RallySprint is considered a step between rallycross and full-on stage rally. It's a good ol' dirty time, and now the Sports Car Club of America is bringing them back for the first time in over a decade. Given the SCCA's tumultuous history with their rally program, this news comes as a welcome surprise.
See, the SCCA used to host different types of rallies all the time. There were ProRallies, ClubRallies, and RallySprints, all wonderful, regular events to get your dirty hoon on.
Then a horrible tragedy occurred at the Ski Sawmill ClubRally in 2003. Two spectators were struck by a car that lost control and left the course and lost their lives. The SCCA had seen driver and codriver fatalities in rally events before, but never a spectator, much less two at once.
The SCCA suspended all ClubRally events that weren't run in conjunction with a ProRally event immediately following the event. Then-SCCA Board of Directors Chairman Tom Campbell explained in a press release:
It was decided that the ProRally events, including any concurrent ClubRallys, could continue because of certain operational differences and the presence of a higher degree of national-level control and oversight. However, prior to each ProRally event during the period of the suspension, a formal event-specific safety assessment will be conducted by the PRB and additional senior oversight of the event will be in place. If there is uncertainty regarding Pro Rally events, compliance with operational protocols, these events could be suspended as well.
Competitors felt hurt and confused that only ClubRally was singled out in the suspension. Events for ProRally continued through 2004, but then those were discontinued due to insurance and risk management concerns.
From then on, the only rally left in SCCA was RallyCross and the public road, time-stage-distance RoadRally. RallySprint got the axe around the same time for being close enough to ClubRally stage events. Rally America, who had been partnering with the SCCA for many events, took over most of the ProRally and ClubRally events after 2005.
Then a decade passed. SCCA's RallyCross program grew, particularly in my neck of the woods where there weren't even any events until a few years ago. Hooning around in the dirt got more exposure and appreciation. More and more people wanted to make the jump from rallycrossing in a field to stage rally, but didn't quite know how.
Enter the return of RallySprint, something that I am glad to see the SCCA do. Stephen Haytt and Brent Blakely have been the driving forces behind getting RallySprint back on the schedule, and the areas of the country who get no rally love at all couldn't be happier about that.
RallySprint is a step between RallyCross and stage rally because the courses are typically longer and harder barriers such as barrels, trees and the like are allowed on course instead of just cones, allowing more flexibility with course setup but mandating the need for a cage.
Because you drive the same course multiple times, there is no need for a codriver like there is in stage rally. Also not required is a competition license. Unlike most stage rallies, most RallySprint events are geared more towards beginners to the sport. A RallySprint event is much shorter in distance than a stage rally, while a stage rally is essentially an off-road endurance event.
Courses can be up to three miles long in many rally sprint series, but you run the same course multiple times over the course of a RallySprint. There's no transit stages from one course to the next like there is in a stage rally.
In case you were wondering what one of these events looked like back in the day, here's an old video from the Glen Helen RallySprint.
Everyone in Texas choked on their face in glee when they opened that email call for SCCA RallySprint committee volunteers. We don't get any rally action here beyond rallycross right now unless you count West Texas desert races.
The SCCA RallySprint program will likely host most of their events on private property as opposed to a closed public road, per SCCA RallyCross board member Brent Blakely. The idea remains the same as many other rally sprint series: a short course run over and over again that's closer to the real deal of stage rally.
Blakely says that the events will likely have a shorter RallySprint component to start off with and share the weekend with RallyCross: RallyCross on Saturday morning, RallySprint on Saturday afternoon, and more RallyCross on Sunday afternoon. This will allow the series to develop and grow without the risk of reserving a location only to find that very few people know what it is yet, plus all the RallyCross folks get to check it out since it's there.
Although there's been a push to get the SCCA RallyCross program to expand locally, seeing them back in even a simplified form of rally is a huge shift from their previous attitude towards it.
The SCCA hopes to run several pilot events starting in 2015 to gauge interest, then move into a full schedule in 2016.
While my part of the country is just excited about the prospect of bringing more rally here, there is a concern among other areas that the SCCA is entering a crowded rally market right now. Rally America, as mentioned, took over most of the SCCA's full stage rallies. The United States Rally Association is getting started in 2015 as well, taking a "by rallyists, for rallyists" approach in how they market themselves. Finally, the National Auto Sport Association's Rally Sport division has active stage rally as well as Rally Sprint programs.
Those of us who enter everything we can are most concerned about having another set of rules to adhere to. Will a car already prepared for NASA Rally Sprints also work in SCCA's version?
Blakely says that they're aiming for a simpler ruleset that would allow all rally-legal cars to compete, with more of an "open light"/"open" split in preparation levels.
Furthermore, Rally America doesn't do RallySprints and NASA's are farther between, so the SCCA testing the (dirty) waters with RallySprint events could fill a hole between rallycross and stage rally that the main stage rally groups aren't tackling right now.
Right now, the SCCA has no intention of hosting full stage rallies again. Rather, they'd like to use RallySprint to develop and funnel more serious stage rally competitors to their old partners in Rally America and the other full stage rally groups for the benefit of the entire community. Increasing levels of participation in motorsports can only be a good thing.
For more information, watch this space. There should be an announcement soon as to where the pilot events for 2015 are going to be. More dirt is good. More dirt is very, very good.
Photo credits: Raphael Orlove