My first time wheeling a race car and rallying at DirtFish!
When I started Track Attack’s Women in Racing blog, I had the opportunity to interviewing multiple women drivers. One of the questions I would always ask is “what do you love about driving?”. Although the women’s answers varied, the common thread was that they all loved “the thrill of driving- of getting the car to move where you want it to, is like no other feeling”. I was struck by their amazing stories of perseverance and dedication. I could feel their undeniable passion oozing through the phone. It was around the second or third interview that I committed to at least getting out at the track this season.
For my birthday I enrolled in my first driving class at DirtFish, a rally driving school located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range in Snoqualmie, WA. Established in 2010, the DirtFish property is located on an old lumber Mill, making it the perfect landscape to experience driving on rugged terrain. The ½ day class was organized into three blocks:
- Classroom instruction
- Learning by being in the passenger seat
- Actual driving with an instructor
In the classroom we learned the rally basics, including learning how to maneuver the weight of the car, to position the car to take the corners fast. The sequence we learned was ‘lift-turn-wait’ to control the car and position it for corners. Rally driving, also known as rallying or stage rally, is a motorsport where a driver and a navigator race down dirt, gravel and sometimes asphalt roads, one car at a time, as fast as they can, in a variety of conditions. Rather than racing against other cars, wheel to wheel, teams race against the clock. The stages for a rally can be anywhere from 5 to 20 miles.
After the classroom instruction, we were taken to the course, to experience the driving portion. To learn from the instructor we were paired with an instructor and took a couple of laps in the passenger seat. Thankfully I was paired with experienced DirtFish instructor, Ted Anthony Jr. Throughout his racing career, Ted has won a championship, and dozens of races and poles. With over the 7 years of instructing, I knew I was in good hands. Watching Ted maneuver the car helped to reinforce the classroom instruction.
When my turn came to drive, I was feeling slightly nervous because I was worried about remembering the instruction I just learned. Rally driving goes against what you have been taught about driving, such as keeping the car steady and in control. Ted was encouraging me to fight those old habits of slow/steady to speed up in the straight-aways. My first run wasn’t very graceful, but at the end I felt a lot more comfortable.
We then made our way to the "Bone Yard", a larger course at Dirt Fish. After honing the practice of lift-turn-brake, the biggest obstacle I had to learn was being patient to allow the car to help maneuver it to take the corner quickly. Towards the end of my 3rd run I could feel my confidence growing. In addition to being more comfortable with higher speed, I knew I was getting the timing down when I heard Ted cheering. It was a blast to experience the rush of driving.
he last part of the day was experiencing the "hot-seat", where the instructors take students on a "eight-tenths" drive around DirtFish. While I was driving between 40-45mph, during the hot-seat ride, Ted was driving between 60-65mph! What a rush! It’s amazing how well you can maneuver a car, when you learn the skills of rallying. Check out the video!
I had a blast at DirtFish and highly recommend it to anyone looking to experience rally driving.