Driving anywhere is normally pretty good fun, I mean who doesn’t love a road trip? But how about power sliding around a tight bend in a rally car? Dashing around a dirt track at speeds of up to 60mph, with mud spraying everywhere and the steering wheel spinning wildly? Well doesn’t that sound like even more fun?!
On a foggy Saturday morning I took a 45 minute ride from the centre of Bristol to Castle Coombe to meet the guys from the Subaru Rally Experience. I had booked onto their Rally Driving Taster experience through the South West’s leading adventure website extremewest.co.uk and was pretty excited about what lay in store.
Next to Castle Coombe’s famous racing circuit is a purpose built rally track on which I was to be treated to seven high-octane laps, one as a passenger and six with me in the driving seat. The cars are 2-litre Subaru Impreza’s, kitted out with rear wheel drive, and these things tend to go rather fast.
The Rally Driving Experience
Before I could get into the rally car though, there was a safety briefing where I was taken through entire process. The instructor, who sits in the passenger seat while you drive, showed me each part of the course and gave an indication of where I’d need to slow down, where I could speed up and the best techniques for which to take the bends. Any nerves that may have been present before had completely disappeared when I saw just how professional these guys were. I took a look at the rally car and all the safety features they’d installed and felt pretty good about climbing in.
I figured that maybe the one lap with the instructor would come first, but no, I was thrown in right at the deep end, strapped in and told to drive. In any regular driving situation you’re on a busy road with other vehicles, you need to ‘mirror, signal, maneuver’ and pull away at a safe speed. That all went out the window here. As we came onto the first straight the instructor was actively encouraging me to go as fast as possible. This was pretty daunting, I could see a chicane not too far ahead and while my instinct was to start slowing down immediately, he insisted on accelerating right up until the last second. The result? We hit the chicane at some speed, zipping in and out of the bollards. This was quite the thrill.
The course is made up of numerous obstacles, including some rather muddy bends. These were by far the most hair-raising parts. Again, the instructor shouted directions as we came to each one; telling me how fast to go and how to over steer to correct the wildly-spinning wheels. This was tough at first, but by the end of the 6 laps and with a pro by my side I was definitely getting the hang of it.
Throughout each lap you can feel the confidence growing. You start to get a feel for the car and the track, and you know when you can really floor it and get your speed up. The instructor said we probably hit around 40-60mph at some points, although it seems even faster than that when you’re flying about all over the place.
The whole white-knuckled experience was amazing as you’re doing something you’re not normally meant to do in a car. The Subarus are expensive and they want you to treat them well, but this is what they’re designed for. Of course you have to be sensible and pay attention every step of the way, but the sensation of going that fast in any vehicle while you’re in control is something you don’t experience very often. You know you’re not getting pulled over by the cops, but it still feels slightly rebellious.
After I completed my six laps I switched seats with the instructor to see how it’s really done. And wow, just wow. That guy went fast. This is someone who’s been driving professionally for many years and who knows the track like the back of his hand, so he did not hold back. How he took some of the bends at such speed without spinning off I will never know? I now realize why he didn’t go first though, if I’d seen him drive that fast I would have probably tried to match him…only I never would have looked that cool.
What to bring
- You MUST wear long pants and long sleeves, you cannot take part in this experience without them.
- Decent shoes/trainers
Cost of this Rally Driving Experience
Rally Driving Taster – £99
For more details and up to date prices head on over to www.extremewest.co.uk
Getting that extra thrill at the end just made me thirsty for more, knowing that with some more lap time I could definitely get more comfortable with the track. These guys also run half day and full day courses and as I was so impressed with this taster experience I will no doubt be back for more in the future.
Have you ever been Rally Driving? How was your experience?
Please note that some services from Extreme West were complimentary but all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.