How to get started rallying

The Demon Rally team has been successful and shown longevity in the sport because of the careful plan we made to get started in rallying.  U.S. rallying is much different from rally in many other parts of the world, and therefore requires a unique approach.  We feel that just jumping into stage rally without being fully prepared for it will lead to frustration and a quick exit from the sport.  Following the steps below will lead to a long and successful career, in our opinion.  You will, of course, take your own path to success.

  • Read and learn and get excited!
    • Watch lots of rally videos. YouTube, WRC, TV coverage if you can find it, X-Games, Rally-America, etc.
    • Play lots of rally and driving video games. You might laugh, but it is actually pretty helpful. Hours of Colin McCrae rally have helped me to think a lot about note delivery by yelling at the video game Nicky Grist.
    • Read about rally, U.S. rally in particular. and are the two best online forums. Car-specific forums sometimes have rally sections, (like VWvortex) but a dedicated rally site usually has more information.
    • Go spectate at local rallies. There’s nothing better than the smell of race gas and dusty gravel. Seeing rally live is the best way to do it.
    • Learn from experts. Ask questions! Talk to anyone you can about rally. You’d be surprised at the wealth of information out there!
  • Buy a car, choose the right one.
    • If you can, buy a used rally car. Even a used car may require some work, but in the end, it is much cheaper and easier than building your own car. The classifieds on and are good places to look. The current economy makes those used cars really cheap!
    • If you build your own car, prepare for a long and expensive trip. If you have someone else build the car for you, it is expensive. Choose a reputable shop. Cascade Auto Sport is popular here in the Northwest. If you do the build yourself, it will take a long time unless you know what you are doing. Even if you know what you are doing it can take a long time. Get as much help as you can. Do a lot of research and build it right the first time. Mechanical DNF’s are no fun.
    • Choose the right car. Demon Rally suggests you get a 2WD non-turbo car for your first car. They are cheaper to maintain, usually. Having less things to break is always a good idea. Picking a car with plenty of available rally parts is also a good idea. One of the best choices is probably a MkII VW Golf (1985-1992). Of course, any car can be built into a rally car. Some are easier and cheaper than others, however.
  • Tarmac TSD rallies
    • TSD’s are great for teamwork and learning how to co-drive. They will not get you performance driving skills (usually), but they will help you learn how timing controls work, what the routebooks look like, how to read and ride at the same time, when to call out instructions, and many other co-driving skills. If you can, take your rally car on them. Many TSD’s can be done in your street car, however.
  • Volunteer for stage rallies
    • Your goal at the beginning is to learn how stage rallies work so that they run smoothly for you and you can focus on your driving. The best way to do that is to run a control. Be the person that says “GO!” Be the person that writes down the times at the finish line. If you have a HAM license, run radio operations. Be a corner marshal and get a unique spectating vantage point. Keep getting excited!
  • Brisk TSD rallies
    • Brisk TSD’s are often held on gravel roads! What a great place to test out your car. Now, the goal is not to go as fast as possible, but rather to keep an average speed. This is a great way to get some gravel miles on your car as well as find any small design flaws. Test out your odometer on gravel. Get used to the way it feels under the car. Try some gravel tires if you are so inclined. Good brisk TSD’s in the northwest include Thunderbird Rally, No Alibi, and Night on Bald Mountain.
  • Rally Crosses
    • You now know how rallies work after doing a few TSD’s. You’ve tasted the gravel in a brisk TSD or two. It’s time to work on going as fast as possible. Rally Crosses (or RallyX’s) are a good way to test yourself on some of the more technical aspects of rally. Hairpins and a lot of second gear turns are prevalent in RallyX’s. You’ll learn a lot about car control on these medium to low speed events. Bring your rally car!
  • Rally Schools
    • A Rally School is a good way to get some expert advice on your driving skills. These can often be expensive, but many people have said that the rally school experience was very helpful to their driving.
  • Polish your co-driving
    • Co-driving on stage is much different than co-driving on a TSD. You’ve learned the timing procedures, but you still need to know a lot about notes. You’ll be using the routebook on your first rally. These things are often cryptic. My best tips to you are to write as much information as you need in the routebook. Write yourself a script if you want.
    • Talk with your driver about what is going right and what is going wrong. Deciding on a note calling style before you get to the rally is pretty important.
    • Co-driving is all about communication. You’ve been working on that in the TSD’s right?
  • Stage Rally time!
    • Pick a cheap rally close to you for your first event. A one-day event might be best if you have one nearby. If your only choices are big, national 3-day events, go for it. It’s all you’ve got, right? We’re lucky to have the Doo Wop Rally nearby, which is probably the best rally ever for many reasons.
    • Use the route book. You will not be driving 100% on your first rally. You might think you are, but you have a lot to learn still. Learn how to read the road first of all. Using the route book gives you less information so you necessarily have to go slower and learn what corners look like. For the co-driver, there are fewer mistakes to make as well.
    • Bring as many spare parts as you can. Bring a good service crew if you can. Like I said, mechanical DNF’s are no fun.
    • Practice your spare tire changing routine. Practice it again. Don’t panic. Things will go wrong. Deal with them. You’ll be okay. You’re here for fun, not to win the first time.
    • Talk to the people at Parc Expose and while waiting for the stage to start. They can recount funny stories, calm you down, give you tips on the upcoming stage, swap stage times, etc. This is where you learn the most. Check out how their cars are built, too!
    • Focus on your driving. Make sure all the little stuff is already taken care of. The co-driver’s job is to make sure the driver doesn’t have to think about anything other than driving. A movement plan and lots of checklists really help out.
    • Have fun! Don’t worry too much about where you finish. You just spent a year or more plus lots of money to be here. If you go off, start mooning the drivers behind you. If you finish last, look good in front of the spectators. If you win your class, be humble and blame it on beginner’s luck. If you win overall, well, you’ve got something special here and I don’t know why you’re reading our site if you’re already professional…
  • Keep coming back, again and again!

More information will be added here as it becomes available. I’ll put in links sometime as well. Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.