SCCA RallyCross: wheel selection

Image by Rupert Berrington

SCCA RallyCross: wheel selection

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

SCCA RallyCross: wheel selection

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With all of the work involved in prepping even the most basic of SCCA RallyCross cars, it’s easy to overlook a few important details, and a key piece in that puzzle is wheels. Selecting the correct set of wheels for your RallyCross vehicle could easily be the difference between landing on the podium or ending up with a max time because your car became a lawn dart thanks to an untimely failure.

There are a few basic items to consider when it comes to wheel selection for RallyCross. One of the universal “don’ts” involves steel wheels. While steelies may be fine for a novice on a tight budget, especially one wheeling a light vehicle, they aren’t recommended. The strength of a steel wheel cannot match that of a well-constructed aluminum one. While steel wheels are easier to straighten in a pinch (assuming you have a big enough hammer), they are also easier to damage. The loads that your wheels will experience at a typical RallyCross from bumps and ruts are just too much for them to take.

Failures can range from simple bends and dents to catastrophic failures. One example of this occurred earlier this year at the DirtFish Great Lakes RallyCross Challenge, where a competitor driving an Impreza loaded his car on the trailer only to discover the center section of one of his steel wheels had become convex instead of concave, presumably the result of a now-misshapen wheel. We’ve also seen cases where the lugholes can rip on steel wheels. To this end, using a cheap aftermarket aluminum wheel in place of an OEM or properly constructed aftermarket unit is also a poor decision. The prices of some gravity cast wheels may look attractive, but this is not a part you should skimp on.

Something that is a definite “do” concerning RallyCross wheels is cleaning and inspecting. While most RallyCross cars probably aren’t attending car shows on off weekends, you should be checking wheels for damage and fatigue. Replacing a worn wheel before it breaks is much cheaper than what could happen if it breaks on course.

As for which wheels are a good pick for RallyCross, often OEM aluminum wheels with the right offset and width will do the job just fine. Most OEM wheels are inexpensive to acquire, strong enough to handle significant abuse, and while they may not be the lightest option, weight is not quite as important a consideration for competition on dirt as it is on pavement. While not necessary, a dedicated rally-specific wheel is never a bad pick. Plenty of middle-of-the-road options exist as well, just pay careful attention to the wheel’s construction.

Something else to consider in wheel selection is the pattern of the spokes. Unlike in road racing or autocross where the design of the wheel often prioritizes getting heat out, a good RallyCross wheel should keep debris from getting in. This is especially true if you compete in a snowy, icy, or muddy climate, where all three can cling to the inner barrel of the wheel.

Selecting the proper wheel for your RallyCross car shouldn’t be difficult. A properly constructed, designed, and inspected wheel will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on driving and having #funwithcars.

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