Keanna here. My last AMA was a couple of years ago. With the Olympus Rally 🇺🇸 and WRC Rally Croatia 🇭🇷 happening today, I’ve made the impulsive decision to do another.
Rallying in America is blowing up. (Even if it's one of the lesser known forms of motorsport in the country.) I’m so excited to see necessary safety systems being implemented, DirtFish taking over media, overseas competitors, and so much more. I’m actually starting to miss the American scene instead of feeling like it’s lacking.
After my 2019 JWRC debut at Wales Rally GB, my plans were to compete in the championship in 2020. Cut to this year, this weekend, and another season is starting...
Thoughts, Feelings, Opinions? AMA. As always, I love the topics of women in motorsports or STEM/F1 in Schools. I may pop in on Clubhouse later to converse while I answer and who the hell knows what else?
Cheers, Keanna x
8:09 EST - I'll be back at 9 to start answering.
12:34 EST - I'm still here! Hopping off for a bit now, but I'll be back on and off throughout the day and answer as much as I can.
5:09 EST - Just about done here for the day. I'll pop back on once more later this evening. Thanks for joining!
What is stage rally? A form of motorsport where crews (driver and co-driver) compete on closed road “stages,” using liaison/road sections or “transits” to travel between the stages. Cars start (usually) every minute. Co-drivers read pace notes during the race, which detail the road ahead for the driver. Pace notes are unique to their drivers. They are an annotated language for all the the corners, straights, and more. The winner of the rally has the lowest cumulative time from all of the stages. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than this. If you want to know more, well, just ask!
What car are you driving for the race today?
Unfortunately am not competing this weekend, but if I was, I'd likely be in some sort of 2WD Fiesta
I appreciate your time Miss. I've always been curious, do co-drivers ever practice driving the car with you reading notes or vice-versa? Would you ever consider yourself "at the ready" for an occasion like that? I'm new to the scene and if this is a common knowledge thing I apologize. Again, I appreciate it!
The old American championship actually allowed drivers and co-drivers to switch positions if they wanted. Personally, I get too much motion sickness to co-drive!
Be honest, do you cut when there is a don’t cut note?
I certainly don't try to cut if it we write "don't," but sometimes cut happens 😂
We use "don't" specifically to eliminate confusion and also to not have the word "cut" floating around. It's like not looking where you don't want to go.
Hey Keanna! I found you on IG after your last AMA and as a woman myself, I absolutely love following your rally adventures! Really hoping to see you at OTR this year. I don’t have a creative question, so I’ll ask- what’s your daily driver? Lol Thanks!
Hi! Thank you! Daily is a 2013 TTRS/1986 4000CS. But I'm normally riding around in a TDI Golf these days. We'll try for NEFR but not likely OTR. With it being moved to the fall, though, who knows?
Why do you think Rally racing is not more popular in the US?
Lack of media coverage, difficult to watch, based in smaller towns, events spread so far out, and also just being overshadowed by things like IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. Even Global/Nitro RallyCross is much easier to watch and televise
I talked to a European rally racer many years ago. He said 100 percent of the navigators get sick during stints. Does this really happen? Second question, ever considered making a move to sports cars? I live in Daytona.
I certainly know co-drivers who haven't experienced sickness. However, the more technical the stages are, and running at night or more extreme conditions increases the likelihood, and American stages are generally pretty fast in comparison to European stages. At the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, it's usually hot and humid, runs at night, has short transits (less getting out of the car), and pretty technical stages, it's not uncommon for more co-drivers to be sick than at other rallies!
I was planning to go to sports cars before rally, but I don't see it happening now. I was doing American Endurance Racing series in their first few years of operation, and PWC or IMSA was the plan for 2016 before I really discovered rallying!
What's your favorite video game, food, and color?
I'm not a big player of video games, but most recently enjoyed Plants vs Zombies
Color depends but possibly blue
I'll have to ponder food!
What age were you when your parents realized you had a talent for racing. What did they do to encourage it?
My dad is the one who made me go to my first driving school, for winter road safety. He was in competitive skiing and didn't care if I wanted to compete or not when it came to driving. I wasn't drawn to it for the competitive (with others) aspect, but more self-competition and the freedom racing allows, in comparison to the learning environment.
Hey I love rally/ WRC and F1. I didn't realise there was a scene in the USA.
How did you get started? Can you describe the experience of being in the driver's seat ? Is it easy to hear the pace notes when they're being read to you by your co driver? What are your views on current safety for vehicles and routes in rally? Do you look up to any other drivers (past or present?)
I got into performance driving by taking a winter driving school. I went back a bunch of times before getting into wheel-to-wheel ice racing, then endurance driving, and finally rally!
For me, it’s very calm/focused feeling behind the wheel.
Hi Keanna - started following your insta after the last AMA. I had asked you about how to introduce my daughter (now 3) to motor sports and so far following your advice. While she’s big into dolls, she also has a suite of race cars she likes playing with. I think in a few years (when she’s 6 or 7) I’ll find a go-kart for her. Any recommendations on brand or features to look out for?
I'm not sure about go-karts, sorry. But a balance bike might be a good investment in the meantime - good for balance and coordination, and bikes are good cross training for cars!
How did you get into rally and what advise would you give for someone who wanted to start, even as a hobby?
Winter driving schools as a teenager > w2w ice racing > endurance racing > rallying
Volunteer! Best way to see it all work. Also work your way up from rallycross and rallysprint (good if you build a car) or do a rally school and rent! Best investment in going fast is pacenote training- working with or doing a tuition with experienced co-drivers.
And doubling down, have you had the chance to rally something electric only? Extreme E seems interesting and with WRC going electric in the future, I'd be curious if you'd had a taste yet.
I haven't. Definitely intrigued by Extreme E and with how the WRC will adapt. My biggest concerns are that, a, rally takes on a shorter-form to cope with charging (Formula E's "endurance" length races require a car switch), and, b, fire safety in the forests (it's a lot easier to have appropriate crews at a single venue/track).
Hello Keanna thanks for doing this Ama. I'm always fascinated how rally is not as popular as other racing sporta. What do you think is the main reason? Here in Argentina, rally is only popular in my region maybe because we are the only part of the country that we have mountains and difficult dirt roads.
Many of the rallies are so spread out across the country that only a few regions have more than one event. Also, with NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA being so big, having set venues, easier to watch, I think it's just been overshadowed. The championship here is on it's way up, getting bigger and better, but it's also nowhere near something like the French championship with good coverage and media relations, proper sponsorship and activation, etc.
What is your process for following pace notes? Also how high of a number do your pace notes go to and do you prefer 1 being called as a fast for we or a slow/tight corner.
Most recently, I’ve used 1-8, with 8 being fastest. I used to do 1-6 with +/- and felt this was actually more consistent for note writing, but something was missing between the 3s and 4s. I’ll still use the +/- on 1-8, but fewer of them than 1-6 system.
I prefer 5L rather than L5. Direction is difficult for me and changing (American standard is direction first) made all the difference!
What do you think about subarus in rally racing and why does my ej motor continue to blow up?
If you had your druthers, what would your dream course be in the US?
It'll never happen, but I'd love to get to compete on some Vermont roads!
I love Olympus and SOFR (Ohio) as existing US rallies.
If you could drive any vehicle, real or fictional, what vehicle would you choose?
I'd love to know what it's like to drive the Alfa 4C!
Danica Patrick has had a heck of a time with misogyny in NASCAR (and before her, Janet Guthrie). What's been your experience in Rally?
The American rally scene has many female competitors (many co-driving). It was such a change from the scene at endurance races at the time. I'd say I haven't faced discrimination, but people still have preconceptions. Things like I must be a co-driver, asking any male person around a question they could have asked me directly, or a new team being unwilling to take advice until they realise we know what we're talking about.
What I see is that people have to earn respect in the sport, male or female. But a great thing I head recently is that women tend to be judged off their qualifications while men are often judged on their potential, and I think that is quite true.
How easy is it to switch driving style between FWD, RWD and AWD? Or do drivers stick to one type before retraining for another?
AWD and FWD are very similar, but one of the most interesting pieces of advice I have received is to drive everything (RWD too) the same way instead of thinking of them as different. Sure, there are some different dynamics and inputs, but it's a matter of a few adjustments instead of a whole style!
What car do you daily drive? Do your friends encourage you to drive fast on back roads? I know I would...
I have a 2013 TTRS and a 1986 4000!
I'm not in a rush when street driving. I have a couple safe places I like to have a bit of fun but otherwise save it for racing
Why is it blowing up in America, and what motorsports are slowly dying?
When driving rally, do you ever get scared? Or thinking about the fact that you are driving a metal can with wheels on a narrow road, really really fast?
I'll credit Barry McKenna as a major reason. I was in the process of finding a new place to live in NYC when he called me up asking if I'd have interest in leasing a proper R2T (I was already trying to figure out how to import one). The new motorsport shop was going to be in my home state, and I decided to move back. Him bringing the R2Ts and R5s as rentals and creating an RC4 cup really established an air of seriousness. For those piloting R2s and R5s overseas, it created an option to come rally here, where rentals were hard to come by, let alone a "proper" car. DirtFish's partnership and the addition of RallySafe this year has also elevated the American series
Not really! The cars are quite safe. If anything, I've wanted not to crash knowing it would kill my budget for the season if I did. Being in the wrong headspace, not connecting to the road, or finding the right rhythm can be mood killers, and its often a feeling like this that is more unsettling than actually going fast!
Favourite rally car you’ve driven so far?
Favourite regular (non-performance) car?
Favourite performance road car?
Favourite type of road car (eg sports car, wagon, truck)
What car (racing or road) would you love to try out?
What’s the stupidest car to rally, yet one that you’d still want to throw at a dirt course?
Favourite automotive YouTube channel? Or what’s your favourite car-related media (TV show, movies, etc)?
I think the Fiesta R2T (2018) has been my top choice of rally car that I've driven.
I'm just going to tell you non-specifically some cars that I like because it's hard to choose favourites! I love both my road cars 2013 TTRS and 1986 4000 CS. Older cars that I don't own but love are the original Bronco, FJ40, VW Thing, Scout. The new Bronco is cool too. I prefer to drive something on the small side on the road. I think it would be fun to rally an RS3 or TTRS if I had the budget!
Lately, RadVentures! (Shameless plug for my friend, Ryan, and my 4000 gets an appearance)
What's your favorite gas station snack?.
Here in Vermont/Maine, a maple whoopie pie from Steve's!
Rally drivers have the hugest balls, as a woman where do you keep yours? (Seriously you guys/gals are crazy!)
I'll refer to my friend, Shea, who coined #SteelOvaryNation
My time in university prompts me to say that in fetal development, it takes about 7 weeks before ovaries / testes differentiate
Hello, Ms. Erickson-Chang!
Do you think a RWD car would be competitive these days? Let's imagine we have three cars which are completely identical except for the drivetrain type (RWD, AWD, FWD). My stepfather (who is a very experienced driver and mechanic) is convinced that a RWD car is quicker under any circumstances and I have always failed to prove him otherwise. What is your opinion on his point?
Thank you for the AMA!
Absolutely. There are a few drivers doing amazingly in the 2WD classes in RWD cars here in the USA. On certain technical rallies, they seem to have more of an advantage
What’s the average speed you drive in a race and how much do you reduce it when in a bend ?
I'd say somewhere around 60 mph for an average. Top speed in my rally car was about 106/7, not sure about in the R2s. On most stages, top speed would be 80s/90s and you could be bringing it down to under 40 for tighter stuff. All depends on the road!
Have you raced with Ken Block?
We've competed at many of the same events in different classes. He's also been kind enough to have me as a guest at WRC Spain.
3 questions if I could get away with it.
1) What got you interested in racing?
2) There are multiple kinds of auto racing, what made you point to Rally and say "This is for me?)
3) If you were literally in a food fight to the death? What food would you choose as your weapon?
Racing was a way to have more freedom in performance driving (stepping outside a classroom environment and challenging myself).
Competing in w2w ice racing and endurance racing first meant I'd already tried a couple different things, and rally reminded me of why I fell in love with driving (car control!), and had different levels of competition beyond the small ice racing series I was already doing.
Does it have to be in a prepared food state?
What’s your take on the Russell - Bottas crash?
A mistake. A costly mistake, but a mistake. I don't think anybody was really in the wrong. Having done my fair share of w2w racing, people have different expectations with passing maneuvers and sometimes the decision you make isn't the best option. It's easy to say after the fact, "Oh, that was kind of stupid of me." Russell is young, and it's a good teaching moment in his career, but you also need to consider just how quickly he was closing on Bottas in the moment.
Disclosure: I'm follow F1 but am not an avid watcher. So this is my 2 cents based just on what I've seen.
Hey keena, why did you decide to take a break from rallying for awhile?
It wasn't much of a decision... Between Covid 19 and a limited budget, it is what it is!
Would an AWD Lexus GS or IS make a good rally car?
Not sure about AWD, but Michael Hooper campaigns an IS350 here and does amazingly well!
Are you still in School? STEM major?
It's funny to see comments about rallies.
I competed on West Coast events in the 1970s. For a while, I was working, building rally cars, and going to school. Crazy times, no sleep! I had a blast in Static/Dynamics as mass, spring rate, dampening all made sense!
Olympus: Dry weather, loved those rods. Wet rainy, that stuff was slicker than snot. One year everyone slid off the road. A friend from California Rally Series took first. Ron was the slowest driver of the group but never slide nor went off the road. Motored on taking first.
Keep the shiny side up; if you haven't rolled, you aren't trying hard enough!
I haven't finished - was going for social sciences with a double major + minor: econ, psych with a genetics focus, and con law! I was lead judge for 4x4 in Schools USA and a big part of administering the NE/National F1 in Schools competition, which drives the STEM passion. Olympus is a blast! I've rolled once in rallying and on another occasion prior in an MX5 Cup car. The rally crash was far less worse.
How expensive was it to get into the sport?
Do you do any type of sim racing?
I have 2 daughters and a sim racing setup. They are too young right now to do it on their own, but they like steering and crashing the virtual cars. I might get them a go kart when they are old enough.
It was about 50K to buy a (new) Fiesta and build it into a rally car. You could buy a car for half this, or less, but could also inherit its problems. I had a sponsor who made it possible to save a lot on my safety gear and also crowdfunded my build, so it personally cost me a lot less than that. I also specifically wanted to start with a specific car and class, so options were limited in terms of purchasing. Per event, we also hired Team O'Neil to service, transport, maintain my car in the first year and then had the travel costs and entry fees.
I do have a setup, but I'm pretty shit with the sim. I'm a real "feeling" driver and have had a difficult time separating that.
Any insight into the personalities of some of the WRC drivers?
Edit: I ask because rally drivers just seem so much more like Norma people who love racing that other types of motorsport.
I can think of one driver who was miserable to watch on their end stage interviews, who was super cheeky and playful in the media zone, which is just a much more relaxed situation. Some drivers are simply misunderstood. Tensions/emotions are running quite high during a lot of the interviews, and speaking from experience, it can be really difficult to say anything coming off a stage.
Everyone is happy and grateful to have their drives and certainly love rally!
Hi there! Thank you for this AMA. I love watching rally's and try to get somewhat okay in Dirt 2.0 Rally, but not much luck so far, haha
Back on topic though: you mentioned stem / F1 and women in motorsports are interesting themes for you.
I was wondering how old you where when you decided you wanted to get into motorsport, and also what kind of reactions you got. Where they positive? Negative? And do you notice people treating you different in the sport because of your gender?
Also, what do you think is the primary reason we don't see more women in motorsports? Is it because its seen as something just for men, or are there other factors at play?
Thank you in advance for your time, and thank you for being an inspiration :)
I was 16 when I was first introduced, about 18 when I started competing. Generally, people have been quite open. At one ice race, I went into town and almost wasn't let back in because they didn't believe I was racing! I talked more about this here!
I think that a lot of girls still don't see it as an option. A lot of women and girls I know in the sport were introduced to it through their families! So increasing the visibility of girls and women who are competing in motorsport is important, as well as including things like motorsport athletes, and not just Olympic and ball sports, in coverage for female athletes
Second question if you’ll allow it:
Being a sport with some of the most dramatic crashes in motorsport coupled with the possibility of it happening in isolated parts of a stage, can you tell us a bit about your most worrying mishaps/accidents?
We are each others' first responders. I'd love to see a req for medical training/first on scene. The WRC has a great FOS course. I like to think about to this way (changing now that RallySafe has entered the scene). You're 10 miles into a 20 mile stage and go off. Next car is 1-2 minutes behind (provided they haven't run dust windows. They stop, assist, wait for next car. Next car stops, gathers info, proceeds to radio point. It's likely at least 10 minutes has passed before they reach stage via radio start to stop sending cars and send assistance. How long does it take a vehicle going 30mph to travel 10 miles? If it's ambulance and not med sweep, it's probably going 15-20mph. Then transport out, meet ambulance/medivac if needed, etc.
We were running 2 min dust windows when we barely saw and stopped for a car that was 4 spots ahead of us on the road. That's 8 minutes elapsed.
When I crashed at LSPR, we were blocking the stage and trapped in the car. Luckily, it was night and the car behind noticed our headlights and slowed.
Excited to have RallySafe in the USA now!
Have you watched any of the Extreme E races? What do you think about the male / female drivers teams? Do you think this is a good way to bring more female drivers onto the international stage?
I think it's a great format that really puts the drivers on an equal playing field, although I have also heard rumours that not all of the teams got drivers they actually wanted in favour of higher profile drivers - this is extremely problematic if true. As a new series, I understand the appeal of this to help get it off the ground, but it's disappointing to think some drivers missed out on a career defining drive.
I know there were requests from some to do a draw for who competes on first/second lap because most teams put their male drivers up first in Al 'Ula - I think it's a fab idea that will make it more interesting.
I was disappointed in viewing options! I know it's better for a new series to have the TV broadcast, but I'd have liked to watch it live instead of seeing all the drama on social media before broadcast.
Did you go to a racing school like Dirt Fish, or some place similar?
I did Team O'Neil for fun before getting into rallying (and was originally introduced to performance driving there, albeit a privately winter driving school), and also repeated the 4/5 day a few times later on as more of rally training.
How many races have you won? How much prize money have you earned?
Somewhere around 20 podiums, 5 wins? As far as prize money, contingency, starting bonuses.... a lot less than I've put into it! I've mentioned elsewhere on the thread about how it's all funded if you're interested in that.
Now that rally us expanding, are there specific venues/clubs in the U.S. you would recommend for spectators?
Right now, with the current coronavirus situation, many rallies are operating without spectators. Portland Int'l Raceway is typically a cool place to attend during OTR,
Do you think motorsports will ever be part of the Olympics?
Nope! I believe Olympic sports must be "human powered"
Like someone else asked, how do you afford to rally? Where does the budget come from to build the car and get spare parts, etc. Does everyone on the team chip in? Is it mostly from sponsors?
In general, the money in rally is from sponsorship. There isn't any real prize money in USA rally (aside from the newish RC4 cup, privately funded). There are contingency programs that pay drivers who are using their products based on finishing position. Sometimes we also have our own prize funds in 2WD where competitors pay a fee to enter and can put more money or prizes on the line as well. I've been fortunate enough to have support from a family business in addition to having sponsors before starting in rallying (from other results with ice racing and autocross). I've also taken advantage of some programs out there, such as the Clio R3T Trophy, where I was able to enter for free and get starting bonuses. On the grassroots level, you will see teams splitting the budget, but typically, co-drivers have their expenses covered or are paid. It depends on how competitive the market is and how much experience they have. They'll often share costs or cover their own expenses at the start because they're either rallying with a friend or trying to get their feet wet and offering a favourable deal.
I'm just curious if you've heard of anyone catching ken block staring longingly at a picture of a Subaru, like Logan stares in his meme.. given how block went back to subaru immediately after his ford contact ended.
Ha. I think it was probably a financially sustainable way for him to return to American rally. He also had lots of people coming from overseas to administer his program.
Is there a place for Group B-style classes today? With the virtually unlimited development?
My opinion is that the magic lost with the disappearance of Group B has a lot to do with safety. Modern WRC cars are much faster, much safer, and less brutish. The sport wouldn't exist if we still had spectators watching in the stage and crews driving death traps. Of course, Group B was amazing, but it's been left in its time and the modern machinery is already so much 'more'! Some drivers who were around then think today's equipment is absurd.
How do ya like the Croatian routes? A few of my mates who used to participate in a local rally competition said it's a bit too risky for them to even dare to try.
Rovanpera's crash shows these people are more than willing to risk it, but how much is too much?
I think it's a cool event! I like to see the WRC going to new places and mixing it up, it makes it more fair to drivers who haven't done an event multiple times. And a rough event is a good test to see who can adapt and plays a smart game with the tyres.
Hopefully. Aiming for NEFR this year and we'll see what else. Unfortunately not much in terms of funding. I love SOFR (Ohio) and also Olympus!
Would you change anything about the design of race suits?
There are a lot of great options today for women, particularly with custom options, but sometimes the allocation of fabric is a bit 'off' still. A chest measurement will have more fabric for the shoulders/back instead of in the front, for example.
One more for the road: Best triple caution or rallying feature in any of your competitions so far?
There was a short little stage at LSPR a few years ago that we got to run twice at the start. The entire thing was basically straightforward crests and jumps and it was a blast
What is/has been your favorite stage do drive?
I love Southern Loop at 100 Acre, Wildcat at Olympus, Sturtevant at NEFR, Arvon-Silver at LSPR... Lots of the rough "car breaker" stages that are technical and lack a nice flow haha
Do you have a favorite past race on YouTube or another place to watch?
I'm not much into watching racing on a screen - but Lime Rock and WGI have historically been places I'll go to watch racing!
Loeb or Ogier?
Not sure I have a favorite between the two, but how about Loeb's win at Spain during his return? Great moment.
What rally car would you like to drive thats from the past.
A Delta Integrale would be cool
Vermont native? Have you had any interest from Vermont Sportscar or asked if they'd be interested in your racing a 4wd limited car? I know they built one a while back but I'm not sure if they still have it.
I know they'll do customer builds, but I'm holding off on the 4WD thing for a bit longer!
I know that I'm really late to this AMA but what is your dream race? What's our ultimate goal in racing?
I'd love to compete at Whangarei in NZ and Azores! I always wanted to do JWRC, but beyond that, just keep rallying because I enjoy it
Going to be racing in SOFR this? About 20 minutes from where I live and I've never heard of it, sounds like fun.
Not likely for me this year, but hopefully next time!
Why do you feel the need to announce your gender before any other information about your career?
It's relevant to the conversation I wanted to have
How much money does being a rally driver pay?
What do you think about Rally Turkey?
It looks pretty neat. Definitely a tough one with how rocky it is!
Hey Keanna! Are there currently any female/minority empowerment efforts in rallying to get folks from those groups into this form of motorsport, that you know of?
There isn't much going on in American rallying at the moment, but I'm trying to change that. Overall, the FIA's WIM program is a great international resource, and Shift Up Now is doing a lot of work in America. There are some good minority efforts in other areas of the sport. I'm working on changing that and sitting on a diversity panel under ACCUS (USA's national sporting authority) and have some ideas in the pipeline. Always up to listen to ideas!
What are the barriers you see for women and minorities in racing and what are your recommendations to overcome them?
Hey, I've answered bits of this elsewhere on the thread, so feel free to have a read. I think a lot of it boils down to visibility. Seeing somebody who looks like you simply resonates more with kids. From some other people, I've also heard culture as a big reason - racing simply not being a part of it growing up. Outside of sponsorships and coverage, programs to introduce kids to the sport and breaking down barriers of continuation (ladder programs, rookie/junior programs, etc), are good ways to help create sustainable careers.
Do you follow F1 at all? Is it just me, or does Max Verstappen seem like the douchiest person alive?
Follow it a bit, but hardly ever watch anymore