Tuesday, November 4, 2008

International Rally New York

International Rally New York, held Oct 31-Nov 1st, is the final race in the USA Rally Championships. The stages were held in multiple closed course locations around the western edge of NY's Catskill Forest Preserve.

Rally racing in the US is almost an unknown sport, while in Europe and other parts of the America's it is actually an immensely popular sport. I suppose it's a lot like soccer or cycling, the US just doesn't appreciate it.

Rally racing is usually done on closed roads rather than tracks, meaning that unlike the permanent left hand turns of a Nascar track, there is actually some diversity in rally racing. The roads are often dirt, or snow covered, and might cross standing water, or streams, but the races also occur on paved sections, or entirely paved courses. Cars often catch big air, and drift around hairpin turns.

While most of us are never going to put a race car on the track, rally is the type of racing most of us can relate to most easily. Rally racing is the epitome of the saying "fast cars drive the straight-aways fast, and fast drivers drive the turns fast."

Of course, the cars used in the rally races are anything but stock. WRC cars are based on the stock 2.0L 4 cylinder engines found in the production models but they have heavily modified safety systems including full reinforced roll cages, racing seats and harnesses, bigger brakes, better lighting, and use special tires. They also are turbo charged, and have different gear boxes.

To give you an idea of how little rally racing is known in the US. The Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO had been sold in Europe and Asia for over a decade before hitting the US. Fitting with the trend that the US market only wants big cars, or muscle "sports" cars, rather than cars they can actually drive for fun, the US market was ignored.

In the early 2000s Subaru was the first company to market a rally inspired car in the US, the WRX. Mitsubishi also unleashed the Lancer EVO the following year. Not surprisingly the Lancer EVO and Impreza WRX, and other rally inspired cars like the Mini, and the Suzuki SX4 have had strong US sales.

Rally New York was a good time though, and I’m definitely looking forward to more rallying. Actually, I’m hoping to race the Covered Bridge Rally in Vermont next year in the stock division, I drive most of those roads a dozen times a year while going hiking, and I can say it's a fun drive (unless you are in my passenger seat)!!

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1 comment:

  1. International Rally New York was the final round of the United States Rally Championship and the New York Rally Championship. The competition both in all-wheel-drive and two-wheel drive was very close among the large number of contenders in both categories as evidenced by stage times.