How to become a Rally Driver – Part 5. Choosing a rally car!

Front wheel drive rally car Toyota Corolla

If you’ve followed along in the first four episodes, you’ll have some idea about rallying. You may have sorted yourself a co-driver too. Now we’re at the pointy end of thinking about buying a car.

Type of Car

Many people who get into rally buy the car first and worry about the rest later. That approach can be a difficult way to get into the sport, particularly if the car is four wheel drive.

The first thing to consider is the type of car and not a 4 wheel drive (4WD)! What we see on TV or  if you’ve been for a hot lap with a rally driver, may look easy. The reality is that it takes a lot of seat time to skilfully master a 4WD car on loose surfaces. When you’re first starting out, a 2wd car does not accelerate or change direction as quickly as 4WD. This makes the learning process much easier. My saying is “4WD cars have two extra wheels driving you into trouble twice as quickly.” There are also less mechanicals in the drive line of a 2wd car. This can reduce running and maintenance costs as well as being able to use the car for Clubman rallies.

Front wheel drive or rear wheel drive?

So it’s settled then, a 2wd car is the on the list for a first rally car. If you’d like to move up to 4wd at some point in the future, starting out in a front wheel drive is recommended. You have to adopt a similar driving technique for both front wheel drive and 4wd. If you’re not bothered, then either a front wheel drive or rear wheel drive will do.

How_to_become_a_rally_driver_J.FosterWhich car then? Our recommendation is to buy or build a car that is already popular as a road going car. Why? You want a car that has readily available parts. The more sold as road cars, the more there are around that are damaged or second hand which can be sourced easily and cheaply. Let’s take an obscure example such as a Ferrari. Say you buy or build a Ferrari rally car and take it into the forests. A broken part may sideline the car whilst waiting for a replacement. It could be very expensive as well. In comparison, if you have a Hyundai Excel (front wheel drive) or a Nissan Silvia (rear wheel drive) and need parts, chances are you can source one. Someone close by will have a good condition second hand part or you could buy it new from the local auto parts store. Adding to that, Excels and Silvias are campaigned by rally people Australia wide, so there’s a lot of expertise and rally bits available for them too.

Which make & model?

The choice is not limited to an Excel or a Silvia though. In the front wheel drive camp there’s an exhaustive list: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Fiesta, Focus or Laser, Hyundai Getz, Daihatsu Charade, Suzuki Swift and the Mitsubishi Lancer or MirageRear wheel drive rally car. Toyota AE86 Sprinter to name a few. Rear wheel drive brings more classics to the list as less manufacturers produce modern rear wheel drive cars the right size and shape. Sure there are a few Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores out there competing, however for the most part, classic cars such as the Datsun 1600 or 180B, Ford Escorts and Toyota Sprinters make up the lion’s share. In Europe BMW’s seem to be a popular choice, however they are yet to catch on in Australia. One thing to remember with classic cars, parts or complete cars are getting hard to get hold of. You never know what parts or panels you may need.

The Coin

Before you head out to exchange your hard earned cash for a forest racer, there’s one last step to consider. The budget. Yep, the dirty word, money. How much do you intend to spend? You probably have a figure that you consider reasonable in mind. We all have a different perception of what is reasonable. Suffice to say, whatever your maximum figure is, don’t spend it all on the car alone. What’s the point of having a race car in the garage if you have no money to compete in it or maintain it? If you blow all your dough on the car, how will you fund a helmet, race suit or pay the entry fee? You may also need to reserve some budget to perform maintenance to bring a used rally car up to standard. More about this in part 6

Karl Drummond

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field