Drivers from both the Supercar and Lite levels will look to take the top spot during the doubleheader from the racing series by bumping, sliding and driving their way to the checkered flag.
Rally racing has a number of things that make it unique. The course is set up to test drivers with a multi-surface track that comprises both road and dirt driving with a jump or two mixed in for good measure.
Here’s the really cool part: Unlike other racing series, the GRC cars begin their life as production models. Although they are heavily modified for both performance and safety purposes to get ready for race day, these are street-legal cars from companies like Ford and Chevy.
Austin Dyne, driver of the no. 14 Ford Fiesta ST hatchback for Brian Herta Rallysport, talked about the challenges drivers face in this rally car format.
“The asphalt gives a lot more grip,” Dyne said. “You’ll find the cars bounce. You slide a little bit on asphalt but not very much. (With) the dirt, you don’t have nearly the grip. You’re kind of sliding the car around and you have to slip the car into a corner to get it to rotate, rather than asphalt where you’re kind of rolling the corners just trying to get through it and get off the corner fast.”
This isn’t one of those one-race-a-day deals, either.
Multiple heats and semifinal runs last six laps each. Those that don’t make it into the final in these rounds run in a four-lap, last chance qualifier. Drivers who survive this gauntlet move on to a 10-lap final.
Dyne said the shorter races make things a lot more interesting.
“Everyone is just driving 100%,” he said. “(In) other racing, there’s a lot more strategy and people are kind of taking it easy here and there. We’re just flat-out action. Everyone’s kind of bumping into each other, moving people out of the way.”
Adding to the excitement is the wildcard lap in every race known as the Joker. Once in every race, each driver must take a predetermined alternate route around the track.
“The majority of the time it’s a shorter lap so it’s this big strategy,” Dyne said. “If you’re up front normally the guys take it right away to get clear track, but if you’re in the back and don’t get a good start, you save it to the end and try to put in fast laps and then hit the Joker. It helps you get in front of some of the guys and get position.”
While the supercars are the big boys on this racing circuit, spectators will also be able to see up-and-comers prove themselves in the lite heats before taking their shot in the big time.
Fans will have the opportunity to walk through an open paddock. This means a chance to interact with drivers and watch the mechanics as they make the cars race-ready. There’s also a driver autograph session at the end of each day.
Anatomy of a Rally Car
These cars may start as something you would drive to work every day, but on their way to the race track, they take a detour into the land of the supercharged.
Dyne’s car features the standard Ford Fiesta ST production chassis. After that, the paths of street vehicle and rally supercar diverge very quickly.
The 650 horsepower enables the car to go from 0-60 mph in roughly 1.8 seconds. Dyne said the car will get up to a top speed of around 125-130 mph on race day.
The car’s suspension is also completely reworked to allow the frame to compress up to 10 inches and withstand 70-foot jumps.
If you’re ready to experience the thrill of rally racing, we’ve got a special deal for you. If you enter the promo code “RBQNDT” before putting in your credit card at checkout, you can get 20% off your tickets. Gates open at 10 a.m. both days.
If you can’t make it out to the track, NBC will broadcast the supercar portion of the event at 2 p.m. on Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The lite heats will be shown on NBC Sports Network on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.