Rally Enthusiasts Are A Lot Like PC Enthusiasts...
To our surprise, rally cars themselves appear to be a lot simpler than the latest generation of road cars. The design of those purpose-built vehicles and the team management processes are really what benefit most from the technology that you and I use every day. The team is able to record and review massive amounts of data in just a couple of runs, enabling them to quick tweak and tune the suspension, the engine management system, and the differentials for each and every course. With streaming Internet video, it's possible for participants unfamiliar with an area and halfway across the world to get a better feel for the challenge ahead. Meanwhile, Google Earth makes a great platform for distributing course maps.
Action cameras make it easier than ever for teams to obtain multiple video feeds from within and on cars to obtain reviewable race footage, or to post online for eager fans. You also probably noticed that Apple's products are indispensable to these guys, many of whom desire simplicity.
As for the latest automotive technologies, driving nannies, and gadgetry, consider them luxuries that help make your life in the car easier, according to the experienced race crews we talked to. They can in no way make up for the knowledge you get from professional instruction on how to properly control a vehicle in all situations. Also, they shouldn't enable distracted driving. Craig Drew put it best, we think: if you need help changing lanes safely, there's a good chance you shouldn't be behind the wheel.
We had a great time watching the Olympus Rally, and we enjoyed photographing the cars as they sped through each stage. Some flew through as quickly as possible, while others took more deliberate lines, cruising through for the enjoyment of it. The experience reminded me of the first large LAN party I ever attended at a city community center more than 10 years ago. We were all there to play games. Some were more serious about it, while some of us popped in for a couple of matches and to have a good time. But everyone was there to show off their systems, from custom-built speed demons to old Dells retrofitted for gaming. The point was that we were there to be with like-minded people.
That’s the vibe I got from the rally crowd. They were proud to show their cars, whether they were beaten-up Nissan Sentras or classic Lancia Deltas. They were happy to compete and have a good time. While there were drivers in sponsored vehicles, I found the hobbyists to be the most interesting to talk to, including a gentleman who was working on building his very own Audi Quattro rally car from a Coupe GT. That's no bolt-on affair. The Coupe GT is front-wheel drive and has a different floorpan from the AWD models, requiring that he weld in a floorpan from an Audi 4000 Quattro sedan. The gentleman did all of the cutting and welding in his garage, and was very eager to talk about his creation. He reminded me of the case modders who go above and beyond to build something unique, and then put it on display at LAN parties.
Special thanks to all of the drivers and crews who sat down to talk to us: David Higgins, Craig Drew, Jonathan Carey, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, Scott Putnam, Doug Nagy, and Ken Block. Thanks also to Vermont Sports Car, along with our Subaru and Ford Racing representatives for helping arrange the interviews and making this article happen.