Bringing out the SXS to a RallyCross
SCCA’s motto is #funwithcars. And one of the benefits of our national club is that it offers a variety of avenues to get out and do just that. From autocross and track nights, to wheel-to-wheel club racing, to tearing up the dirt on a RallyCross course. SCCA members have so many opportunities within one organization to fill their need for speed and challenge their driving skills.
Recently, Raymond Blethen, who is most often seen in his T4 Mazda RX8 on road courses, or doing the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, connected with Tim Cerato to take a SXS “side-by-side” out to a RallyCross event at one of our newest locations – 508INTL. This was the final RX event for the 2022 season, and if drivers wanted to play in the mud, they got their wish as the day was wet and dirty.
There was plenty of discussion beforehand on the role and place of side-by-sides on a RallyCross track, with the biggest concern being rollovers. Tim and Raymond took a stock one and then updated it to meet SCCA rules. Per Raymond, “I am a car guy, I don’t own a side by side but when Tim let me drive a couple that he had, I instantly fell in love with how fun they were and personally felt they belong in places like RallyCross.” His initial opinion is that they seem to be safe in the woods and sand pits at 50mph with renters that have no experience. On a RX track, that may be different. He decided to bring one to the 508INTL event and go into it with an open mind to provide feedback either way. Here’s what they learned.
Being a car guy and not having a ton of experience in a side by side I was very well aware of several folks fear that they dig up the track and roll over easy. My personal thoughts on the side by side is that anyone who feels that they are a concern needs to drive one. As with any true motor sporting event if you have someone who drives over their limits, stuff will happen. However, if you drive within your and your machine’s abilities – you can stay safe. This rule applies equally to driving a side by side at one of these events.
We both started off the day taking it easy, making sure that we didn’t dig up the track or put ourselves at risk of an incident. We eased on the gas over the start line for fear that we would rip up the starting strip thing, and eased on the gas through the turns. We progressively pushed more and more, resulting in faster turn exits leading us to having to brake harder entering turns (a new potential risk). This wasn’t my machine, so every run saw a different “experience” for me, as I learned how the side by side would act and what it could do. More experience will certainly lead to significantly faster but still very safe runs.
We ran with DOT tires and after the first run ran with AWD turned on, maybe that helped prevent the thing from making ruts. I think with some practice tuning the shocks and tire pressures we could get some of the “push” in the turns out of it and we could go faster but overall it handled well. If you look and analyze somewhat comparable run times, the side by side was as fast as the fastest cars, and if we had times throughout the day and time to play with the setup we likely would have pushed a little harder (maybe it was better we didn’t for our first event in this!)
Those that want the FTD probably won’t like side by sides as they will and should feel challenged, but those willing to look outside the box and welcome these awesome machines will enjoy watching them rip through the course.
Final thought…. You cannot throw them into a turn like the fast cars/trucks were (especially those long wheelbase trucks – very exciting to watch!) But if you are truly a good driver and know the meaning behind “slow is fast” you will have enjoyable safe runs. I watched Wyatt Knox in the video from Tim O’Neil Rally School before going to this event and he nailed it with his comment that you cannot drive it like an AWD rally car.
So what was the final verdict? As with any newcomer or new car, listen to the instructions of the veterans and those running the event. If they say “don’t go full send” out of the gate, follow their advice. And if you have an SXS that meets all the current SCCA prep and safety standards – bring it out. As ons driver noted, “SXS are the most fun thing that exists on 4 wheels.”
Thanks to Tim and Raymond for sharing their experience and feedback. We look forward to seeing them out on track again soon!
In the meantime – check out all of the photos from the event that DaggerSLADE media captured while there.
Join the Fun
If bringing an SXS to one of NER’s RallyCross events is now on your radar, but you still have questions, feel free to reach out to the NER RallyCross Board or jump on the NER RallyCross/RallySprint Facebook page to chat with current members and drivers. NER hosts one of the most active RX programs in the country, with events all year round, national championship drivers, and a dedicated program board that is eager to help new drivers get out on the dirt.