stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
How rally school can make you a better winter driver
space
Training programs teach those behind the wheel how to handle dirt and gravel surfaces - and what to do when you inevitably skid
space
By BRENDAN MCALEER
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, January 5, 2018 – Page D1

SEATTLE -- To perform a pendulum turn, also known as the Scandinavian flick, first, turn the car sharply in the opposite direction of where you want to go, loading the suspension up, then snap the steering wheel back and lift off the throttle for a glorious tail-out slide through the corner. Additional helpful tip: Do not do this in front of an RCMP officer. No, not even a Finnish-Canadian one.

Instead, head to DirtFish rally school, a halfhour or so east of Seattle, and indulge in all the legal sideways shenanigans your inner Stig Blomqvist can handle. Sprawled across 315 acres, DirtFish's gravel campus extends from wide, safe skid pads for early practising to narrow roads threading the needle between the trees.

If Santa's been good to you this year, you'll already have a pass for one of their comprehensive courses stuffed in your stocking. There are several levels available, from a half-day thrill ride on dirt to the three-day courses where you actually come away having learned something. Pick from either all-wheel-drive Subaru STIs or rear-drive BRZs and get ready to slide, slide, slide! Besides being so addictive it makes heroin look like kale, rally school is a great gateway into one of the more accessible motorsports out there. Time-speed-distance rallies are held by numerous clubs across the country and you don't need a racing machine to run one, as they're done at legal speeds on dirt roads. There's also rallycross, which is basically goin' out fer a rip in a big gravel lot. And volunteering at a professional-level rally means joining a welcoming community.

Best of all, learning to drive on loose, shifting surfaces at speed is one of the best ways to hone your skills as a winter driver. Yes, we'll have to tuck the Scandinavian flick back in the toolbox once we leave school for public roads, but understanding rally-style driving will make you safer behind the wheel.

VISION

As is harped on at every driving school, look where you want to go and you'll probably end up there. Human beings are instinctually visual creatures, so our hands follow our eyes.

Learning to keep your eyes up and looking ahead sounds like the most basic advice in the world. However, get in heavy traffic and the herd mentality tends to kick in. Your rally instructor will tell you not to miss the forest for the trees - that is, don't look straight at a particular tree or you'll develop target fixation and probably drive right into it.

The same is true on the street.

If you've got your eyes up and looking ahead, you'll catch everything from sudden slowdowns in traffic to a drift across the road that might trip you up.

Further, if your car does start to slip, looking where you want to end up will have your hands naturally steering into the skid.

WEIGHT TRANSFER

One of the hardest lessons to learn in gravel driving is that the steering wheel doesn't turn the car, the brake pedal does. More so than in high-performance tarmac driving, rally really hammers home the need for smooth, yet decisive, action.

The best way to quickly visualize weight transfer is to grab a half-full bottle of water and lay it on its side. Tilt it forward and you'll notice how the water sloshes to the front; tilt it back and you'll see how the balance of weight now goes to the rear.

Go into a gravel corner under throttle, with weight transferring rearward, and your steering wheel will do absolutely nothing (oh, hello Mr. Tree. Ow). DirtFish teaches the mantra of lift, turn, brake for gravel work, but when street conditions are poor, we can shorten this to a simple lift, then turn.

All-wheel-drive is great, but even the torque-vectoring systems aren't magic. You'll want to be doing your heavy braking and acceleration in a straight line and making sure there's a bit of weight on the front wheels when you're initiating a turn.

Further, you don't want to be transferring too much weight front or back when you're already making a turn. Jamming on the brakes when you're midcorner is a good way to get all the weight off the rear wheels and then you're going for a spin.

Jump on the throttle too early and you're going to understeer into that ditch.

PATIENCE

You'd never think it to watch hopped-up Subarus fly through the forest, but every pro rally driver knows how to relax behind the wheel.

In tarmac driving, inputs need to happen with blazing rapidity; on gravel and other slippery surfaces, you need to give the car a chance to react.

Don't saw at the steering wheel; instead, gently feed in steering and then wait for the car to come around. If you start correcting and then overcorrecting, you'll get into a feedback loop, oscillating ever more wildly until ditch-snowbank-tree.

Instead, slow down behind the wheel and refer back to where your vision is supposed to be.

On gravel, the newbie's mistake is to go straight for the throttle early. Ease up and you'll be both quicker and safer.

MANAGING GRIP

To finish first, you must first finish. Several times over the course of a three-day program, each instructor repeated the refrain with near-religious fervour. One instructor put things even more simply.

"It's like golf," he said, "You're not trying to get a hole-in-one every time. If you're not upside down, on fire and in the trees, then you're on the fairway."

On gravel, as in winter driving, traction is an unknown country.

You can train yourself to look for the grip, watching for the sheen of ice or the patches of tarmac between the packed snow, but the best thing is to keep a little change in your pocket.

Even professional rally drivers know when to back off a little as conditions change throughout the day.

Your morning commute will likely throw completely different surface conditions at you than will the drive home. Enter every corner with a plan but with enough of a margin of error to be able to correct for a sudden slip.

Look where you want to go, think about which wheels need to have the most traction, slow inputs down as the conditions get worse and leave a little extra on the table to deal with surprises.

Use your rally-driving basics to keep you on the road this winter and it won't be long before you're ready to graduate to handbrake turns - on an approved rally course, not in the Tim Hortons drive-through.

Associated Graphic

Rally school is a great gateway into one of the more accessible motorsports out there.

BRENDAN McALEER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

DIRTFISH

DIRTFISH

One of the hardest lessons to learn in gravel driving is that the steering wheel doesn't turn the car, the brake pedal does.

BRENDAN McALEER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Paul_Knox Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page