hit a rock hard enough to bend a wheel far enough to hit the trailing arm on each revolution. Hammered it back kinda into the right area and kept running. Bead held on the tire. Still impressed with tire performance! Ended day qualifying in 5th place, but just 2 seconds between 3rd and 5th place! Saturday night I upgraded and slept in the bed of the truck on a sleeping pad.
Sunday was race day! First run started great though I blew a few hairpins costing me quite a few seconds and most likely the podium position. Second run I had a horrendous start, bad first hairpin then an early shift led to being down six seconds from my first run by the second hairpin. I was never able to recover that time but was happy with fifth place, only ten seconds back (2 sec/mile) of the leader, Dave Kern in his S54 powered BMW Compact (+150hp) and nine seconds back of Rally.Build teammate Ryan McLauglin in his turbocharged Acura Integra.
The biggest lesson from the weekend was that never again will I camp at an event. I felt like I had a constant mental fog from the slightly tired feeling that was constantly over me. The next lesson was how much easier and harder you can drive when you trust your equipment. I was six seconds per mile faster this year than last, part of that due to better tires, part due to mechanical upgrades (brakes and shifter), and part due to experience pushing the limits of the car. Now to get through the next few weeks until our next event on September 11th!

Onboard video

Photo cred: Kristin Dallison
GoosLands


The multiple jobs of a privateer rallyist 

Tonight we leave for Grand Junction, CO for the Lands End Hill Climb, arguably the best all gravel hill climb in North America. I am super excited as last year I was plagued with problems and this year I have addressed those issues as well as have three additional events of practice and experience in the car. I crashed at the last event and have spent the last three weeks rebuilding the front right corner, replacing suspension components, cooling components and upgrading the brakes to a dual master setup with adjustable bias control. I have driven the car two blocks since getting it back together. Let’s discuss the multiple jobs we fulfill in our quest to rally. But first, let’s talk about multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a horrible skill. For me I have found that I am an excellent multi-tasker but it also means a much higher risk of forgetting something. So today I am playing team manager. That means no longer worrying about the car, driver, service crew, team engineers, tires, or brakes. Today my main concern is, do we have everything we need to successfully make it through the weekend. This is complicated by choosing to camp this weekend. For the past three weeks I have mostly been alternating between engineer as I design and spec out the components for the brake system (primarily determining master cylinder sizing to achieve desired bias) and service crew as I repair and replace parts from the previous incident. Tonight I get to be transport specialist as I haul the whole rig in a 1991 Dodge Cummins over multiple mountain passes to the western slopes of the Rockies. Tomorrow I have to juggle service crew as I finish final prep, driver as I work on and finalize notes, test driver and brake engineer as I work with myself in a private testing facility trying to dial in brake bias and pedal box settings, and lastly team manager/crew chief as I set up camp and service area to prepare for a long weekend.
Saturday I will start the day as chef preparing breakfast for my fellow racers. There will likely be one or two people NOT driving or codriving so I may attempt to recruit them to help. As soon as I have eaten my last pancake I will switch to driver mode. One thing I have started doing this year once I am in driver mode is to not concern myself with anything else. If the car is working well enough to drive, leave it alone and drive. This did kind of lead to my crash at the previous event as it was a combination of two known problems happening at once, combined with a little kodak courage. But it also has led to me becoming a faster driver in the car. As privateers we often are stuck fulfilling all the positions of a successful rally team. The main person that suffers from this is typically the driver. Can you imagine a weekend spent focusing on just driving and not worrying about the technical or logistical aspects, or minimally concerned only with the aspects that affect your ability to perform. That is one thing we have been working on training the drivers we work with to do. We do not let them work on the cars when we are providing service. We try to remove decisions related to meals and simply make sure they are fed. We do not ask questions about anything that isn’t related to their primary job, to drive the rally car as fast as possible. All I know is this weekend, I hope I don’t burn too many pancakes. I have a feeling this may be my last year camping at a race.
- Grant
PS> We do offer full rally support and logistics in a range of budgets.


Codriver Recruitment 101 

Codrivers sit on the right side of the car. Many long term codrivers will tell you that there is a reason they call it the “right” side. Codriving can be a way to experience real rallying without the huge investment and risk. Let’s be honest, a rally car sold pays back about 30-50% of the investment. A rally car crashed pays back even less. It will never be a smart investment but damn is it a fun and addicting one. And that is part of why codriving is really the smart way to get involved in the sport. As the 2016 season rapidly approaches, it is apparent that codrivers are again in short supply in Colorado so I thought a blog post attempting to recruit some of you to codrive would be in order.

You will at minimum need a helmet with intercom (Stilo, Peltor, or Bell), head and neck restraint (Hans), FIA 2 layer nomex race suit, nomex racing gloves, arm restraints, nomex socks, and nomex or leather shoes. Let’s do some quick math, $450 helmet (or $100 to add intercom to existing), $400 Hans, $300 suit, $50 gloves, $30 arm restraints, $20 socks, and $50 shoes. So that is about $1300. That is about what your driver will spend on the seat and harness for your side of the car so the investment is WAY smaller. Rally.Build offers Hans rentals so that is one way to reduce up front costs. Used racing suits can be found for fairly affordable prices but quality and care is questionable there so I typically consider it better to get a new suit. We do offer package deals for new teams on full gear to help reduce the costs and I’m certain that we could get it under $1000 for a first event. Having the gear also will allow you to compete in other forms of racing such as Chumpcar, Lemons, WRL, and more where teams are often looking for additional drivers.

It is highly suggested to first get out to CORE and ride along in the car together and figure out if you have the constitution for it. Some people are fine with driving but jump in a car and try to read note and they hurl chunks like Heather Chandler.
You’d also be surprised at how much you will learn about driving from the passenger side of the car. Codriving will make you a better driver.
Most codrivers pay their own way. This means paying for your own membership/license fees and often means splitting the lodging costs. Not all but most do help in some way. In the past the codrivers paid half of entry and other expenses but Colorado has always had a lack of codrivers so typically it’s just lodging that codrivers help with here.
I loved codriving. The physical and mental requirements are much less so I often was up late partying while my driver slept or more often tried to sleep. You have just as much fun without the financial worries that come with being the owner/driver. Often you can benefit additionally by having a driver that is more experienced than you so you get to learn more about driving on the limit and learning from a better driver.

There are always teams looking for codrivers. If you are interested in codriving opportunities in Colorado the best place to start is to send me an email directly to grant@rally.build


New or Used Equipment? 

We get calls and emails pretty regularly asking if we have any used equipment for sale. I realized this would be a great opportunity for a post reviewing the merits of buying new or used equipment.
Helmet – Would you put your child in a used car seat you bought at a garage sale? Helmets are the most important part of your safety equipment and likely the only one you will ever actually utilize. Buy a new helmet and one that fits you well. If you have facial hair and want to keep it, many organizations will require a balacava so make sure to wear one when you are testing helmets.
Right now is the time when inventory is switching out to SA2015 helmets and the SA2010 helmets are on closeout. This is a great time to score a deal as the SA2010 helmets are on closeout pricing with up to 25% off retail. The SA2010 helmet is good until January 2022 so you will still get plenty of years out of the helmet. If you have a big wreck you should replace it anyhow. If you race a bunch it might be pretty nasty by the end of 5-6 years anyhow.

Race Suit – I bought my first race suit and went with a cheap one ordered from cheapest place I could find. It fit like crap and I sold it for $50 to a friend this year. I replaced it with a used race suit bought from a known rallyist in the PNW that I know takes good care of his gear. I know of only one incident in rallying where a race suit saved a life or prevented injury.
On the other hand, you will be spending all day for a few days in a row wearing this suit. Having one that fits well and is comfortable is very important. I suggest our Denver based customers visit Wine Country Motorsports who keep a large selection of suits in stock and try some on. We are a dealer for them so you can buy the suit through us or buy it at Wine Country and encourage them to keep stocking suits! At the very least you can get an idea of what size you are and what you like or don’t like about suits and different features.

Gloves, Shoes, etc. – Again, I’m sure you could find used ones and they would be fine but I find wearing used shoes to be gross and somewhat feel same way about gloves. But they aren’t products that used ones are going to potentially have fatal catastropic failures, like seats or helmets could.

Seats – In the USA, most people use FIA homologated seats and most of the rally sanctioning bodies require these. The FIA standard states the seats expire five years after manufacture, but this rule is not currently regulated in the USA (but is in Canada). The governing body in the UK, the MSA, questioned the validity of the five year rule so they performed their own independent testing. If you want to read the whole report it is . To summarize, they took a variety of seats from 6 manufacturers that were around five years old and had been actively used in race/rally cars. All the seats would have visually passed scrutineering and been allowed to compete. They subjected them to closer visual examination, x-ray, ultrasound, and a few were subject to dynamic crash testing using the FIA homologation standard. Of the nine seats tested, two were suitable for future use, two were suitable with close future monitoring, and five failed tests. Of the five subjected to crash testing, only one passed.
I am not going to be a hypocrite here as both seats currently in my race car are over five years old. But I know I should probably replace them. And if you don’t have seats, you should probably buy new ones as there is no telling what damage you can’t see and what kind of use the seat has been subjected to.

Tires – Used tires are a great cost saver! We are starting a new tire consignment program to facilitate the sale of used rally tires. For rallycross, if it’s round it’s probably fine to compete with. For stage rally or hill climb, more careful consideration should occur. Rally tires can get very hard with age. I have seen old tires completely shed their outer layers of rubber, delaminate, and massive cracks in the sidewall. While this may not be an issue at rallycross, having something happen at 85 MPH with a thousand foot exposure racing up Grand Mesa might be a cause for concern. Before buying used tires you should always inquire about the age of the tire. Some brands, specifically Michelin and Hankook have not been sold in the US for years so the tires will be old. I used to run only used tires, mostly take offs from Tanner Foust who always wanted a brand new tire for every stage so his used tires were in very good shape and were stored indoors at Flat Irons warehouse. I’ve seen other teams storing used tires in and around an outdoor shed with high sun exposure. The more you know about the tires age and storage the better. Age will result in hardening of the compound which can be less competitive.

Used equipment can be a great way to save money and get on stage quicker! But make sure and think about what the used equipment is! A used Nascar suit is probably fine. A used helmet from Ken Block is probably not. Cheers!


Spring update – New products and great results! 

What a spring it has been here at Rally.Build. In the past few months we have started importing a bunch of new products and finally giving US rally and race teams a source for some great products previously difficult to obtain or unavailable in the USA.
Evo Corse from Italy – Awesome gravel rally wheels and really cool hydraulic quick jacks. We have brought in their gravel and/or tarmac wheels for a few STI, Evo, WRX, and a Golf TDI so far. We are working on a custom order of wheels for Open Light Subarus and BMW E36 cars. More info soon! Great gravel wheels at a great price!

http://rally.build/category/products/wheels/

Bimarco seats from Poland – These have been available for a little while in USA but we actually are stocking them in our warehouse in Denver. Plus the ability to sit in them and see how they compare to a Sparco or Cobra seat is priceless. FYI – The last five seats we have sold were all Bimarco! They are a great value and a great seat!

http://rally.build/category/products/seats/

Monit rally computers from New Zealand – Finally a rally computer built with a design from this century. As used by most of the top teams and affordable to boot! We got our first inventory order last week and hope to eventually build up a decent supply so that we can ship any order without delay! We have most stuff in stock right now!

http://rally.build/category/products/rally-navigation/

Indy Sport tires from Germany – The world’s number one retread tire. So far we have had awesome results both in rallycross and gravel hill climbs. The SG tread is amazing in mud and wet conditions but also had some great results in dry at rallycross. The gravel tread worked great at a 3 mile gravel hill climb!

http://rally.build/category/products/rally-tires/

This is the start of our busy season for racing with a ton of rally, hill climb, rallycross, and track racing coming up. Please call on Saturday to verify we are there as we may be at a race! Speaking of, shop partner Ryan McLaughlin drove his Acura to 2nd place in the 2WD class at the Temple Canyon Hill Climb this past weekend. Here’s some onboard footage!


Winter updates 

It has been a busy winter at Rally.Build. Lots of exciting stuff going on and new equipment is all installed and operational!
First we’ll start with a congratulations to Jake Blevins for his championship at the SCCA Rallycross National Championships. We awarded him with a Sparco gear bag for his efforts!

Jake

Now let’s get to equipment! We bought a used tire machine and balancer from the old Land Rover dealership. Scott’s been working with this machine for 10 years and it’s a beast. We have used it to mount Michelin, BFG, Yokohama, Black Rocket, and Pirelli rally tires already! And instead of sitting around at Discount Tire waiting for your tires to get mounted you can hang out in a rally shop, play some Richard Burns on the simulator, or drink a beer and chat!

Tirechanger

A few weeks ago a friend showed me an ad on craigslist for an older Bridgeport CNC mill. After looking at the ad I realized that it had to be the old mill of future rallyist Jon Friedl. Few quick messages and it sure was. The next weekend we drove up to Jon’s shop in Greeley where we checked out his new supercharged E30 rally car and loaded up the CNC mill! We’ve got it operational but still few more things to buy before we can start slinging a ton of chips but this will greatly expand our ability to produce custom parts!

CNCmill

We were out at the Performance Racing Industry trade show a few weeks ago. Some really interesting and exciting products we found out there that should make 2015 an interesting year. We may have some new options for rally tires, rally wheels, brake kits, and suspension coming soon! There was a plethora of really cool tools to make fabrication easier and we hope to put some of those to work and expand our custom product offerings in 2015!
Merry Christmas and I will end this post with a picture of Ryan working on a custom skid plate support for his Acura.
Skidplate


History of Rally.Build 

Ten years ago I competed in my first rally as a driver. I was hooked. Since then I have done everything from filming rallies and producing the Max Attack Championship coverage to crewing to codriving. The other owners have had their own paths to where we are today, but here’s just a few quick photos showing some of the history of myself and the transition of the No Coast Motorsports name into the new company Rally.Build!
- Grant Hughes

2005 was a highlight year of codriving with Brian Moody and winning Pikes Peak Open class and the CHCA AWD Championship that year! That car was so much fun!
Audi_Pikes

2006 I codrove with Mark Malsom at Rally Colorado. Despite this close call we managed to win the day two regional overall in a very low budget car. We had rear drum brakes (with Porterfield R4 pads naturally), open diffs, and a junkyard 2.2T engine. There is video of me failing a front flip across beds the night before.
Malsom_Slide

In 2008 I finally drove my Merkur at Rally Colorado. The car held up great and I won Group 5 both days thanks to being the only Group 5 car there.
Grant_sideways

In 2009 Scott and I joined up with Mitch Williams and Checkpoint Racing and started sharing shop space. Dave Kern joined us shortly after Mitch closed Checkpoint and our shop became a fun work space and rally clubhouse essentially. About this time, Scott and I decided to start building roll cages for a few friends.
OldShop

This was the design of the first cage I did for a friend. It took us a few months and we wasted a few bars trying to build the highest quality cage we could.
Design

Our second cage however went easily and took half the time. The owner of this STI still raves about how nicely the cage fits and looks.
SubaSTI

By winter 2012 we’ve got it down and can cage a car in a few weeks instead of a few months and the cage fitment has become spectacular.
Seal_Cage

Seal_A-pillar

Last year we branched out of rallying and into road race cages as well. Our first was our shop Chumpcar. The rules didn’t allow any weight reduction unless it was to accomodate cage structure. I’m not sure how much we saved by gutting the doors, but we had to in order to get these door bars in!
Chumpcar_Door

We also fabricated the exhaust using parts laying around. It was almost too nice for a Chumpcar.
Chump_exhaust

The door bars looked cool but they make it hard to get in and out of the car so on the RaceKern NASA GTS BMW we did a more traditional style door bar.

Kern_M3

Anyhow, that’s probably good for now. We’ve done somewhere around 15 roll cages in the past few years. We have built skid plates, pin stands, strut reinforcement plates, and more! See you soon!!!


Idaho Rally Preparations 

Getting ready for the Idaho Rally this weekend! Lots of small stickers already made, now its time for some big ones!
I’ll be posting updates here after each service! Maybe a bit Colorado bias and wreck or problems. :)

image


Getting ready for our grand opening party! 

It’s been a busy few weeks but we are finally open for business! Hours and contact information are on the main page. Our main product lines right now are safety equipment from Sparco, Monit rally computers, Sabelt harnesses, and Porterfield brake pads! We will continue to add items to our website and inventory but please feel free to contact us for any rally product needs! Our grand opening party is going to be on Sunday July 6th. Look forward to some awesome BBQ, rally cars, and maybe a special guest or two!
Now for a few quick pictures:
Showroom! (one small part of it anyhow.)
Showroom_1

And a sign on the building!
Storefront_1

And most importantly, we have STICKERS!!!
Logo1

ToolboxLogo

WelderLogo


New shop under construction! 

Well our new shop is nearly done!  The wood floor is done and walls are painted!  Now we just need to get some retail fixtures in and finish moving from the old shop!  The workshop is much smaller but it feels huge when there’s just a few toolboxes and one lonely car inside.
ShowroomConstructionBackworkshop


Welcome to our new website 

Welcome to our new website!   This will be the new permanent home for our web presence!  I am going to continue working hard to add more content, products, design, and more over the coming few weeks in preparation for our new store launch on June 1st!