Earlier this week, I got out to Dirtfish Rally School to play in the dirt all day long. From the classroom session, rally is “real cars on real roads.” Dirt roads, and occasionally paved, are closed for big segments called stages. Teams—a driver and co-driver—are launched at reasonable intervals and attempt to finish the stage as quickly as possible. When finished you move on—or transit—to the next stage.
We were going to Seattle to see family and saw Dirtfish on the SCCA site. I didn’t go into the school looking to start a career in rally racing. Just looking to sample a different discipline to improve as a driver overall. My “rally experience” before this was a couple of sandy, rallycrosses put on by the local club back home.
There’s a lot to unpack for sure and, let’s face it, this is just a big caption for the photos and videos. Here’s how the day went:
Handling: A quick introduction to your instructor and the car on a short oval.
Slalom: A nice big slalom with an entertaining 90° at the end.
The Boneyard: A short course with a good variety of turns and a nice little back straight.
The Link: Connect The Boneyard to the Slalom
Most courses ran as an out and back—all five cars run out, wait for everyone to complete their pass and then return, running those elements the opposite direction.
The Link—connecting The Boneyard and The Slalom with a nice big sweeper between them was the highlight. Two sessions running here, with things really coming together on my last session. A proper pendulum turn is a riot.
Some quick takeaways:
Looking ahead remains key in all things.
Smooth hands always help.
Don’t look in the mirror to see if you picked up the stick.
Do more of this. Much. Much. More.
And now a word about left-foot braking.
Traditionally, when the subject of left-foot braking comes up, my initial response is: The only thing dumber than my right foot, is my left foot. My left foot is useless. I could probably engage a clutch with a peg.
At Dirtfish, they fully expect you to left-foot brake. It went better than I expected. Mostly because they pulled the factory brake boost out so the pedal took a lot of pressure and had minimal throw. All of that also contributed to not over braking for elements.
It was a great day and I'll be looking for more oppportunties to play in the dirt.
Thanks to the Dirtfish staff for a great day. Special thanks to Andrew for the classroom work, Mitch for the in-car instruction, and Joshua for the photos.