Toby goes off-road rallying and tells us what it’s like!
Driving a rally car is one of those things I had never thought about trying. My sister had other ideas for me. We are twins, and she is always buying me awesome presents when our birthday rolls around each year. On my 26th birthday, she had outdone herself again. I was given a card, inside of which was a RedBalloon voucher for a Turbo Rally Driving Taster.
After booking the date, I was eager to get out to Colo Heights and have a go. Upon arrival, I opened my car door to get out and straight away could hear the sound of rally cars tearing it up, along with seeing dust rise above the tree lines. I walked from the car park towards the meeting point beside the track, and immediately had a smile from ear to ear. Watching the group before me, and listening to the participants excitedly describe their day, I began to get a better idea of what I was in for.
After signing up, trying on a helmet and overalls, it was time for a briefing. The relevant information was conveyed quickly, and before I knew it the first of our group was getting in to a WRX and setting off on their drive. I was one of the last to go so I had spent the time watching other drivers, and getting more and more excited.
My name was called, and it was on! I was strapped in to the drivers seat, shook the hand of my instructor, and he too was excited for me. Clearly people like that enjoy their job, and why wouldn’t they!
My first lap was a lot more intense than I had expected. The instructor wasted no time in getting me up to the fastest speed I could handle, and was using the intercom system to direct me through every gear change, every brake point, every turn, and telling me to floor it a lot more than you’d think a novice would be asked to.
After 3 laps, I felt like I had been driving for hours. It was a very quick learning experience, and I still had 3 laps to go! Driving so close to trees was a daunting thought, but the instructors assured us before starting that the best way to hold a straight line along them, is to speed! With the back of the car drifting a little from side to side, it takes trust to ensure putting your foot down is the right thing to do. Every corner I approached felt like it was immediately upon me, but the instruction to brake came a lot later than I thought it would. The instructors certainly want you to get the most out of every part of the track. Each time we revisited a corner, I braked later, and slid around them more and more. You truly feel like a rally driver when coming out of those corners sideways and straightening up to tear along the straights.
Those final 3 laps flew by, and before I knew it we were coming to stop, and I think I took a breath for the first time in a while. It was an incredible experience.
Just when I thought my day was over, I remembered I also had a hot lap to endure. I was one of the last to drive, so I did my hot lap immediately. Getting in the passenger seat, I told the driver to “show me how the pros do it”. If I had any doubt about leaving my braking too late, it was quashed when I saw how the real drivers do it. They are almost in the corners before they hit the brakes, shifting the weight of the car forwards, so the lighter back end can be thrown around as they slide through the corner, before accelerating out of them with perfect timing. These truly were awesome drivers! My lap came to an end, and I thanked the driver again and again, having just had one of the most enjoyable experiences I had ever had.
Back amongst the group I listened to others tell of their days, and it was clear that everyone had been thrilled by it all, as much as I had. I was given a USB stick with footage of my drives, ate some food and had some drink, and got back to reality by getting into my non-rally car, and driving back home.
Rally driving is certainly a thrilling adventure. I don’t think my heart rate slowed until I was halfway home, and I think my fianc├ę heard the same story quite a few times over the next weeks.
I wanna go again!