Road tripping to the SCCA RallyCross Nationals

Image by Rupert Berrington

Road tripping to the SCCA RallyCross Nationals

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

Road tripping to the SCCA RallyCross Nationals

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Big Trouble in Little Topeka
I have almost no experience in SCCA RallyCross, and it showed. Case in point: A major difference between Solo and RallyCross — and I found this out the hard way — is that in RallyCross, every single run builds to a cumulative final time. Unlike autocross, every run counts in RallyCross. This was problematic for me because, as an autocrosser, my first runs are generally conservative, kind of like a survey run, picking up speed as the day progresses.

My autocross strategy at the 2020 DirtFish RallyCross National Championships left me in last place out of eight after the first runs. I was, I realized, in big trouble.

Not to sound cocky, but last place was unfamiliar territory for me and the Fiesta ST, which has been lovingly dubbed “the FiST.” Me and the FiST usually win events — we don’t mill around in last place. Sure, I had never run the car in a RallyCross before and really had no idea what to expect, but I was arrogant enough to think I could compete at the National level with zero experience. My thought process was: Hey, it’s a car. Asphalt, dirt, what’s the difference?

It turns out — and the results immediately confirmed this — it’s a lot different.

I had an ugly 5-second deficit to first place after that one run. I really needed to pick up the aggression during the next run, so I drove like a madman, sliding the car through the dirt curves, leaving trails of dust behind. I drove as if I didn’t need the car to get me back to California. The result of that second run was a much faster time, which is good, but I knocked over a cone, which is bad. That two-second penalty put me into an even bigger hole.

I was officially sucking at RallyCross.

See, RallyCross is just like autocross. Oh, wait… Image by Rupert Berrington

Going for broke
There were five runs on Saturday, and with a little experience under my belt and more confidence in how the Fiesta handled in the dirt, I clawed my way up to fifth place by the end of day one. My run times at the end of the day were comparable to the top-three drivers, but since every run counted, my initial slow runs were haunting my cumulative score.

Outside of that, the first course was fast and fun, and it wasn’t too harsh on the car. Previously, I was concerned how hard a RallyCross could be on an autocross car, but the FiST was doing fine. As far as how I was doing, though — well, I was humbled. Then again, I could also see potential.

Sunday saw four shots at the new course, offering nine total times to be added in order to determine the championship. Unlike on Saturday, the FiST and I were going for gold right out of the gate. After Sunday’s first runs, I had moved up to fourth. Then following the group’s second runs, I could see a microscopic chance at third place — a podium finish.

On the final two runs, I set the fastest times in the Stock Front class — a victory in and of itself. It was during my final run that I jumped onto the podium, actually overcoming my lackadaisical start to the RallyCross National Championship. The gap to fourth was a mere 0.018s — unbelievable!

Badges of honor for a cross-country trip. Image by Rob Krider

Maybe I’m not crazy
Earning a trophy at the 2020 DirtFish RallyCross National Championship was icing on the cake for my last-minute adventure — a trip many people called me crazy for doing. I also made it back to California with nary a scratch on the car. The Fiesta did, however, still have dirt and mud from Kansas on it when I hit the California border, and kept the stickers on as a badge of honor for the long road trip home.

The reality is, RallyCross and Solo aren’t that much different, and the cars that compete in Solo can jump into RallyCross, even at the National level, without much work or investment. The competition was a blast and, best of all, the participants were incredible and provided much appreciated advice for a RallyCross rookie.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. SCCA’s battle cry is #funwithcars, and this trip was that hashtag brought to life. To borrow a different marketing campaign, my advice to autocrossers considering a similar trip would be to just do it. Jump outside of your comfort zone, try something new, and have fun. Without a doubt, RallyCross is fun.

About the author: A championship-winning road racer and enthusiastic autocrosser, Rob Krider’s mantra is “Race Anything, Win Everything.” He’s also the author of the novel “Cadet Blues,” available on Amazon.

This feature originally appeared in the March/April issue of SportsCar Magazine, which is included (in both print and digital form) with membership in the Sports Car Club of America.

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