September 28, 2020

Listening to the net....

Listening to the net....

When attending a rally race, you travel all around the countryside and there's usually no cell coverage for internet access, so it's hard to get a good idea of what's going on.  What if there was a way to know what was really happening?

TLDR: Get a Ham Radio and then listen to Net Control, which controls EVERYTHING happening in a rally.  You don't even need a license to listen. Wear a cowboy hat and you'll get to be cool and look like this:

You'll hear all the details, and it's all free:

  • Control crews as they setup and time the rally cars
  • Zero cars checking each stage
  • Notification when the first competitor car starts and finishes the stage
  • Notification when Sweep runs through the stage after competition

What you need:

Here's what you need - an inexpensive BaoFeng 2-meter radio, such as the BF-F8HP model. There are cheaper ones available (beware of fakes) but this one works for me, since it comes with a larger battery, a better antenna, and a "concierge" service if you can't figure it out.  Just make sure whatever you buy can handle 2 meter frequencies (VHF: 136-174 MHz).

That includes everything you need: radio, antenna, battery, charger, even a manual, and more.

Before you go:

  • Look up the frequencies that the net will use on the rally's website - it will look something like this:
146.76 MHz Offset - PL Tone 88.5
  • You just need the 146.76 part to listen and ignore the rest
  • Read your radio's manual to set the frequencies - if you got the BF-F8HP, see my cheat sheet for how to quickly set just the frequency
  • Charge your radio before going out to the stages - the battery will last for a day or so
  • Keep in mind you cannot legally transmit unless you get an Amateur Radio License - it's not hard,  just don't do it until you get the license
  • Be aware there is currently one rally that uses commerical radios instead of ham radios - you won't be able to listen to that rally's Net Control

Want to know more on radios at rallies?

Here are some links:

Ham Radio Is For Rally, Not Sandwiches
As rally competitors slip, slide, and fly down the stages, there’s an etherial presence watching over them, making sure everyone completes the stage safely, and sending help if they don’t. These creatures aren’t angels, spirits, or the Great Green Arkleseizure, but amateur radio operators keeping an…
Sno*Drift Rally - Spectators
The Sno*Drift Rally is the premier snow rally in the American Rally Association series. The Sno*Drift stage rally his held in Atlanta, Michigan, USA annually on the last weekend of January.
New England Forest Rally Ham Radio

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