Ever since I first learned what rally racing was, I’ve been enamored with the concept. Tarmac, dirt, snow, the surface didn’t matter…it was all about beating the clock over a set distance while not stuffing the car into any immovable object. It sounds easy, but it isn’t easy in the slightest. Just driving point-to-point fast is pretty standard fare, but rally racing happens at such a pace that you need to be genuinely in-tune with what the car is doing, what you are capable of making that vehicle do, and at the same time you need to have an eagle-eye focus on what is going on around you at all times. Mis-step just once, and you will be on one of those rally crash videos on YouTube two seconds after the hulk stops moving.
I’ve driven on dirt, faster than I should probably admit to. Western Washington is lousy with sorted gravel roads, and when you are a juvenile delinquent with sketchy supervision, there’s lots of trouble that can be found. Reading a car takes time and practice, there’s no way around that. But when it comes time to play in the dirt, what vehicle would you choose…and be honest with yourself here for a moment. The natural kick is to go all-wheel-drive like the pros do, but potential understeer and driving manners you might not deal with on a daily basis might step in the way. Front-drivers do well on dirt paths, but when the back end really gives up on you, do you have the skill to keep it from taking the rest of the car along for a ride? And there’s surely some rear-drive fans who have fantasies of Duke Boys-style sideways action, but rally is about time, not style points. So, what do you choose?
While a front-driver might be the smarter choice for a beginner, I’d have to go rear-drive simply for the familiarity of driving style. Something the size of a Fox Mustang or a 1980s Celica would be about as big of a car as I’d dare use and I’d keep the power down, regardless of choice. A 2.3L Mustang has more than enough power to get you into trouble on courses like the Olympic Rally and the Oregon Trail Rally. Or, you can be the hero that this world needs and try out some kind of rally van like this Astro could be. What would you roll up to the start point in?