Nothing broadens a driver’s skills and enhances his or her bonafides like finding grip and speed on a surface where there is hardly any to be found. That’s NASA Rally Sport, and there are rallies taking place all across the country.

Introduction

Imagine leaping over high mounds on gravel roads and tossing your car into a hairpin turn using the time-honored “Scandinavian Flick” technique as you march toward the top time of a stage and ultimately to victory in NASA Rally Sport.

Nothing broadens a driver’s skills and enhances his or her bonafides like finding grip and speed on a surface where there is hardly any to be found. That’s NASA Rally Sport, and there are rallies taking place all across the country. You can get in on the action, too.

If you’re not sure whether you’re interested in poring through a dense rulebook, we’ve compiled this “Class Syllabus,” to give you a better idea of what to expect when you strap in for your first rally stage. If you’d like to investigate further, NASA Rally Sport has compiled a list of tutorials in its Rally University to help you every step of the way.

Class Description

NASA Rally Sport is a sanctioning body created to encourage the growth of stage rallying in the United States by providing a customer-driven organization offering safe, fair competition, and affordable events for the stage rally competitor, volunteer, organizer, and sponsor.

Eligible Makes and Models

You can run nearly anything in NASA Rally Sport, front-, rear- or all-wheel drive, as long as it passes tech, but there are cars that lend themselves to Rally better than others. Go with what others are using rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

It’s also worth noting that NASA Rally Sport has classes for motorcycles, quads and production-based side-by-side vehicles.

Donor Prices and Availability

2000 to 2005 Audi A4 $1,800 to $4,000
BMW E30 $3,000 to $5,000
BMW E36 $2,500 to $5,000
BMW E46 $3,500 to $6,000
2000 to 2005 Ford Focus $1,500 to $4,000
2000 to 2005 Honda Civic $1,800 to $3,000
2000 Honda Civic Hatchback $4,500 to $6,000
1996 to 2005 Dodge Neon $1,000 to $2,500
2002 to 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer $1,800 to $4,300
1998 to 2005 Subaru Impreza $7,500 to $14,500
1995 to 2005 Volkswagen Golf $1,800 to $4,000

Engine Specs

Engine displacement is not regulated, but is subject to adjustment per the rules. Adjusted engine displacement is calculated by multiplying the actual displacement by the multipliers listed in the rules. Turbocharging and rotary engines are the most consequential modifying factors.

Weight

Varies by class, car and horsepower. The minimum weight of the car is determined by the class and adjusted displacement. The chart in the rulebook lays it all out.

Fuel Required

Permitted fuel is any grade of commercially available unmodified gasoline, E85 Ethanol, biodiesel, or diesel. The driver must notify the Race Director if using methanol or other exotic fuel, when class rules permit. Vehicles that run on (all or in part) electricity, propane, or hydrogen must be cleared through the National Office in writing. No fuel additives are allowed unless specifically allowed by the class rules.

Average Cost to Build Car

Because of the additional strength requirements of the roll cages, rally cars can cost more to build than a road racing car, and the safety equipment requirements are a little different. Figure the cost of a donor, plus at least $15,000 for roll cage and parts, and lots of your own labor. The less you do yourself, the more it will cost you.

Average Cost to Buy Built Car

Some recent listings from online sites:
1992 Golf GTI $30,000
2007 Subraru WRX STi $30,000
2004 Subaru WRX STi $14,500
2015 Ford Fiesta ST turbo $20,995
1979 Mercedes-Benz 280CE $15,700

Typical Modifications

Modifications vary by class, but here’s a sampling some modifications and safety requirements.

Electronic control of suspension, steering, braking and gear change/clutch is prohibited.

Sequential transmissions are prohibited.

Seats shall be of one-piece construction, and shall be firmly mounted to the floor of the vehicle in such a manner as to prevent the movement of the seat in case of an accident. Aluminum seats (e.g. Butler Built, Kirkey) are banned as of 3/1/05.

All safety harnesses must be five, six or seven points.

All mounting hardware should be SAE grade 5 or better or metric grade 8.8 or better.

The wheels are free, regarding the maximum diameter and maximum width unless amended in specific class regulations.

The spare wheel may be brought inside the driving compartment, on condition that it is firmly secured there and the wheel is not installed in the space reserved for the occupants.

It is recommended that Halon or a similar gas be used (for fire extinguishers). If a dry-powder unit is used, the unit should be shaken or rapped sharply at frequent intervals to reduce the chance of the powder compacting.

All windows and windshields should be presented to scrutineering free from structural damage minus small cracks and chips.

Cost Analysis

Tires, brands and prices

Tire sizes vary, but here’s a sampling of popular sizes and brands.

Accelera RA 162 205-65-15 $95
Advan A053 Gravel Rally 180-650-15 $162
Continental VikingContact 7 175-55-15 $89
Hoosier Gravel Rally 205-65-15 $270
MRF ZDM3 205-65-15 $195
Pirelli K 175-70-15 $253

Brakes, brands and prices

Hawk DTC 70 $300 – $350
Hawk DTC 60 $200 – $300

Available contingencies

TBD

Factory Participation

None

Benefits

Rally is a great way to buddy-up with a friend or even a spouse to go racing.

Rally racing is a little easier on tires than racing on asphalt road courses.

Driving fast on sand, mud and gravel is a great way to hone your driving skills, and it’s a dynamic you won’t find on asphalt road courses.

Rally is racing against the clock, so if you enjoy Time Trial, you might like the added challenges of driving fast on sand, mud and gravel.

Challenges

Events are plentiful, but spread out across the country.

Rally can be hard on the equipment, especially if there are large trees just off the course.

Rulebook Highlights

1.5.22 Parc Fermé
Means a place where vehicles are brought to and held. Servicing is not allowed.

2.12.1.5 Passing
A race vehicle, when caught on stage, should, as soon as they are aware of a vehicle behind them, put on their blinker to indicate to the vehicle in the rear that they intend to pull over to let them pass as soon a reasonable location in the road presents itself. In general, the signal should be the right side blinker, and in general the lead vehicle should pull to the right to allow a pass on the left.

2.30.1 Unplanned Assistance
Unplanned assistance by anyone other than a service member of the crew is allowed unless specifically restricted elsewhere in these rules. Competitors may accept assistance from the Sweep Vehicles.

3.11.12.2 Street Legality
A valid state-issued registration will be accepted as evidence that the vehicle meets appropriate regulations to operate on a public road. Required equipment should remain in good operation throughout the running of the event. Should the competing vehicle be detained or removed from operation during an event by a law enforcement officer, the competitor may not seek remedy or relief under these Regulations. This requirement may be waived for closed venue events.

3.16 First Aid Kit
A comprehensive first aid kit shall be carried in the passenger compartment. The first aid kit must include: 1. Antiseptic (ointment or liquid) 2. Gauze pads or rolls 3. Adhesive tape 4. Arm sling 5. Safety pins 6. Scissors 7. 2 “space” blankets 8. First aid manual.

3.17 Safety Triangles
A minimum of three self-supporting, light-reflecting, daylight-visible triangular warning devices shall be carried in the vehicle. One of which must be located within easy reach of the Driver or Co-Driver when seated. The minimum size of the triangle is 14 inches from tip of the triangle to opposing side of the triangle.

3.19.4 Road Worthiness Items
Each vehicle must be road worthy and have the following equipment in full functional condition: 1. Horn, windshield wipers, windshield washer 2. Inside rearview mirror and side mirror(s) 3. Foot brake and parking brake.

3.38.1.3 Head and Neck Restraint Devices
Use of a head and neck restraint system or device is mandatory for all car drivers and car navigators.

What Racers Say

Ryan George, NASA Atlantic Rally Cup

“Rally was never really on my radar until around 2005 when my wife and I started to dabble in rallycross. Sure, I knew of stage rally from video games, but I had no idea stage rallies were held in the United States. A friend invited us to a rallycross event, which really started to pique our interest, and from there we learned of actual stage rally events that we could attend and spectate.

When I saw that first car come screaming down the stage, sliding through the dirt, popping and shooting flames out of the exhaust, I was hooked! At that moment, I knew I wanted to start driving stages myself.

Fast forward to now, and we have a rally car that I built and eight rallies under our belt. It’s everything I envisioned and then some! Going ridiculously fast down gravel forest roads and sliding sideways around corners is just part of what there is to love about stage rally. We are a husband and wife team. I’m the driver, and my wife Heather is the co-driver, and our crew is all family, which is totally awesome. I can’t thank our family enough for their continued support. Another awesome aspect is the “rally family” that you start to build. From the event organizers to the competitors to the volunteers, everyone involved is just amazing. We have met some really great people through the years, and once you start combining all of these elements, it’s really hard not to fall in love with the sport.”

Kristopher Marciniak, NASA Rally Sport West Director

“Rally has always been a sport that you just don’t think they do here in the United States, but then you find out there is an event a couple hours away from your house that’s been running for 15 years. If you take the time to spend a weekend experiencing one, you will get hooked. There is something so satisfying watching drivers go absolutely to the limit on a closed dirt road. It won’t be long before you’ll be thinking: I need to get a car and do this!

That is a good summary of what happened to me when I traveled with some friends to a rally in Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. I had been autocrossing, rallycrossing, and ice racing a Subaru WRX at the time, and stage rally was a natural progression, but also a big jump. Lots to learn, and lots to prepare for. It is a sport of mechanical survival as much as speed and skill. First you must finish!

My wife Christine and I took the California Rally Series Rally School when we got serious in 2005. As a side note, crsrallyschool.com offering it online for the first time starting this year. It’s a great series of courses that teach you the in and outs before you get on your first stage. Time-cards, what to expect at every part of the event, penalties, driver prep, etc. Christine now teaches a co-driver section of the school, and I teach car prep.

Because this sport is more about you versus the terrain rather than your fellow competitors, I have found the camaraderie unmatched to any other motorsport. People are willing to help you finish, including your competition lending you parts, or a tug off a berm. I once had a problem where part of my subframe was tearing itself apart with four stages to go. My small crew asked around for some help, and next thing I know, they were welding it up after another crew fabricated a bracket. I probably had 10 people all working on the car in a matter of minutes. There is no more resourceful group of folks than those in a rally service park on Saturday night.

Rally is a grassroots sport here in the U.S., and that’s just fine. NASA Rally Sport is focused on racers first, by making sure they have a safe place to race where they can also have a lot of fun!”

Rally Videos

Images courtesy of FlimFlamMedia, Ryan George and Motorsport Memories

Join the Discussion