Now, I may not be the biggest rev-head and on the road I’m all about safety, but I’ve always wanted to get a little bit fast and furious – in a controlled and unlikely-to-die type environment of course. That opportunity finally arose in the form of a gift voucher for a 16-lap experience (plus hot lap) with Rally School Sydney up in Colo Heights. All those years of driving a manual paid off since three pedals is a requirement for a rally car and honestly, it makes all the difference in rallying if you’re confident with a stick-shift.
When I first arrived, I had the chance to catch some of the last laps of the group before mine and boy did it bring in the nerves. That feeling didn’t really go away until the end of the experience, but there’s definitely something exciting about adrenaline coursing through your veins even though you know you’re in a relatively controlled environment. You may have an instructor, but they have zero control over the car so it’s better to listen to their advice if you don’t want to die – or worse, get kicked off the course.
For my experience, I would be testing out two different cars with the first being a Toyota 86 (a rear-wheel drive for extra slide) and the second being the Subaru WRX which was a bit speedier since it was an all-wheel drive. Just as all skills go, my first lap must have felt tediously slow for my instructor, but I was soon gaining speed every corner I mastered (I use this term loosely) and at one point I had to pull over to the side because I was gaining on one of the other cars. There were a few moments of panic during my first run as I almost spun out on one of the last bends, but I managed to level it out and gun it back down the straight – that rush of adrenaline which hits you as you brake just before you turn the corner is really something.
Once I was ready for my second run, my confidence was already rising and the space between the accelerator and the floor kept moving closer on each turn; but like my instructor said, “you don’t have time to look at your speed”. I definitely preferred the feel of the WRX rather than the Toyota 86 since I didn’t feel like I was going to spin out on half the corners and it was far easier to gain speed after each turn. It was amusing to see random traffic cones that had been hit and then trying to dodge them once you’ve come out blind after a corner – mind you, none of those were my fault at least.
After polishing my skills during the few laps I had, it was time to move into the passenger seat and let the professional rally driver take the wheel and show me how it’s done. It’s hard to beat years of experience when you’ve only driven a rally car for an hour that day and it showed. Every straight road was pedal to the metal, all the corners were smoother and the bumps in the road were just a part of the scenery. This entire hot lap was almost like a roller coaster; and I was whooping and hollering the whole way.
Definitely an experience to remember, the most difficult part was the two-hour ride home where I had to drive like a normal person and follow the road rules – rallying definitely give you that need for speed. Even if you’re not much of a car person, it’s easy to have a good time on the track and for those who don’t want to take the front seat, they offer hot laps for the friends and family members of the adrenaline junkies for a small price.