Rally 101

Rally vs. Rallycross

So you’ve heard about rally racing, but there seems to be two types… what’s the deal? The simplest answer is that Rally is one car at a time on a public road closed for racing, and Rallycross is multiple cars running together on a closed course specifically designed for racing.

To get more involved, it’s best to start with the cars themselves. Rally and rallycross cars are both production based and are often similar models and even share some similar parts with one another. But the similarities end quickly in terms of how much preparation is allowed in each discipline. For Rally, the rules are intended to keep the cars as close to what can be built and driven legally on the street. And that’s the big catch: able to drive on the street. Rally cars NEED to be street legal, pass emissions, carry registration and legal insurance, all the things a normal car has to do. From there, they are allowed to be modified within a strict set of rules to keep the playing field fair and ensure the safety of competitors and spectators since cars will see speeds exceeding 100 mph at times. As in any type racing, competitors and teams do their best to stretch the rules to the absolute limit, but racing series officials (World Rally Championship, American Rally Association, Canadian Rally Championship, etc.) check each car before and even after the race to ensure every car fits the rules.


Rallycross cars, on the other hand, are allowed much more performance and specialized (non-street legal) modifications, which often results in amazing technology that produces astounding performance. Since the cars are not required to be street legal, they do not need functioning lights, they are able to replace most of the body panels with other materials (carbon fiber, Kevlar and other composites), and often modify structure underneath to withstand the beating they receive. Some of the best automotive performance numbers ever recorded have been from rallycross cars. For example; the current generation of rallycross cars are some of the fastest accelerating cars on earth and have the ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.8-1.9 seconds. Some rallycross series around the world include Nitro Rallycross FIA World RX Championship.

The other major difference is the areas on which they run. Rally cars run on actual public or private roads closed to traffic, and race one at a time on courses called stages. Each stage is timed, and co-drivers (or navigators) ride in the passenger seat to inform the drivers of the road ahead as they approach it as fast as they can, while attempting to traverse the stage in as little time as possible. Once finished with the stage, they drive on public streets (at the speed limit) to the next stage road, where they do it all over again. Teams are held to a strict time schedule, so any delays or early arrivals are penalized with added time, which is then combined with the overall time of the driver/co-driver team’s stage times. The real principle of rallying is endurance, since the stages can be long and all of the stages together can make for a long and exhausting day. The other unique characteristic of rallying is that the roads are rarely perfect; they may be public roads, but many times they are gravel or even snow-covered, which presents all sorts of challenges to the teams as they attempt to race as fast as possible on a road they may have never seen, and is covered in snow. And sometimes at night.

Rallycross cars on the other hand, run on a closed track designed for racing, and run against one another door-to-door. What separates Rallycross from other types of track racing is the varied surfaces that the cars run on. They may be on a paved track, but the course will often take the competitors into the infield that is covered with gravel or mud. The surface changes add to strategy and complicate the setup, as some driver/car combinations are better on one surface than the other. This close-quarters action results in plenty of unintentional contact; competitors do not “intend” to ram each other, but lots of power on a slippery road often results in plenty of indiscretions. The winner is the traditional “first car across the line”, with an elimination-style grouping of races to weed out the slower cars. The final race, which includes the winners of the previous heats, often results in mayhem unlike any other motorsport, with cars trading places several times on a single lap, muscling their way from gravel to pavement.

Both styles require adaptability and finesse not found in most track situations. The drivers of either discipline are often experienced and well-rounded, having spent a lot of time training in all sorts of different racing rather than focusing on one type. In the end, the driver with the most skill, determination, and endurance will win, and the fans are always rewarded with brilliant displays of car control.



  • DirtFish is an advanced driving school located in Snoqualmie, Washington, USA only 30 minutes from Seattle. We offer driver instruction, training and coaching programs and experiences for advanced car control, driver development, road and circuit racing, motorsports, SCCA rallycross, stage rally, EVOC and tactical, stunt driving, teen drivers, new drivers, track days, track racing, off-road truck racing, winter snow and ice driving, formula and open-wheel car racing, high performance driving, autocross, desert racing, overland and defensive driving, providing confidence and safety techniques behind the wheel.

    Being one of the top rally schools in the USA, we teach advanced car control techniques used in racing series and circuits, such as World Rally Championship, WRC, Rally America, Canadian Rally Championship, Red Bull Global Rallycross, Cascadia International Rally Championship and FIA World Rallycross. DirtFish utilizes courses on multiple loose surfaces conditions; dirt, mud, gravel, tarmac, pavement, and other sealed surfaces using the all-wheel AWD drive Subaru WRX STI and the rear-wheel drive RWD Subaru BRZ.

    Our high adrenaline programs, courses, and property boast the perfect location for your next event, activity or adventure, whether it’s corporate team building, sales incentive programs, arrive and drive programs, vehicle testing (Mudfest), property rentals, bachelor and birthday parties- we are capable of it all.

    Our property, facilities, and location have been used for many different film productions, most notably Top Gear, Twin Peaks and Roadkill. It is perfect for movies, commercials, promotional videos, stunt videos, viral videos and is a great scouting location. DirtFish has been featured in productions with Ken Block, Bucky Lasek, Launch Control, The Smoking Tire with Matt Farah, Forza, T-Mobile, Travis Pastrana, Toyota, Barnacles Nerdgasm and more.

    DirtFish has been compared but rated highest among other driving and car control schools, such as Team O’Neil, Bondurant, Bridgestone Winter Driving School, Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park FIRM, Proformance at Pacific Raceways, Skip Barber, Rally Ready and The Ridge Motorsports park.

    If you’re making travel plans and have some time to kill during your vacation, or are looking for a last minute deal, check out our DirtFish Signature Thrill Rides or our DirtFish Driving Simulator, equipped with XBOX, PC, Playseat, Logitec and Fanatec products that is primed and ready with Forza, Project Cars and Dirt Rally.