Playing in the dirt – Dirtfish Rally School

Because of my good luck and an even better fiancée, I was afforded the opportunity to try my hand in the world of rally racing.

It was an early morning as I was to be in snoqualmie at 8 am to start my class. When I arrived, I was greeted by some of the rally worlds most iconic 4 wheeled stars.

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Here we have Colin McRae’s early 2000s ford focus, a classic ford escort, and Richard Burns gc8 impreza.

After we had all checked in and signed away our potential well being and lives, we were brought into a class room to be instructed on what exactly we were to learn today. A quick power point presentation and white board drawing trying to help me comprehend weight shifting, oversteer/understeer and braking points and I was confused enough for me to pretend to understand what they said and convince them that I should try to race around in one of their rally cars.

Our chariots would be the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. A light rally prep with a roll cage, 5 point harnesses and an expensive rally suspension setup. The engines are stout enough making 305 horsepower. And they come in this dashing shade of orange.

Step 1 was the skid pad. We were told to drive around in a circle, hit the gas a little, then let off. The rear of the car would slide out. Then add a little speed, feel the rear slide out again but this time hit the brakes with your left foot. It causes the rear of the car to slide a little faster which helps rotate the car in tighter corners.
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Learning the left foot breaking stuff would come in handy later on when we were unleashed upon the slalom course. There was a succession of cones in a straight line and we were to steer around them practicing our turning using the technique we learned on the skid pad. Accelerate, lift, turn in and feel the rear of the car slide out. When the car was pointing in the right direction, give it a little gas to accelerate towards the next cone. Rinse and repeat. It was actually a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Soon we were told to add a little more speed and use the left foot breaking technique to get the car to rotate a little faster.

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After a while I got pretty comfortable and started to try to add speed more and more. It was really fun getting the back of the car to slide out and squeeze on the gas toward the next cone, but I can’t say (neither can my instructor) that I was really good at it. My favorite part of this exercise came after a few laps. They let us use the exit of the course as a tight 90 degree corner. We were told to come in with a little extra speed towards the corner, hit the brakes to slow and then rotate the car in and apply the brake again to rotate the car hard. After a few tries I felt like I was getting it.

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Of course the wet weather didn’t help much for keeping the cars clean, but the real issue became when parts of the course would get too soggy and the cars would bog into the wet ground and start to create ruts. It would have been nicer to have a more consistent course, but I’ll take what I can get to have this much fun.

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When they say smile, do it fast, otherwise you get half of a smile in.

The last part of the day was on a small course that let us practice the skills we learned. The course had a few tight hairpins and the back “straight” which was really a long sweeping corner that got you near the top of second.

Sliding a car around at speed……..is exactly as fun as it sounds.

I seriously recommend this to anyone who has the means to do it. Even if you’ve never driven a car in anger, the staff can eek out just enough skill from you to make sure you have fun.

I am seriously considering taking the 2 day course if I can somehow find the money, it’s just too much fun and I want to do it again.

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Visit to Van City – Sounders away match and more

The Sounders rivalry with the Whitecaps reaches back to 1974 when they both joined the NASL, and through the years they have faced each other on and off through many other leagues as soccer struggled to establish itself in North America. Well, we are now into year 4 of the Sounders FC, and the second year of the Whitecaps joining the MLS.

Yesterday proved that both northwest teams are no longer struggling for relevance, but for dominance in the top heavy Western Conference.

On this trip, Crystal and I were joined by my good friends Dan and Dan (aka Dlee, as he was the second of the two Dans I met) in the Sounders away section. We stood with the ECS which had a very strong showing at 800 strong (not including those who made their way into other sections of the stadium wearing rave green).

The conclusion of our 3 hour car ride north had us at Pivo Public House just a few blocks from BC Place. Our plan was to arrive before 11:45am to watch the Chelsea v. Bayern Munich Champions League Final. We spent the first half at the pub enjoying the food. I suggest the triple fries and the chicken sliders.
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At half time we made our way to the stadium to take our seats, as the stadium was also showing the final. We watched the end of regular time on the gigantic screens hanging over the field, but unfortunately didn’t get to see the conclusion as it ran into the start of the game.
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Our 800 strong in the corner of the stadium.

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The game ended in a dramatic 2-2 draw, with Fredy Montero scoring in the final minute of regular time on a curling effort past the flat footed keeper. From our angle in the corner on the opposite side of the stadium we couldn’t actually tell if the ball went it right away, so there was a half second delay between the goal and the supporters erupting in celebration. The way the keeper stood there staring at the ball without even trying for it had me convinced that the ball went wide and had hit the outside of the side net. What a way to end a game against your local rivals.

As it was only a day trip, we explored a few nearby neighborhoods and ended up in Chinatown. I’ve never been able to make it there in the past, so it was a pretty cool experience. We first went to a little bakery which had both Chinese and Filipino pastries and bought ourselves a few snacks. Then we went to a nearby park to enjoy our sweets.
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Crystal showing off her almond cookie.
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We also stopped by a macaroon shop to visit with Dlee’s cousin. She hooked us up with the goods.
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The drive back involved lengthy conversation about politics, religon, The Avengers, comics, my hatred for Avatar, and other lovely things while Crystal tried (unsuccessfully) to sleep.

All in all, a very successful trip and successful Saturday. Something to look forward to is another trip as there is another away game to Vancouver in September….