Hi Sean, I've been rally racing for quite sometime and consider myself an accomplished driver in the sport. I've done everything there is to do in the sport from competitor to organizer of championships and individual events. First you should let us know what country you are in. I'm going to assume you are in the US and give you the USA information. The principal is essentially the same.
1. Volunteer at an event
2. Start in low speed competition such as TSD rallies and SCCA Rallycross
3. Assemble a team and purchase an inexpensive set up.
4. Start Racing.
This is the best way to get your feet wet. It's important to understand how time controls work. Rally is made up of three equally as important components (1.Surviving attrition 2. Navigation 3. Speed). When you volunteer you can get a good sense of all three. There are two sanctioning bodies in the USA that deal with Stage Rallies in particular. They are www.nasarallysport.com and www.rally-america.com. Go to those sites and pick out the closest event to you using their calendar. Most events have their own website and links to volunteer instructions. If you can't volunteer, show up and spectate from a time control
2. Low Speed Competition:
It's good to learn the fundamentals of the sport with limited risk involved. TSD Rallies (road rallies or Time Speed Distance) are really a strict navigation game. There is some skilled driving involved but not much. TSD rallies are good for getting you use to a co-driver in the car barking orders at you. It should in theory establish the expectations of both persons and eliminate any potential powers struggles you may have with your Co-driver in the future (dads make great co-drivers). TSD rallies are also key to the fundamental understanding of basic rally navigation. Consider that TSD rallies are simply Stage Rally transits. We use TSD stuff to transit from stage to stage. If you cant figure that out, you'll never get on stage to race it. Most TSD come with a set of course notes and tulips. Again, fundamentals of rally navigation.
The second low speed development is SCCA Rallycross racing (not to be confused with Global Rallycross or European Rallycross). SCCA Rallycross is fairly inexpensive. Most retired Stage drivers end up in rallycross so it may provide a wealth of information for you. Rallycross competition will get you use to driving in adverse conditions. A rally school may be an option in the future should you wish to sharpen your skills but it's no necessary. Look up your regional chapter at www.scca.org.
3. Assemble a Team and get some gear.
There is a massive learning curve involved with rally racing. It's not a matter of "If" you'll crash but rather "When". So make sure that you can recover financially from your first crash out on stage. That means buying a cheap Group 2 car to start with. Be sure to read the rule book cover to cover both Rally America and Nasa Rally Sport rule books are available online. Actually, you can start to read those books when you're done with my post.
Crew is easy to find. There are plenty of people out there who want to participate in the sport. You'll need a Co-driver, Crew Cheif and one logistic expert which can be yourself.
You can look for used gear and vehicles at these sites:
and of course EBAY. BE SURE TO READ THOSE RULE BOOKS FIRST!!!!!!
4. Once you've gotten a good idea of what you need, jump right in. Don't worry about winning your first race because I guarantee that you won't. So just get use to the sport and your co-driver. You first goal should be finishing your race. I didn't finish a race until my fifth attempt.
Well good luck out there. Maybe we'll see you out there.