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You’ve seen it all on TV and reckon you could be the next World Rally Champion. You’ve got the skill, the dedication and the enthusiasm to make it to the top, but you’re not sure where to start. So, to help you on your way to making it big in the rally world, we’ve put together this little guide to point you on the path to success. But take our advice, you’ll need to start at the bottom to make it to the top, unless, that is, you have a friend who owns a Swiss bank and can stump up the money to get you into a World Rally Car. As racing car legend, Dick Johnson, once said: “If you want to make a small fortune in motorsport, you need to start with a large fortune.”

Obviously, the best way to get into rallying is firstly to find out when and where rallies are held and go out to spectate to see what it’s all about. You can get information on when and where rallies are conducted from one of the motorsport publications on sale at newsagents, through the pages of RallySport Magazine each month, or via www.rallysportmag.com.au, from your local speed shop or motorsport accessory dealer (who will often have details about forthcoming events), or through a local car club.

Most rallies in Australia are conducted under  CAMS (the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) umbrella and their annual CAMS Manual also details the major rallies around the country. When you get around to obtaining a CAMS licence to compete (explained later), you will be required to buy a CAMS Manual as well, so you will have these dates at your fingertips.

Spectating at rallies provides you with all sorts of opportunities without having to spend much money or make a commitment until you decide if the sport’s for you or not. There are a wide variety of classes for rally cars to compete in, from front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, and some of these are divided into engine capacity classes as well, so you can watch the difference in speed and handling of particular vehicles before you decide to buy a car of your own.  There is also a growing interest in Historic and Classic rallying which is another way to get into rallying relatively cheaply.

Of course you may not want to buy a car of your own, but this won’t stop you being involved – there are always opportunities for you to be involved as a navigator or co-driver, or as an official on events.

If you like what you see after you’ve been spectating, then you have to choose whether you want to be a competitor (a driver or a navigator/co-driver) or an official, and our advice would be, no matter what you decide, to get involved and to join a car club that conducts car rallies.

There are hundreds of car clubs right around Australia, many of whom are involved in organising car rallies or whose members compete in rallies. Membership of a typical Australian car club can cost from  $40 to $100 per year, depending on the particular club you choose.

We’ve listed below the various State offices of CAMS and simply by contacting them, they will provide you with a list of car clubs in your area of your state. Then it’s just a matter of contacting the car club secretary for details of when the club meets and what its program is.

Of course not all car clubs are the same – some are involved in circuit racing only, others with historic motorsport, there are one-make car clubs and there are others involved purely in rallying, so you need to choose one which suits your needs and specialises in rallies.

What next?

Once you have joined a car club, spectated at a few events and before you decide to become a rally competitor, it’s wise to offer to become an official on your club’s next event.

By being an official on a time control, passage control or road closure (or in any other capacity, for that matter), you’ll quickly get to know how rallies are run and what’s required to compete in them.

Car clubs are always on the lookout for willing helpers and by offering to be an official, you usually get to see the action at the best possible locations (and without any expense!).

Some clubs often help out at major events like rounds of the State or Australian Championship where officials at these events get to see the best possible action in Australia. Being part of the action at your own private vantage point is a real buzz – just like being a track marshall at a Formula One or V8 Supercar race.

For insurance purposes, all officials are now required to be licensed and must go through a basic training course. Once licensed, this will ensure that you are covered by CAMS’ insurance while on the job. One of the first jobs you will be given is as a road closure official but you may want to move on to a time control official, as a set-up official, a radio operator or a stage commander – the list of interesting jobs goes on and on.

What about competing myself?

Once you’ve got a basic idea of what’s involved, the next step is to become a competitor. Naturally this can be expensive if you want to compete in your own rally car, but you may choose initially to be a navigator or a co-driver (which is cheaper and often involves splitting the costs with the driver/owner).

If you’re interested in navigating (or co-driving as it’s often called), there may be someone prepared to take you under their wing and show you the finer points of co-driving and navigating. Both these important parts of rallying are quite different. You may decide that you only want to do events that do not require map reading, or you may want to have a go at a real navigational event where accurate map reading can either win or loose you an event. Good co-drivers are adept at both.

Or alternatively, you might like to be part of someone else’s service crew, helping them when they compete in rallies by servicing their car, being part of the back-up crew or even taking on menial tasks like making the coffee and sandwiches, cleaning windscreens, lights and so on.

What sort of events are there?

If you really want to have a go at rallying at some stage, you can always start by competing in several other types of events that will put you on the right path towards rallying. Most clubs run motorkhanas or khanacrosses, low-speed events that enable you to try out your driving skills in a safe and controlled atmosphere. Both these sorts of events are great ways of learning car control, handling and braking. No special vehicle is required for motorkhanas or khanacrosses – your ordinary road car is quite adequate. There are also events with navigational content that can be entered in your road car – Touring Assemblies and Touring Road Events.
 
Touring Assemblies are very similar to a treasure hunt in that you are required to find clues and answer questions while driving around a prescribed route in your car, but have a greater degree of navigation. These light-hearted events are great fun and teach crews the meaning of working together as a team. No special modifications are required to your car.

Touring Road Events tend to be a little bit more expensive to enter, usually last for one or two days and are often slanted towards Classic cars, but almost any vehicle can usually enter. Often they are conducted entirely on sealed roads but some are held on mixed surfaces. Touring Road Events usually consist of map reading or navigational sections on open roads so these events are often won by experienced navigators, however most TREs also include a ‘novice’ or ‘beginners’ section  with easy navigation – ideal for someone wanting to get into rallying cheaply. No special car preparation is needed unless a TRE includes speed tests such as sprints or high-spe ed sub-events, but your car will need to be scrutineered by a licenced tester to make sure it is in safe working order.

Buying a rally car:

Before you go out and spend your hard-earned money on a rally car, talk to the club members who are into rallying and ask them their advice. If they’re competitors themselves, they’ll often know the traps to avoid and the tricks for building a competitive car, what car to choose, and so on.

While the sight of World Rally Cars flying through the air at supersonic speeds might set your blood on fire, just remember that to purchase one of these could cost you around $1 million – and that’s not including the running costs for a season!

Not everyone has the ability or the skill to be a world class rally driver so you’d be well advised to look at what other club members like yourself are driving. An early Datsun 1600 or Bluebird, an Escort, Mazda, Suzuki, Corolla or Hyundai Excel are all good “toe-in-the-water” options to help you launch your rally career.

World-beating they’re not, but they’re cheap to run and not too expensive to fix if you should happen to crash (as you will at some stage!). Once you’ve got the hang of rallying and feel you’d like to move up the ladder a bit, you can then think about a more suitable and quicker car. Of course almost any car can be a satisfying rally car – it just depends on the level of commitment you have to offer or the type of car you’re particularly interested in.

An important decision to make at this point is whether you want to build your own rally car or buy one that has already been built by someone else. This latter option sometimes works out a lot cheaper and a lot less hassle because somebody else has already done all the hard work, often bought and fitted the right bits, and set the car up properly for rallying, before losing interest or running out of money.
 

What’s it going to cost?

Like most competitive sports these days, rallying doesn’t come cheaply, although it need not be prohibitively expensive. Having joined a car club, you will need to purchase a CAMS licence which allows you to compete and gives you the benefit of CAMS’ insurance policy. A typical entry-level licence, a 2NS (non-speed) licence costs around $40. This allows you to compete in any closed-to-club event in Australia, however if you want to go on to bigger events you will need a Clubman Rally Licence which will cost you $125 for the year. The purchase of the CAMS Manual, the “bible” of motorsport in Australia, is compulsory at this level and will set you back a further $44.

On top of this you’ll be faced with the entry fee for the particular rally you wish to compete in. These, depending on their status, cost from around $40 for a small club level TRE event right up to $1500 or more for an Australian Championship round. Although this might sound expensive, remember that these entry fees offer you insurance cover as well should you be involved in an accident, and this is a very comforting thought as you’re blasting through the bush.

Once again you can share the costs – many crews split running costs 50/50. If both of you pay half of the entry fee and running costs, most events work out to be reasonably inexpensive.

Naturally it doesn’t matter what gender you are to go rallying. Rallying isn’t a totally male-dominated sport – there are many excellent female co-drivers and drivers competing around the world and the physical demands are not beyond either guys or girls.

Where do I find out about Car Clubs to join?

The following list of CAMS offices is the best place to start, unless you already know of an active car club near you.

Victoria
CAMS National Office
851 Dandenong Road
Malvern East 3145
Phone (03) 9593 7777
Fax (03) 9593 7700
Internet address: http://www.cams.com.au

New South Wales
CAMS
24/2 O'Connell St.
Parramatta 2150
Phone (02) 9635 1366
Fax (02) 9635 8537

Queensland
CAMS
Corner Castlemaine and Caxton Sreets,
Milton 4064
Phone (07) 3368 2911
Fax (07) 3368 2378

South Australia
CAMS
255 Hutt Street,
Adelaide 5000
Phone (08) 8232 4855
Fax (08) 8232 4818

Tasmania
CAMS
136 Davey St,
Hobart 7000
Phone (03) 6224 0420
Fax (03) 6223 7952

Western Australia
CAMS
Suite 7, 21 Wanneroo Rd,
Joondanna 6060
Phone (08) 9444 3188
Fax (08) 9444 3688

Where else can I get information?

If you need further information on getting started in rallying, there are a number of publications that will help. The most detailed book on the rules governing rallies and the rules governing the building of rally cars is the CAMS Manual.

This “bible” of CAMS regulations is issued each year and tells you almost everything you will need to know about the regulations governing rallies. It’s available from CAMS offices or good bookstores in capital cities, or can be purchased with your Australian Rally Licence.

Bookstores should also have books on rallying in general and, although most of these are British-based, many of the same principles apply here. There are several books written by Australian competitors which give a general outline on navigating, rally driving, and car preparation. Check your major bookstores for details.

We hope that this information enables you to get started on the road to rallying in the future. Rallying is one of the most exciting sports around no matter what level you compete at.

And it’s also one of the only branches of sport (motorsport or otherwise) where you can compete against national or state champions in the same event and under the same conditions! Why not give it a go?

Good luck!

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