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Tom's Hardware Talks To Champion Rally Drivers About Technology

Tom's Hardware Attends Its First Rally Race

When most of us think about auto racing, we think Formula, stock car, and drag. The events associated with those motorsports typically consist of corporate-sponsored teams with lots of money for research and development. At the highest levels, you sit in the stands and watch; you don't get to participate.

Rally racing, on the other hand, makes it possible for pro drivers and hobbyists to run the same courses together. It's typically broken up into multiple stages, where participants drive as quickly as possible from one point to the next in each stage. Here in the States, Rally America is the organization that sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which includes a number of rally races scored on a points system.

We sat roadside and soaked in all of the...gravel.

At the top of the rally pyramid, you find the official manufacturer teams that include Ford, Subaru, and Scion. Then you have the teams that are fairly well-equipped, and typically sponsored by racing schools, oil companies, or even car dealerships that participate in different race classes. Lastly, you see the hobbyists who show up in their own vehicles to have a good time. These are the do-it-yourselfers able to put a car together for weekend events and the seasoned drivers out there for a thrill.

In many ways, rally events are similar to the large LAN parties in our computer world. Take PDXLAN, for example, in Portland, Oregon. You have the insane case modders sponsored by component vendors for their builds, the manufacturers showing off their hardware, and the enthusiasts looking to enjoy themselves. No matter who you are, though, everyone at a LAN party is there to play games, even if some are more competitive than others.

With that parallel in mind, we were happy to accept an invitation from Subaru of America to attend the Olympus Rally in Shelton, Washington, the final race of the season, and spend time with the company's rally team. During the event, we sat down to talk to drivers, co-drivers, and engineers for official Subaru Rally Team, the Lucas Oil-Wolf LED Rally Team, and Ken Block, co-founder of DC Shoes and purveyor of the Gymkhana video series. Some of the names and cars you'll recognize from games like DiRT. Others might be new to you. But they all combine the very best in automotive technology with the devices PC enthusiasts know and love to do their jobs better.

Why did we feel compelled to cover this event in the first place? Well, it all started when a couple of us around the office started passing around Ken's Gymkhana Five: Ultimate Urban Playground; San Francisco and excitedly chatted about the technology that must have been involved bringing that project to fruition. If you haven't seen the video yet, which has more than 37,000,000 views as of this writing, then check it out. It's a seriously impressive piece of work with an appearance by Travis Pastrana (who was replaced on the Subaru Rally Racing Team by our first interviewee, David Higgins).