You don’t have to be a millionaire to compete at the “grass roots” level of motor sport. Competing in Autocross for example, is simple, fun and relatively cheap. It’s a great family discipline where juniors from the age of 14 can compete as drivers. Many of our current national and international competitors started at this level.
Autocross is a great introduction into dirt-orientated motorsport. Autocross has vehicle classes ranging from road going cars to outright specials. Cars don’t have to be road registered but must be mechanically sound and have some basic safety features i.e. mud flaps, fire extinguisher and you will need a helmet. Juniors from the age of 14 can compete in their own class.
The Victorian Club Autocross Series (VCAS) generally have an event each month.
Rallying is often fondly referred to as the art of driving fast through the forest while throwing lots of money out the window, but that is really only perception. As with most sports, there are varying levels of competition.
Due to the nature of Special Stage Rallies, where competition is held on closed public roads without the run-off areas or safety barriers that a racetrack has, Motorsport Australia has very specific rally vehicle safety and competitor apparel requirements. While this safety comes with an associated cost, it is recognised that the days of competing without helmets in jeans and a long sleeve shirt are behind us.
Identifying this as a potential barrier to new competitors entering the sport, the “Rally Regularity” event format was created. These events run under the same conditions as Special Stage rallies but control maximum and average speeds. Vehicle and apparel requirements are less onerous and are intended to give keen competitors the ability to ‘try before you buy’. These events are the stepping stone between autocross and full special stage rallying. Basic navigation and route charting knowledge will help you get around and generally, as with ALL rally events, are friendly and fun to do.
The next step are Club level Victorian Club Rally Series (VCRS) and State level Victorian Rally Championship (VRC) events. These events require a purpose built Rally Car. Events can be held during the day or night. Event speeds are generally higher, as are required skill levels.
The top of the list is the Australian Rally Championship (ARC). This level of competition generally involves manufacturers and crews with a higher level of funding. Victoria hosts a round of the Australian Rally Championship each year.
Join a Club
Joining a car club helps you meet like-minded people who can assist you to get involved in Rallying and in motorsport in general. You must be a member of a Motorsport Australia affiliated car club to compete in an event.
Get a Competition Car
There are plenty of rally and autocross cars for sale and generally, a ‘ready to rally’ car is cheaper than building a car from scratch. If you are buying a used rally car, invest some time to discuss options with a whole range of competitors or one of the experts who build rally cars as a business. Don’t just jump in. The wrong car may cost far more than your budget in ongoing maintenance – particularly if it hasn’t been maintained as it should. The great thing about the rally community is that everyone is happy to help each other. Ask the members of your new club for advice.
If you want to build your own car, consider the type of rallying you want to get into. A popular place to start is the Hyundai Excel Rally series. The cars are easy and cheap to build (and maintain) and the competition is very even. This series is a great way to develop your skills and be able to measure your progress against the other Excel competitors.
Get a Co-Driver / Navigator
Although it’s great to partner with someone experienced, it isn’t necessary. Grab your mate/girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. Officials and other competitors will show you both what to do and what to expect. Remember there should be no pressure to perform. Just join in and have a great time. Remember to finish first, first, you must finish!
Get a Licence
Motorsport Australia issues a range of different licences to cover every aspect of participation in Motorsport, ranging from single day licences for people that wish to try out something new, up to International Racing licences.
Autocross requires a Motorsport Australia ‘Speed Licence’. For driving, co-driving or navigating in most Rallies or Rallysprints, a Motorsport Australia ‘Rally Licence’ is required.
The licence application forms are available from Motorsport Australia
If you don’t have the funds to run a car then get involved by becoming an Co-Driver, Navigator or Motorsport Australia Official.
Being an official at a rally is a highly rewarding experience, and a fantastic opportunity to understand more about how the sport works. There are many different roles from road closures, spectator marshals, stage timing officials, and event administration roles that cater for those who are only just getting started in rallying or other more experienced competitors who give back to the sport. If it wasn’t for volunteers rallying would not exist. Please note that to compete in rallies in Victoria you must volunteer at least once in the previous year.
You can start off being a trainee official at any rally in Victoria. All events will provide you with a briefing and some basic training so you understand your duties as an official. If you want to become an accredited official, the Motorsport Australia Officials Program has a number of modules and training courses to assist you in becoming an accredited official.
There is a role for everyone in this sport and rallying is a fantastic way to meet new people and be involved in the excitement and adrenalin of motorsport throughout Victoria.
Most events provide a number of well structured spectator points at each rally. These points provide you with the safe, yet close up thrill of competitive motorsport. Detailed instructions are provided by each event to assist you to get to each location as well as diagrams and an explanation of the corners or obstacle that the rally crews have to tackle. Check the event page for spectator instructions, normally posted a few days prior to the event.
Always practice safe spectating at a rally! Please read this Guide To Safe Spectating before you venture into the forest.