Advice from the Guys who Know Best – Team O’Neil Rally School!

So you’ve already volunteered at events, networked with current competitors, perhaps joined a car club, or even competed in a rally cross or hill climb? All of these are excellent (and important) ways to get involved and learn about rally before you consider competing.

Here are some of the next steps you can take in your journey down this wonderful road of adventure, lessons and thrills:

Be an Open Book

The American Rally Association rule book that is. Find out what you can and can’t race, what you need to do to prepare yourself, your gear and your (potential) car.

Live and Learn

Practice may not make perfect, but it helps! Again, rally cross is a great way to start learning things like reading stage notes, listening and driving. In addition, taking a course at a rally school could gain you years of experience while saving you a lot of car damage in the process. Team O’Neil Rally School offers 1-5 day rally courses, licensing seminars, co-driving classes and more.

Keep in mind that car control is often an “assumed” skill until you take a course and realize how little you knew about truly staying in control at all times, in all situations.


Apply for a American Rally Association competitor license. You will start out with a novice class license. Plan to attend the Novice School which takes place early at each rally event. This will be needed to graduate from the novice class.


Rallying is not cheap! Start by spending your first $2,000 on safety equipment (firesuit, helmet, head/neck restraint, etc.) Other expenses to keep in mind will include the travel and lodging needed for you, your co-driver and crew. Plus entry fees, race fuel, and oh, how about the car? Get creative, try to go easy and stick to that budget. (And it’s never too early to start thinking about sponsors!)


Rent or buy your first rally car – don’t build one just yet. A fully prepared rally car with a log book is a good choice. And remember, as a novice driver, you are only allowed to compete in Group 2, Production, or an Open Light car. Don’t buy an STi or an EVO and expect to rally it right away.

The more common cars will give you better access to parts (Fiestas, VWs, Nissans, Neons and E30 BMWs give you a chance to collect all the spare parts your hauler can handle). Check out Special Stage, Facebook Rally Groups or Team O’Neil for more ideas.


Rally is a team sport of three equal parts: driver, co-driver, and crew. Experience is ideal, but not always necessary. Check out Special Stage or Facebook Rally Groups when trying to assemble your team. Again, network as much as possible!


Work on a prep list at least a month before the rally event and complete the list at least a week before departure. Items on your list should include tires, food, tarp, tent, tools, car components (suspension, fluids, skid plates, etc.). Also make a packing list for safety items, maps and personal gear.


Drive a little modestly, stay safe and finish the WHOLE rally. By finishing the event you will gain great experience and valuable coefficients. Finally, get a copy of another team’s re-prep list, make repairs and make the changes that will get you through the next event.

Now you are part of a real rally team!

The Cars

Front Wheel Drive: The foundation of our curriculum is taught over the first day and a half in front wheel drive cars. We have over forty 2011 Ford Fiesta rally school cars, that have seen suspension modification, weight reduction, rollover protection, proper seat belts and safety gear, and not much else. These fun little cars will teach you the basics of driving at speed on loose surfaces, and prepare you for transitioning into the other vehicles here at the Rally School

All Wheel Drive: Our fleet of all wheel drive school cars is made up of Audi Quattros and Subaru Imprezas. We teach the basic all wheel drive techniques in the locked differential Audis, and usually transition to the Imprezas on the third day of our courses.

Rear Wheel Drive: We have a fleet of rally prepared E30 BMWs that we use for rear wheel drive training here at the school. These cars are a perfect mix of power, handling, and weight to learn everything from basic rear wheel drive handling to highly advanced rally maneuvers.