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MY PRO-RALLY AUTO RACING

How It's Done

QUICK DESCRIPTION:
  1. Spend ~$50,000 on a car and ~$20,000 on go-fast stuff.
  2. Find a twisty dirt road that you've never been on before.
  3. Find some other fool to set in the passenger seat. Hand him a book showing the distances to every turn and intersection on the dirt road.
  4. Wait for dark.
  5. Floor it.
  6. Don't let up.

WHAT IS PRO RALLY? Pro Rally is a particular form of automobile racing that was sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) although I hear some other group has taken responsibility for it lately. The most unique difference in a Pro Rally, as opposed to conventional auto racing, is that the race itself is held on temporarily closed public roads, rather than a race track. Another oddity is that neither the driver nor the co-driver has seen the race course until they are actually racing!

HOW IS IT DONE? Before the start of a race, the Co-Driver of the car is given a 'Route Book'. This book describes, in outline form, the layout of the race course. It also describes, in detail down to the hundredth of a mile, each intersection, turn, and hazard that is on the course. The race consists of 'Transits' between 'Special Stages'. A transit is simply a set of instructions to get from one special stage to another. A special stage is the actual racing part of the race. Each race car starts the special stage individually, usually with a one or two minute spacing between cars. We usually seem to be racing alone, but often catch up to the car ahead of us (or get passed by the car behind us). At the end of the race the stage times are tallied, subtractions are made for late transit times etc, and the fastest team in each class wins.

WHO DOES IT? Each racing team consists of the Driver, the Co-Driver, and the Pit Crew. The driver drives the car (duh), the co-driver navigates and gives course directions to the driver, and the Pit Crew keeps everything humming between the races.

WHAT IS THE COURSE LIKE? The course is usually a dirt road like someone's private road, part of a forest or park, or even a vacant lot. The roads are temporarily closed to the public during the actual race and an 'Open Sweep' car precedes the first race car to verify that no one is on the track. It works, more or less, but I've seen cattle, other race cars, even a tow vehicle once on the track. Keeps us on our toes.

WHAT ARE THE CARS LIKE? The type of car varies from old VW beetles, to small trucks like the Chevy S-10, to Mazda RX7's, all the way up to 4 wheel drive, V8 powered Blazers. The cars are broken down by type into various classes to give those of us with limited budgets a fighting chance to win a race. All Pro Rally cars are required to be street legal and to have various safety equipment installed. These items include: Full roll cages. 5 or 6 point harnesses. Two fire extinguishers. Safety triangles. Racing seats. Etc. All cars must pass a yearly Pro Rally inspection as well as an additional inspection just before each race.

HOW I GOT INTO IT: The SCCA used to hold yearly races over near Big Bend National Park. The Big Bend Amateur Radio Club, of which I am a member, provided communications for the races. One year James Cook, a fellow ham, decided to start racing and asked me to co-drive for him. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I agreed. It's fun. Try it.


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