The concept of a “grassroots” motorsport has become warped over the years. To compete at the top levels of something as simple and allegedly affordable as, say, autocross one needs to spend many dollars and countless hours on car preparation. Road racing is largely a playground for the at least moderately wealthy, and even though there are low-cost options available such as the 24 Hours of Lemons or ChumpCar, even those series require expensive safety equipment and potentially lofty travel budgets.
There is, however, one automotive activity that requires little cash, no special equipment, not even a high-performance car to compete at a high level: road rally. Nearly as old as the automobile itself (and the forerunner of the modern “special stage” rally most famously embodied in the World Rally Championship) road rally is a test of navigational skill, driving precision, and mental agility. Road rallies are run on public roads at legal speeds; two-person driver/navigator teams are given lightly coded instructions and assigned average speeds. The object is to arrive at checkpoints along the course exactly on-time (to the hundredth of a minute.) The challenge is that the location of each checkpoint is a secret, so rallyists must attempt to run on-time, all the time, while not going off-course or becoming lost.
[Ed – If nothing else, Hooniverse is dedicated to getting you out there doing something with cars. As our friend
Pete Pat, aka PFG, outlines here, road rally is one of the quickest ways to get you (and a friend!) out there putting your car to good use, legally. We’re happy to let him share more about the time-speed-distance rallies run by the Santa Monical Sports Car Club, and plan on tagging along for future events.]
In the Los Angeles area, road rallies are historically the domain of the Santa Monica Sports Car Club (the rally affiliate of the Cal Club Region-SCCA.) Founded in the 1950s, the SMSCC has held its First Friday Night rally series for decades (and once counted Formula 1 champion Phil Hill among its participants.) Departing from Mission Hills the first Friday night of every month, these beginner-friendly navigational rallies typically feature driver-oriented courses on the region’s many canyon and country roads. Although there are veteran competitors running sophisticated rally computers and super-accurate external odometers, there are classes for unequipped teams…a calculator, a clipboard, a watch with a second hand, and a flashlight are highly recommended, but really, all that is needed to participate is a road-legal car and a navigator not prone to carsickness.
(There is also an advanced, daytime rally series run several times per year; the photos here were taken at “Inaugural,” held on 2/19 and won by a father-daughter team in a rented Chevy HHR…again, no special equipment required!)
Registration for First Friday Nighters opens at a 7 p.m. at the Bank of America parking lot at Devonshire and Sepulveda, with first car out at 8:01. An instructional session for novices is available at around 7:40; beginners run in a special class of their own, so if you’re new, you needn’t worry about getting pummeled by more experienced teams. Entry fees are less than $20, and trophies are awarded to top finishers in all classes. A valid driver’s license and proof of insurance are required, as are functional braking systems and lights.
Road rally…it’s living automotive history, and it’s a helluva lot of fun.
Click through to find more about the SMSCC and their First Friday Night Rallies. Obviously, if you’re looking for something to do in Los Angeles tonight, we’d strongly recommend you head out to the B of A on Devonshire.