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DirtFish Rally School

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Location
Seattle
#1
I was recently out at DirtFish for the three-day AWD class and thought I'd offer up a (not so) brief write up of the experience in case any of you are ever interested. This was actually my third time at DirtFish as I'd previously taken the half-day and full-day courses. Clearly I was hooked enough to save my pennies and splurge on the three-day course. That said, the shorter courses aren't required. Out of the eight of us in my session, I was the only person who had been there before.



The first day opened with some "ground school" to learn about vehicle-dynamics as they apply to rally driving. Anyone with road/track experience should be familiar with these concepts, but the effects are more pronounced on loose surfaces. If there's one big take-away I had from the course is that your feet play a larger role than your hands do.

After a brief start in the classroom, we hopped on a bus and the instructors took us down into the main training area. DirtFish owns around 300 acres of land, only some of which is developed for training. The remainder of the first day was spent on a handful of basic exercises: lift-turn-wait, lift-turn-brake, trail-braking, and slalom.

If you have road experience it may take a bit to shift your expectations of how the car will behave. For example, in the slalom if you try to drive it like you would in autocross you'll quickly find yourself outside of the ideal line. Instead you load the car up on the nose and point it right at the cone. With the right timing and inputs, the car will just drift ever-so-slightly around the cone. When your rhythm is off it's as awkward as a middle-school slow-dance, but when you get it right it's glorious.



The second day started with running "the Boneyard" which is a series of connected turns of varying tightness and radius-changes. After a couple of runs we began developing an intuition for what kind of brake/turn combination you need. For gentler, high-speed corners a simple lift-and-turn tucks the car nicely around the apex cone. Slightly tighter corners needed lift-turn-brake and enough patience to hold the brake pressure until the car rotated properly. At higher speeds you'll start developing a feel of when to trail-brake into the faster corners. Most of the magic happens in the feet, not the hands.



After lunch, it was a quick return to the classroom to learn about pendulum turns (a.k.a "the Scandinavian Flick") and handbrake turns. Then it was back down to the exercise yard to do a few turns with our instructors to work on both maneuvers. The afternoon finished up on a course known as "the Grid" which is a fun and challenging mix of dirt, gravel and tarmac. Here we got to put together all of our new moves in different combinations at higher speeds. By the end of the day I felt like I was just chucking my WRX like a beast. You definitely leave with a big, dirt-filled grin on your face.



Up to this point, every exercise or course is introduced to you first by a ride-along with your instructor. The third day is the only day where you hop in the driver's side first. The third day started out right in the exercise area, with timed runs through a combination of the Boneyard and the slalom. The instructors are looking over everyone's lines to make sure they kept it tidy. What we found out was that they were making sure we could all handle the next section, which is full-on rally driving through a tree-lined course.

After a quick ride-along with the instructor we took our turn through the tree-lined course. With all the gentle-yet-friendly reminders to not put the cars in the trees we were all a little tentative in our first runs. But after a few passes we had the gist of the course before it was time for a quick lunch-break.

In the afternoon we put it all together to run a 3.2 mile course, pulling out every trick we learned. After a few mixed runs, I finally started putting together whole sequences of corners (particularly with pendulum turns), with the last run being the best. The timing was perfect to go out on a high note.

We returned to the main building, had a quick little graduation ceremony and each of us was handed a USB stick with professional photos of our rally glory. We said our goodbyes and everyone left with big grins on their faces, hopefully as better drivers than when they first arrived. As I said earlier, this was my third time out to DirtFish so I was already sold on the program. The facilities, staff and instructors are top-notch and all work hard to help you have one of those memorable life-changing experiences.



While DirtFish is an all-Subaru shop, I did chat-up one of the mechanics that owned a Tangerine Scream FoST. I also had plenty of people asking me about my RS too, which made for fun conversation when we weren't out driving. It's definitely a WRX-heavy crowd, but there is a healthy (if grudging respect) for the Focus there, particularly for the RS.

If you ever wanted to see what rally driving is like, or just want to try a once-in-a-lifetime driving experience, I would recommend checking out DirtFish. I don't know how much, if any, rally driving I'll ever do, but the experience and training were still immensely valuable. To me, it was worth every penny.



P.S. If you somehow walk out of that place without some DirtFish swag I would be amazed.



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meFiSTo

Senior Member
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229
Location
Redmond
#2
Looking good, man! I have got to do that.

I'll be joining the NW RS Facebook crew for a G2G attached to the SCCA RallyCross event up there on Saturday. Doing a little data gathering. Might be fun to take the little car out there at some point, but I suspect it'll need some specific prep to make it home.

I'll snap some pics of the day.
 


GhostRS

1000 Post Club
Staff Member
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#3
Awesome write up! Thx so much for sharing.

If you don't mind me asking... how much was the 3 day course?

Man, it's a long way off for me (I'm in PA) but sounds like it might be worth the trip!
 


OP
A
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Thread Starter #4
I think the full three-day course is around $3800. Definitely not cheap, but (I think) pretty on par with any road course you might do at a place like Bondurant.


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meFiSTo

Senior Member
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#5
Awesome write up! Thx so much for sharing.

If you don't mind me asking... how much was the 3 day course?

Man, it's a long way off for me (I'm in PA) but sounds like it might be worth the trip!
There's O'Neill Rally School up in New Hampshire. I'm sure they have equivalent options -- plus they get some crazy snow up there. I'm pretty sure they do winter rally training for their racing clients. That would be fun.


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GhostRS

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#6
I think the full three-day course is around $3800. Definitely not cheap, but (I think) pretty on par with any road course you might do at a place like Bondurant.
Cool, thx!

There's O'Neill Rally School up in New Hampshire. I'm sure they have equivalent options -- plus they get some crazy snow up there. I'm pretty sure they do winter rally training for their racing clients. That would be fun.
That would be a fun time. I've heard a lot of good things about them.
 


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