LED light bar mounts for Rally Cars

LED light bar mounts fitted to rally car

This is a review of new LED light bar mounts. We’ve been searching for a solution to conventional rally car lighting for some time. Almost as long as the sport of rally has existed there’s been night stages which means racing in the dark. That presents its own unique challenges and one of those is actually lighting the road ahead.

History of Rally Car Lights

Before I get into the LED light bar mount solution, let’s have a bit of a look at the history and the problem. With older cars from the 60’s 70’s and even 80’s they largely had metal bumpers at the front. This made bolting extra lights to the cars quite easily. The problem was that it wasn’t always very quick to be able to fit lights to the cars and adjustment was also an issue.

Old School rally lights

Another problem was that the brackets weren’t always as solidly mounted as they needed to be for the weight of the lights. Quite often the bumper would flex which would cause the light to wobble and cause distraction to the driver.

Light Pods

It really wasn’t until the 80’s or the early 90’s before there was another solution to hard mounting the lights. It was driven by the World Rally Championship and the manufacturers in the form of light pods. The light pods themselves were made of composite materials or fiberglass. The lamps were actually bolted into the pod and were individually adjustable. The pod however could be quickly and easily fitted and removed from the car.

Light pods on a WRX rally car

Light pods do have their drawbacks. Like anything else there’s no such thing as a perfect product. One of the big issues with light pods is that you have to mount them to the bonnet somehow. Generally cars are not designed to have light pods fitted. Therefore you have to drill some holes in the bonnet and either bolt or use some sort of fixing to hold them in place.

Seeing the corner at night

The other drawback with light pods is to do with the lights themselves. Usually the two in the centre are pencil beam and the two on the outside are spread beam. Even with spread beam lights there are still four bright patches straight ahead of the car rather than an even light.

When you’re coming up to a corner and you’ve got to turn that corner there’s a split second where you’re not able to see anything. For a lot of people not having the peripheral vision as they’re entering the corner and midway through the corner is a drama. That is where LED light bars come in.

LED light bars

Over the last 10 or 15 years LED light bar technology has improved dramatically. They used to be somewhat of a novelty some years ago. These days every second four-wheel drive has got one bolted on the bull bar if not two or three. Whilst they may be common place fitted to off road vehicles they really haven’t come to the fore in rallying as such yet. The issues largely revolve around mounting.

Finding a solid place

LED light bars are designed to be mounted to a bull bar, roo bar or something fairly solid. Of course most cars have plastic front ends so it’s not very easy to find a stable place to fit light bars.

LED light bar mounts, not the lights

Before I get too far into this, I want to say that I’m actually talking about the mounting system here not the light bars themselves. I kind of want to push that to one side. Why? Because there’s so many different types of light bars on the market you can buy everything from $50 to $800 for a LED light bar and therefore there’s hundreds of reviews of different types online already.  Therefore I’m not going to cover old ground. What I am going to do though is review LED light bar mounts.

Side view of LED light bar mounts

Introducing custom-made LED light bar mounts. These brackets are specifically designed to be able to fit light bars to bonnets. They come in single and double row, they’re made of stainless steel they’re laser-cut and they’re pre-drilled ready for use.

Designed for Rally Sprints

Actually these LED light bar mounts weren’t designed specifically for rally cars. They were actually designed with road cars or non rally cars in mind. The reason is that there’s been a huge surge in the popularity of twilight tarmac and gravel rally sprint events where road cars can be used. I don’t blame people. I wouldn’t want to drill holes in the bonnet of my road car to mount pods or light bars.

Magnetic quick stick

Instead these LED light bar mounts were designed to have magnets underneath them then you can literally stick them on the bonnet and go racing. The strong magnets keep the lights in place during competition. After you’re finished, you can take them off the car with absolutely no trace whatsoever. A brilliant, simple and effective idea.

Double row LED light bar mounts with magnets

Without the magnets

Balance Motorsports kindly provided us with a pair of double row LED light bar mounts and two slimline 300mm (12 inch) bars. We wanted to evaluate this lighting system as an option or a replacement for light pods on rally cars.

Instead though, we’ve removed the magnets and fixed the LED light bar mounts solidly to the bonnet of a rally car. We’ve used the same fixing method we employ with light pods.

Sizing it all up

First we decided to get on one of the cars in the workshop and have a look and see what the LED light bar mounts would sit like. We were planning to fit them to a WRX and that posed its own unique challenges. The Subaru’s have a bonnet scoop that requires air to rush over the bonnet and feed the intercooler. It meant that we couldn’t completely obstruct the airflow into the bonnet scoop otherwise the intercooler would be ineffective.

We placed the LED light bar mounts on the bonnet to see what the clearances would be like. Turns out there’s plenty of clearance underneath and between the light bars for air to pass into the bonnet scoop.

How we fitted them

The next step was fitting it to the bonnet on the actual car. We wanted the LED light bar mounts to be quick release so we used nutserts (rivnuts). With a quick mark out we drilled the holes and installed the nutserts. It means in a rally it only takes us a few minutes to be able to get these on and off the car.

Plenty of clearance for air to get into the bonnet scoop

Fortunately all the wiring was already in place on this car. We only had to change the plugs over to a Deutsch type connector and plug them in. With the LED light bar mounts in place we checked to make sure that it was solid and there was no movement.

How did they work?

Finally the moment of truth, testing it all. Yes it all worked fine however like I said earlier this is not a review of the light bars. With this set up you can see that the tree is around 150 meters away and it’s well illuminated. Also the peripheral vision which is what we are after is very good, much better than conventional lights. You can barely see the light bars where we positioned them on the bonnet too.

Checking the light bars in the dark

The Verdict

What’s our overall verdict? The LED light bar mounts themselves are excellent. They’re lightweight, strong and easy to fit. The light bars however I’m going to leave up to the individual. You can either buy the different types of packages through Balance Motorsport or buy your own. Either way it depends on what you buy as to the light output.

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