Rally Engineering

Pro Rallys for North Texas

About Rally and History of Rallye de Paris

Performance rally is a traditional European sport. Yet when one does a Google search on the term "Rallye de Paris", it is the second largest Paris in the world that comes up first and not the capital of France.

An internet review of past rallies based out of Paris does not seem to find them all. So we will have to tap the memories of area rallyists to fill in the blanks. Expect this to be an evolving narrative.

The first rallies held out of Paris ran under the title of "Chisum Trail Rally." The first Chisum Trail was a cattle trail from Paris to the Pecos Valley of New Mexico. This was made famous in several movies including Lonesome Dove and the stories about Billy the Kid as John Chisum was one of his supporters. Another famous cattle trail, the Chisholm Trail went from central Texas up to the railheads in Kansas.

But the first rally to have the name Chisum Trail occurred in 1976. However, I have been told that this ran in the counties just north of the Dallas area and did not go to Paris. These roads are now part of the suburbia of the Metroplex. The 1978 Chisum Trail was the first to be based in Paris if my memory is to be believed. There were 13 entries and the event was sanctioned by NARRA. I did scoring out of my SAAB Sonett V-4. The rally ran north from Paris up into Oklahoma. The year 1979 saw another Chisum Trail. This one is confirmed by the rally plate hanging in our garage as I was again chief of scoring.

The rally returned to Paris again in 1980 but as a part of the SCCA national series. The year 1981 was notable for the tornados that caused the cancellation of 4 stages. Again, I was chief of scoring and remember one team who was lost in the woods for over 12 hours.

But tragedy occurred in 1982. This was my first year of competing. I remember seeing Rod Millen, a top competitor of past events, coming out of a transit at a very high rate of speed on a road that had two way rally traffic. Yet, his car control was perfect as he was on his side of the road adjusting his trajectory as needed to avoid our car going into the stage. I waved to Rod but wondered why he was moving so fast on a transit. Alas, as we got to the start of the stage and were held from starting, the reason was learned. John Woolf and Grant Whittaker had been killed in a crash. Rod was going to get medical help. This was the first fatality in the 10 year history of SCCA performance rally. It was also the last event based out of Paris for several years.

But rally returned to Paris. As best we can tell, 1990 was the first event to occur entirely on the grounds of Camp Maxey. We have the official results. We, Juanita and Richard, finished 4th in both events that occurred on November 24th of that year. But there must have been earlier events as my mother still complains about her brand new 1985 or '86 Nissan Maximum getting extremely muddy during an event. And rally continued at Camp Maxey for several years, sometimes twice a year. The Rally Masters tended to be from out of state with Ken Stewart of Oklahoma and Doc Schrader of Arkansas providing this function. The Dallas Sports Car Club provided logistical support as needed with sanctioning coming through the Texas Region of the SCCA.

But 2001 saw a gap in rally at Camp Maxey. The environmental arm of the Texas Army National Guard decided that we produced too much 'fugitive dust.' After that, Juanita Miller became chairman of the event. With the help of Linda Su Knox of the Paris Chamber of Commerce, they were able to convince the National Guard to allow the event to continue in 2002.

And the Rallye de Paris continues. Since 2002, the event has occurred at least once a year despite the dropping of performance rally by SCCA. New organizations have been formed with many of the same people of the past helping. And many new people have joined to continue the sport of performance rally in Paris.

As is said in the sport, 'Viva le Rallye de Paris!'

A Partial History of Performance Rally and the City of Paris Texas

What is a Rally?

Some people have said that a rally is a good way to ruin a nice drive in the country. Others say it is a good excuse to take a pleasant drive in the country. Both are probably true. There are three basic types of rallies: gimmick, time-speed-distance (TSD) and stage or performance rally.

 Gimmick Rally

                 A gimmick rally is not scored on any speed factor, but on some special gimmick rule defined by the organizers. This is perhaps similar to a scavenger hunt. You are generally scored based on information you find on the course. This may be from signs, advertising, or even the number of cows. There are several variations on gimmick rallies. There is the shortest distance rally where a team tries to visit a given number of locations while traveling the least number of miles. There is the hare and hounds rally where the lead car goes out and drops a flour bag or other marker before each intersection and again after making the turn. Again, lowest mileage usually wins. There are pie plate rallies where the rally master places pie plates on stakes along the intended route. Some pie plates have information for scoring and others have information for course following. Serious rallyists often pass up gimmick rallies (much to their loss) because there is often an element of chance in these events. Luck can beat skill.

TSD Rally
                 TSD is the form of rallying that many people think of when you mention rally. In a TSD rally, the route instructions give assigned speeds in addition to information to keep a team on course. These speeds are always legal and usually below the posted speed limit. A TSD rally is a competition of precision driving, it is NOT a race.

                 The goal of a TSD rally team is twofold: to stay on the prescribed course and to drive at exactly the given speed. The perfect team would be on course, on time, all the time. To score teams against this goal, checkpoints are sprinkled throughout the course at unspecified locations. Each team is timed by a crew at the checkpoint or control and their time is compared against a "Perfect Time" (computed from the assigned speeds and exact distances measured by the organizers before the event). Each team receives a score based on its time for that portion or leg of the course. For each second early or late, the team is given points. The team with the lowest total score for all legs wins. However, each leg is independent, time late or early on one leg cannot be "made up" on subsequent legs. After being timed by a checkpoint crew and receiving a score, the team is assigned an out time to begin driving the next leg. Just as there are several classes of race cars, there are several classes of TSD rallyists. The differences are based on the equipment you have installed in the car. You can have a computer that calculates average speed or a simple hand held calculator or just the seat of your pants. There is even one rally series where the odometers of the cars are removed or covered up so the navigator has no means of calculating average speed.

 Performance Rally
                 The hairiest form of rallying is performance rally. This IS a race. The cars are started one at a time, at one minute intervals, down a road that is legally blocked to all other traffic. Each car is timed over the course and the fastest car wins. The competitors do not get a chance to pre-run the course, so this is the first time they see it. They are given a set of route instructions that are similar to TSD but have no assigned speeds. The obstacles on the route are measured in hundredths of a mile and described by "tulips" (symbolic representations of turns, intersections, jumps, etc). These cars require full roll cages, competition seat belts, fire extinguishers and skid pans to protect the underside of the car. The driver and co-driver must wear helmets and fire suits. Additional, long range driving lights are helpful as performance rally events frequently continue late into the night.

How To Get Started in Performance Rally
                 If you have never been involved in motorsports, you should begin by joining an auto club and enter their events. It's best to start with Solo or Autocross, to learn car control at speed. Then you should do either gimmick or TSD rally to learn to follow route instructions, and to work with a navigator.

                 How do you watch rally? You can catch a Performance Rally event on TV, but it's a lot more fun being there! You will find "Spectator Stages" at virtually every event. This gives you a chance to see how these cars run. Just listen to the safety marshals. You may think that there is now way a car could crash where you are standing. You are probably wrong.

                 You can sign up to be a worker on a Rally. Some jobs require experience and training, others do not. This is a great way to learn how the event operates, how the speeding cars are controlled and the event kept safe. You will get a chance to see how the cars are prepared and talk to the competitors.

                 To enter a Performance Rally, you will need a properly prepared car, a license, and a navigator (or 'co-driver'). You can get help on getting started with the first two of these. You are on your own finding someone to ride with you.

 The Car
                 There are several classes of cars these days, so get the rule book first. Once you've chosen your class, then you'll either have to buy or build a car that fits the rules for the class. The best way to get your first performance rally car is to buy one used. Most of the little tricks that we have learned the hard way are usually already taken care of. Racecar constructors and other rallyists are the sources to look for if you go this route.

The License
                 You should contact Rally America Inc. to apply for a performance rally license. When it arrives, a rulebook will accompany it. Read it, learn it, and believe it. Here you will find the requirements for safety harness, crash helmet, driving suit, car preparation limits and requirements, and so on. Certain information about how an event is to be conducted is also included.

Rally School
                 You will be required to attend a school at the first event in which you compete. If a separate school is offered in your area, you should attend it. At a rally event non-competing interested persons can generally sit through a school for information prior to entering. This will give you a preview of what's involved. If you cannot get to a rally to attend a school prior to attending your first event, get together with an experienced rallyist, and go over the procedures of a typical event.

 Your First Event
                 Make your first event a "Coefficient 1 or 2" Rally. These are shorter events and more low-key, with other novices entered as well. This will serve as the easiest method of teaching you the basics of competing in a performance rally, and at fairly low expense.

The Experience
                 Whether you go as a spectator, worker, official, or competitor, you will come back a little different. There is an excitement about the sport. You'll find down to earth people who are ready and willing to help AND you get to play in the woods! You don't watch a rally. You become a part of it. So see you out there!