Even Budget Racing Is Fucking Expensive

Illustration for article titled Even Budget Racing Is Fucking Expensive

Instead of competing in what I hoped would be my second big rally race of the year this coming weekend, I’ll be sitting this one out as I try and make some pennies trickle back into my checking account.


It’s not because I crashed my car into two big rocks at the last race. Or because my skid plate mounts basically went through frame rails after a few hard jump landings. Or because one of my safety harnesses ripped a new hole in my floor. And yes, all of those things did happen.

It’s because this shit truly is expensive as hell.

As you may recall, I hastily turned my 1995 BMW M3 into a rally car after buying it as a running, street-ready hooptie back in April. After rushing to get all the necessary safety equipment and other rally-necessary gear installed, I ran it at New England Forest Rally in July. Of course, just a few stages before the end of the rally, I put the car’s rear right corner into two big rocks and then dragged it down a dirt road on three rolling wheels for a few miles during a flat tow.


Over the past week, I managed to get almost all the necessary parts together to get this thing driving again. Those being a rear right trailing arm with a hub, upper and lower rear control arms, an axle, and a new strut, for just $200. I also need a new caliper which I’ll be trading an axle for some time this week.


With the help of my BMW wrenching expert friend Mathias, the car once again moves under its own power. But unfortunately, this freshly-minted and recently-crashed race car won’t be seeing a stage at Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in Pennsylvania this weekend.


Without sponsors or anyone footing the bill, racing in full stage rallies—and probably most other kinds of competition north of autocross or rallycross—truly requires dedicating your whole wallet to the game. At least, it does for me, a young man getting paid a moderate wage working in “Media” while trying to live in expensive-ass New York City.

Putting aside what I spent to actually build this car for—much of which came from the funds I got when I sold my Honda S2000—I dropped roughly $2,000 on the race weekend alone. Here’s the estimated breakdown:

  • $459 for four nights in a hotel, plus two airbeds $30 I bought from Walmart.
  • $950 for American Rally Association’s regional race entry.
  • $40 for crew registration.
  • $335 for Uhaul trailer rental.
  • $150 for miscellaneous snacks, food, beer for myself and crew.
  • $200 on gas for the hauler and race car.

You could also even factor in the $200 in parts I spent and the tires I should probably be buying as additional consumables. Oh, and the additional $300 I had to spend for a spot I could store the non-driving M3 in and work on it after the crash.


Y’all, it’s expensive. And that breakdown is basically that of a total shoestring budget, short of tenting in the woods and driving the car seven hours to the event and back. Of course, that wouldn’t have worked because I, uh, crashed.

The car as it sits currently.
The car as it sits currently.
Photo: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik

The cost is the primary reason why I cut my rally career short the first time I tried it back in 2017, but I’m going to try my best to not let that happen again. Even if it does require me to liquidate all my other assets and live off-the-grid in a trailer upstate.

At this point, I’m still working to recover from the cost of that first weekend and from building the car. In an ideal world, I’ll have my own trailer by the end of the year, and a more solid financial base (read: be less broke) so that I can get out to more events on the regular in 2020.


If I can make it to Empire State Performance Rally in October, an SCCA rallysprint up in New Hampshire, and maybe do some ice racing in the winter, well, that’d pretty much be a dream. But for the moment, that’s all it is.

Now, please excuse me, I have some cold calls to make to potential sponsors.

ex Jalopnik car boy, former social media editor.



$950 ENTRY fee. Good god. That is steep for what looks like a glorified demolition derby.