This past Saturday, I competed in my third rallycross event, and the RallyMetro completed it’s second event. It was an unusual event, in that there were only 11 drivers there in 10 cars (two drivers are allowed to share one car). What that meant for those of us who were there, was lots of runs.
We started with a half hour open practice session. I think I got four runs in there, possibly five. They changed up the back of the course for this event, we weaved in an out of the trees for a big section of it. On one hand, it felt all kinds of wrong, but on the other hand it kind of made it feel like a real rally. It was stupid fun!
After a short break, it was time for the first heat. My first time was really bad, because I overcooked a turn back in the woods, and had to come to a complete stop. I didn’t get to the clutch in time, so I stalled it, had to re-fire, reverse out, and then start off again. I chopped over eight seconds off that time in the next run, then another three on the third run, then my fourth added a second back onto that. No matter, I was having a blast.
Another break, and then it was time for heat number two. My first two runs were about three seconds better than the last run in the first heat. These were the first two runs I’d ever made where I didn’t feel like I made any mistakes for the entire run. On the third run I overcooked a tricky off-camber right hander that was very soft and rutted, and added those three seconds or so back onto it. Before I made the fourth run, the powers that be decided to make this a six run heat. My fourth and fifth runs were my best of the day, they were each over 14 seconds faster than my worst run of the day. I was feeling really happy with my progression as a driver. My actual sixth run felt even better still, but somebody hit one of the timing pylons at the finish line, and I had to do a rerun. As I pulled up to the starting line, my left axle started making really bad clicking noises. I overcooked that same off-camber right hander, and made a mess of a the section after that, and my time was five seconds worse than my fourth and fifth runs.
We then took another break. They decided to run a grader and then the water truck through the course, and make it a long break. Everybody was pretty gassed after six and some of us seven runs. The competitors all started checking each others’ times and how our cars were all doing. My times were by FAR slower than everybody else’s. Remember, despite my own improvements the RallyMetro has something like 58 horsepower, and I couldn’t get out of first gear. I knew I had blown the left axle, but another competitor had blown his Neon’s engine and one of the Subarus had a significant amount of damage.
After lots of water and some trail mix, it was time to start the third heat. I knew the axle was broken, but as long as that car was moving under it’s own power, I was running. The call was made that we’d do a standard four run heat, as the six runs had been really hard on both the cars and the drivers. As I staged up, the worker at the finish line noted that my left front tire was rubbing badly. I launched for the first run, the starting line is directly before a small hill (it would be a jump if you were at speed), and the first turn is a very long sweeping downhill right hand corner. About half way through that corner, the RallyMetro decided now would be a time to turn hard left. This was one of those times were luckily I was only in first gear, and thus going slow enough to catch it and stay on course. The rest of the run was much the same story, power delivery was extremely twitchy, as sometimes both axles had power, and sometimes just the passenger axle did. The car was all over the road, so I had to back off to 70-80%. All my runs in the fourth heat were in about five or six seconds slower than my best times from heat number two. That doesn’t really matter, because I was still having a ball!
Anyways, I promised you a review of the RallyMetro, and here it is. Let’s start with the bad. Stuffing my 350 pound wide load into a car this small is comical. Luckily the doors are big enough that I fit better than I thought it would. The car is as slow as dog crap, sporting under 60 horsepower. There’s a hole in the passenger side floorboard that I really should plug up so it doesn’t get quite so dusty inside.
None of that matters though, because the RallyMetro is an absolute riot to drive. I expected this car to under-steer like a pig. Or as they used to say back when I watched NASCAR, to push like a damn dump truck. That, however, is not the case at all. The RallyMetro, for all it’s front wheel driveness and hilariously short wheelbase, is a seriously tail happy car. Lift-off over-steer happens a lot, but it’s relatively predictable, and very manageable. For those time when lifting off isn’t enough, a simple tap of the brakes unloads the ass end and rotates it around. As I got more comfortable in the car, I decided to try something I’d always wanted to do: handbrake turns. There were three or four areas on the course where the turns were tight enough, that I needed the rear end to rotate more than simple weight transfer could provide. The handbrake worked beautifully! The best turn for it was the second to last turn on the course, a U-turn with plenty of room to carry some speed. I had the RallyMetro sliding beautifully through that turn. Josh, the guy in charge who was also running a really nice blue and white Neon ACR, swore it looked like I was driving a Group B rally car. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I’ll take the compliment and it sure felt good to pull off!
The other thing I must say about the RallyMetro, is it is one tough sumbitch! I made 19 runs that day, and I beat the ever-loving shit out of that car. I never took it out of first gear (if you put it in second, you can’t get back down into first without coming to a complete stop), so the engine was banging off the rev limiter for a significant portion of those runs. It held all it’s fluids, and the tiny radiator managed to keep the tiny engine nice and cool. After all the pounding, it still drove under it’s own power. Now, it didn’t survive completely unscathed, but it will live to fight another day, and the repairs will be quite cheap to do.
I’ll do another post in a couple weeks about the trouble I and other competitors ran into, and in general what it takes to run one of these events.
Also, a huge shout-out to my friend Fry-Guy who always comes along to help, and for this event he even volunteered to work on course since they were short of workers. He took all these pictures as well. I love how the lose dirt makes it look like I’m actually going fast!