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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