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How can I watch a rally?

First, let's set some expectations: if we compare watching NASCAR to watching rally, it's like the difference between going to the zoo and going on a wild African safari. At one of them, all the animals are in man-made habitats, and you can come and see the animals any time between 9am and 5pm, and there's an ice cream shop. In the other... you're going to travel all over the country side chasing the elusive prey, set up in a likely spot, wait until you hear sounds coming from through the trees, and then... ROAR! and it's the most amazing thing you've ever seen and it's totally worth the trip!

So, how do you do it? First, got to the NASA Rally Sport schedule and see which events are near you. For 90% of the country, there is not a rally within four hours of where they live. So if you are looking at the schedule and saying "Oh, I'll keep looking till I find one near me" there probably just isn't one near you. African safari, remember? Road trip! Go the the event web page and look for spectating information. Often this information isn't finalized and published till a week or so before the rally.

Next, get yourself a NASA Rally Sport account. This will do a couple things:

  • You can sign up for getting during-the-rally text messages to keep you up to date.
  • We can send you emails about rallies that may be happening near you. Of course, in rally "near" is a couple hundred miles.

Also, dip into the "Racer's Section" or "Competitor's Section" of the web site for that event. You'll find documents, like the "Supplemental Regulations" (sometimes shortened to "Supp Regs") that will have the official schedules of where the racers have to be. Take note of the following, as you're welcome to stop by:

  • Scrutineering - Also known as "Tech" or "Tech Inspection", this is where the rally cars and bikes get inspected prior to the race. The public is welcome to come see the process, although you might not be able to get into the garage where the inspections are happening, you're welcome to walk around outside where the cars are and the crews are hanging out.
  • Registration - This is where the racers all go to sign waivers and pick up materials, and where the volunteers check in before doing their tasks. You'll find T shirts and stickers for sale here, and likely be able to buy a printed spectator guide.
  • Parc Exposé - Without getting in to the history of it, we can translate this as "Car show". Usually these are just before the start of the rally where all the race machines are gathered so an orderly start can take place. The public is welcome to come and mingle with the racers.
  • Service - These are the pit stops. It's key to remember that while they may only show as a short period of time on the schedule, often just 20 minutes, that they are that long for each racer. So it's really a rolling 20 minutes, and each service is usually buzzing with activity for about an hour.

Then there's watching the actual racing out in the woods. TBA