1996 Geo Prizm

Geyota Rallycross: What to upgrade first?

Last summer I helped a friend who was taking his Mini Cooper S to a rallycross event. I shot pictures the whole time I was there and while I was editing the hundreds of photos that I took that moist July morning, I kept imaging what it must be like inside the cars: manual transmissions, left foot braking, and sliding through corners all add up to a fantastic recipe for a day spent in the dirt. I learned something about myself that day.

I want to be a rally driver. I don’t think I will be a good one, but I definitely what to learn all of the techniques involved. Rallycross is not on the same level as stage rally driving, but I don’t have the means to schedule training at DirtFish, Team O’Neil, or Rally Ready, so I’ll have to start somewhere…

I began my Interwebs research. There are numerous videos out there about what kind of cars you can get cheaply for rallycross. I leaned towards a front-wheel-drive car. Mainly because every rally school starts teaching the dynamics of rally driving in a car that uses the engine to spin the front wheels. Then they move up to all-wheel-drive and finish with the most entertaining drivetrain orientation, rear-wheel-drive.

Small, light, front-wheel-drive, manual transmission, reliable, and cheap. That’s what I was hunting for.

While driving through the fields of east-central Kansas, I noticed a couple of rooflines behind a farmer’s barn. Upon further review, a black 1995 Nissan Sentra sedan made its way onto a trailer behind our 2005 Toyota 4Runner. Nismo here we come.

Nissan Sentra in a field

This was the first car that I have ever pulled from a field and will probably be the last. There were dead mice inside, enough poop to restart the spread of the bubonic plague, exactly $3.76 in change hidden throughout the interior, and two pairs of tweezers. I did not ask what the tweezers were for.

4Runner with Sentra

Clean up began. The interior smelled atrocious. Like cat urine, but worse. I spent a couple weeks taking my time to try and track down as many of the smell locations as possible, but in the end, there were too many.

Cleaning the Nissan Sentra Interior

I gave up hope of having a running car for the last three events of the fall rallycross season when I finally got down to the fuel pump and all the missing wiring. The Sentra was a much longer-term project than I was ready to deal with. For sale post created and sold by the end of the week. I came away even, just short my time and effort failing to put a dent in the smell and nastiness.

Broken Wires on Fuel Pump

With rallycross goal put on pause, life got a little more complicated. Tears of happiness and sadness were shed, patience tested, bonds created that will last our lifetimes and much more that isn’t appropriate for an automotive website. Life can get messy, but that’s life.

Months passed, I watched new friends posting videos of their hot laps and general revelry from rallycross events. The Internet can be great for finding information, but it can also make you feel like crap as others are doing the things that you know you would be enjoying. PSA: stay off social media. Read Hooniverse but stay off the social channels for a couple days if you’re feeling down.

Enter the 1996 Geo Prizm: front-wheel-drive, manual, light and the price was right! And the best part of the deal, it runs! What is essentially a Toyota Corolla underneath will be my rallycross platform. Not exactly Radwood royalty, but it will work nicely for my purposes.

Garage Queen

With the 2019 rallycross schedule looming at the end of March, where should I judiciously spend my money?

Tires? Brakes? Clutch? Suspension? Spark plugs & wires?

Or just drive it till it breaks? I’m leaning towards this as it seems to be the most in line with my current budget.

Either way, I’m looking forward to fun in the dirt in either the Geyota or the Land Yacht.

Parked under a tree


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9 responses to “Geyota Rallycross: What to upgrade first?”

  1. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    Skid plates and roll cage. Then tires and suspension.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Also a seat and harness will help a lot when you are gelh in securely.

      What sort of speeds are reached and is there anything to hit?

    2. crank_case Avatar

      Do these series not have rules on Tyre types (even if it’s just road tyres only etc.)

      1. Ross Ballot Avatar
        Ross Ballot

        I could be very wrong, but I don’t think so. I’m under the impression a lot of people even run snow tires in the dirt…

        1. crank_case Avatar

          Quite a bit more lenient than rallycross or even autotesting here in Ireland I believe, they tend to limit you on tyre choice, but given how close some of the rallycross races can be, it’s not surprising I guess!

  2. roguetoaster Avatar

    Where you might spend to improve your times depends mostly on classing. But if you’re just out to have the most fun I’d suggest starting with a set of used winter tires, that way you don’t spend much on something you are not certain you’ll do long term. After the first couple of events you’ll know what your car needs and you can address that. Then when you are more in to the whole rallycross thing you’ll want a set of rally appropriate tires, and for budget fun I suggest MaxSport.

    Other than that, listen, watch, have someone ride along and you’ll become proficient quickly.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    Sounds like fun!

    I’d go with beefier sway bars to minimize understeer, and polish up your trail-braking skills.

  4. Lowell Reid Avatar
    Lowell Reid

    Don’t worry about upgrading per se. Just get out there and drive it till it breaks, as you say. Then you know what needs to be reinforced, or what part you’ll need to get good at replacing! On top of that, a harness makes all the difference in stopping you sliding around in the car as you slide your car around the track. I recommend the book ‘How to Build a Successful Low Cost Rally Car’ by Philip Young

  5. Tank Avatar

    It looks like someone is doing a similar build on r/battlecars. Although from reading the comments they’re not doing a particularly good job of it

    I lifted my Corolla with 3D printed spacers. (video in comments)
    byu/_TEA_BAG_ inBattlecars