RallyCross: Picking your weapon

Image by Dave Green

RallyCross: Picking your weapon

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

RallyCross: Picking your weapon

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With three distinct drive types and relatively open rules, RallyCross offers a unique opportunity to compete in anything you like

If you’ve been thinking of giving RallyCross a try, you may be wondering what makes for a good RallyCross car. The basic considerations of a RallyCross car aren’t that different from other forms of amateur racing (how durable is the chassis and powertrain, are parts readily available, and so on), but there are a handful of caveats. As with any cone-based motorsport, the vehicle’s gearing needs to keep the motor on boil (30-55mph should be your target), and cars with low-hanging exhausts or oil pans may need a skid plate or other chassis protection. Also, vehicles with stock wheels over 18 inches in diameter may struggle to find appropriately sized tires.

Your ideal chassis will depend largely on what wheels you prefer sending power to. There are separate classes for front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive, so no matter which you choose you’ll be competing against a similarly propelled vehicle. While the sport is relatively new, there are already plenty of proven chassis out there for whatever your preference is.

Image by Rupert Berrington

For front-wheel-drive lovers, the 1980s and ’90s econo-boxes are hard to beat. CRXs, Civics, Integras, Escorts, Neons, Sentras, Proteges, Celicas, Golfs, Jettas, and other similar cars have all proven potent. The key with most of these vehicles is to find the correct trim level (for instance, an ACR or R/T Dodge Neon rather than a base model), as RallyCross does not differentiate between models. If you settle for a lesser trim level, you may be up against someone who didn’t. Even so, slow cars can still be fast and fun in RallyCross – just ask Andy Thomas about the Hyundai Accent he used to RallyCross.

In rear-drive land, the answer is not always Miata. Though the NA and NB Miatas have been successful, vehicles like the MR2 and Boxster have a distinct advantage with their mid-engine layouts. Those with slightly fatter wallets can even pick up a 911 for the ultimate in rear weight bias. Fans of spinning triangles will be delighted to hear the FC Mazda RX-7 can still hang with the fast kids, and the BMW E30 chassis is also a solid choice. If you like to promote freedom with your right foot, the fox body Mustang is very entertaining on dirt, too.

Image by Dave Green

The all-wheel-drive field at RallyCross events usually falls into two categories: those who have Subarus, and those who don’t. The GC and GD Imprezas and their Mitsubishi rivals are all proven winners, but they aren’t the only way to enjoy all-wheel-drive competition. For example, the Eclipse and other DSM stablemates are getting rare these days, but there are more than a few still flinging dirt in RallyCross competition.

One important note: Should you choose a naturally aspirated variant of a car with an optional turbo, you will be up against their forced induction brethren even in the Stock class.

Ultimately, the best RallyCross car is often the one you enjoy driving the most. The best part of this sport is that you don’t need the absolute best chassis to have fun or finish well. We see all kinds of interesting choices like Festivas, Crown Victorias, Celicas, C3 Corvettes, Galant VR4s, Volvo 240s, and even the occasional AMC Eagle. Just show up and drive. I guarantee you’ll have fun.

This featured appeared in the July 2019 issue of SportsCar magazine.

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