Subaru, Red Bull and Rabbit Holes—How I Got Sucked into Rally

I’ve nibbled at the fringes of car culture off-and-on over the years—from impulsive subscriptions to Car & Driver and Motor Trend; dozens of hours spent playing Project Gotham Racing and Forza Horizon; and even my time in the Army as a Light Wheel Vehicle Mechanic—but a string of unrelated events last year somehow culminated in my having a 2019 calendar featuring photos of rally cars hanging over my desk as I write this!

I’ve gotten lost down many rabbit holes in the past, but how did I get in this one?!?

Last January, thanks to the fickle magic of YouTube’s algorithm, I stumbled upon Donut Media’s “Up To Speed” video about the Subaru WRX, a car I’ve inexplicably lusted over for years and have spent many, many hours driving virtually in Forza Horizon 1, 2 and 3. That video was later followed by one about Group B—”the most insanely dangerous racing series ever known to man“—and eventually the algorithm uncovered season 6 of Launch Control, a series documenting Subaru Rally Team USA’s run at the 2018 American Rally Association championship.

After binge-watching that season, I was hooked and wanted to attend a rally event in person, hitting Google to learn more. And more. And more. And so much more!

I learned about the FIA World Rally Championship and FIA World Rallycross Championship, and its American cousins, American Rally Association and Americas Rallycross (ARX) which feature my favorite car. I learned the difference between Rally and Rallycross and RallyCross. I learned my interest in rally needs to stick to watching it and playing videogames because real driving, even at the RallyCross level, is an investment I’m in no position to make!

I also learned that Rally’s even more under the radar in the U.S. than soccer, but Red Bull TV produces some great free content and WRC+ has a native app on Samsung TVs which makes it totally worth the subscription fee.

Rally Racing & Content Marketing

Last summer, my wife and I spent two weeks in Peru and Bolivia celebrating our 20th anniversary, and among several amazing destinations, we spent a day at Salar de Uyuni where we came across this:

Dakar Bolivia Sign at Salar de Uyuni - Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, 2018

Coincidentally, when first planning that trip we were leaning towards going to Senegal. I had no idea the Dakar Rally had relocated to South America several years ago, and other than a few pictures, didn’t think about it again until I realized this year’s edition was coming up and would take place solely in Peru.

The Dakar Rally pits a wild menagerie of vehicles against each other over an immense distance, usually featuring sand dunes as tall as tidal waves. To complete the race, competitors have to follow directions from a road book that just gives them one instruction at a time. Drivers in cars have a copilot to read each turn to them. Bigger trucks carry a mechanic, too. As for the people on motorbikes and quads, heaven help them.

The 2019 Dakar Rally Explained, Jalopnik

Jalopnik’s excellent overview is the kind of gateway content enthusiast media does really well, and I’ve also been extremely impressed by what Subaru and Red Bull, among other brands, are doing in this space to educate and inform while simultaneously building their own brands. Content marketing at its finest!

I’ll be following Dakar via its own YouTube channel and Red Bull TV’s Dakar Daily updates, and then looking forward to the start of FIA World Rally Championship’s 2019 season in Monte-Carlo later this month.

There’s nothing like the buzz of delving into a new passion and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my serendipitous and circuitous journey into the world of rally. I’ve also realized my interest in rally had always been hiding just under the surface, an influence on almost everything I’ve ever found interesting about cars—it just took an unpredictable confluence of events to suck me in.

And even though I’ve barely scratched the surface of Dirt 4—my current favorite racing game—I may also be marking February 26th on my new rally calendar for the release of Dirt Rally 2.0 because this rabbit hole has way more left to explore!

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