Rally Dakar may only be achievable for the select few – but, as the rally racing world grows, more and more rally races out there are open to amateurs and first-timers. Rally and roadbook navigation training schools are cropping up everywhere, and more and more rally organizers are opening classes for amateurs, adventure riders, and just about everyone in between. You do not need to be a pro racer to take part in a cross country rally race: from North America to Europe and North Africa, rally racing is becoming the next step up from ADV riding rather than an elite sport.
Of course, the elite levels are still very much out there; Dakar, Africa Eco Race, and the like cost a fortune to enter, and some require qualifications and racing licenses. However, if you’re hoping to try your chances (and bike) at a mid-level rally race, here is a list of amateur-friendly events around the world with entry prices and bike rental options:
Baja Rally, Mexico, September 26 – October 2
Not to be mixed up with Baja 1000 or Baja 500, Baja Rally is a six-day cross-country rally race in Baja California, Mexico. The format is unique as it’s technically a desert race but most stages follow tracks rather than open piste, and you can either race with a traditional roadbook or an Enduro Comp device with direction arrows and audio alerts. Covering 200 miles on average each day, Baja Rally can be a fantastic first rally and a serious challenge at the same time.
Baja Rally entries start at $2,295 (Enduro Comp); you can either race on your own bike or rent one in Mexico.
Caminos del Colono, Peru, August 26-30
Rally Dakar has left South America, but South America hasn’t forgotten rally racing. This year, Peru will see the first edition of Caminos del Colono, an amateur-friendly cross-country rally race that has already attracted names like Carlo Vellutino, Sebastian Cavallero, and Gianna Velarde – Peruvian Dakar racers ready for a local challenge. Caminos del Colono is a brand new event but, with a large organization team and a stunning Andean location, it may become a rapidly growing race in Peru.
Entry fees start at $600; motorcycle rentals are available from the ORGA team.
Hellas Rally, Greece, May 23-30
The largest and best-known rally race in Europe, Hellas Rally Raid is remarkable because of its tiered classes and categories. On the one hand, it’s challenging enough for pros and semi-pros, but it’s also open to beginners and ADV riders because it features several different classes ranging from Enduro Cup (70% of the rally route, GPS unit allowed as a backup to roadbook) to Adventure Raid (GPS only, no roadbook). Seven days of racing over gnarly Greek mountain terrain is no small feat, but the organization makes it as welcoming to newcomers as can be: in the amateur classes, even if you do not finish a stage, you’re allowed to start the next day (albeit with a large time penalty). Hellas is easily one of the best racing events out there if you’re looking for your first attempt at a rally.
Entry fees start at Eur 700 on your own bike; bike rentals and assistance available with Hellas’ partners.
Dinaric Rally, Croatia, August 17-22
Celebrating its second edition this year, Dinaric Rally is a five-day race in the Dinaric Alps with challenging terrain and technical stages. Open to amateurs and pros alike, Dinaric Rally is still growing and developing, and it’s definitely an event to check out if you’re up for a challenge.
Entry fees start at Eur 600; bike rentals available from the ORGA team.
1000 Dunas, October 16-23, Spain – Morocco
Most North African rally races are the big events like Merzouga Rally, Africa Eco Race, Rally Tuareg, and so on; 1000 Dunas, however, is open to amateurs and has an Adventure Raid class for big adventure bikes. Both roadbook and GPS navigation are available depending on the class, and while it’s a serious enough desert race, the format is designed for pros and amateurs alike.
Entry fees start at Eur 3,200; bike rentals available in Spain.
If you haven’t done a rally race before, these events may seem intimidating, but realistically, what you need for your first rally race isn’t much: a sound bike, basic roadbook navigation skills, and some stamina to cover large distances is about all (most amateur rally races do not require race licenses or qualifications – this is reserved for FIM championships and FIM classes). For more information on what you need to get started, check out this article; for in-depth tips and advice from veteran rally organizers, see this interview about rally safety, and for more insights on North American rally racing, read this interview with Scotty Breauxman.
Have you ever considered doing a rally race? Share your thoughts in the comments below!