Thursday, March 9, 2017

My First Step towards Stage Rallying

Back in June of 2011, I watched a video of some guy named David Higgins driving a strange car to the top of Mt Washington like he was being chased by a swarm of killer bees.  After further investigation, it turned out this guy was part of Subaru Rally Team USA... and he was rather good at rallying.  I had never seen anything like it and wanted to learn more about it.  I dove in and started reading more, watching videos, and got hooked on rallying.

Four Subarus, two SCCA rallycross seasons, and one Stage Rally I volunteered at later, and I'm in love with driving in the dusty stuff.  I follow Launch Control like normal people follow Prime Time Television.  I have an entire wall in my garage covered in posters, photos, medals, and signatures from rallying.  But, at the end of the day, all of this has made me realize that I want to do more than follow it.  I want to experience it.

When I went to the 2016 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, I met a lot of awesome people.  From fans like me to technicians, co-drivers, and factory drivers, I really got to immerse myself in the world of rallying.  I even got to meet the heroes I had been following: Travis Pastrana, Christian Edstrom, Piotr Fetela, Agatino Fortunato, Lauchlin O'Sullivan, Nate Ellis, David Higgins, and Craig Drew.  They were all there, all regular people to talk with that just happened to have extraordinary talents.  The whole experience was incredible to finally see and feel in person and, on the 7-hour trek back home, I realized it was something I wanted to do someday.
Of the friends I made at that rally, I've managed to keep in contact with a few of them.  Agatino Fortunato and the All Fours Rally Team helped me get my new rallycross car over the summer.  The SRT USA technicians let me take some photos by David's car at Ojibwe.  But the person who put things in motion for my Stage Rallying hopes was Craig Drew.  I had been talking with him on and off for awhile and was curious about codriving and pacenotes.  What started as a mere question to learn more about rallying turned into an invitation to shake off my doubts and take a stab at it.  Craig mentioned his codriving course that would be held at DirtFish Rally School that they were planning to do again and told me to sign up.  At first, I kind of laughed at the idea.  After all, I had zero experience with codriving... let alone Stage Rally so taking instruction from a Top-Level competitor seemed like a bit of overkill to me.  Still, Craig assured me that I'd be able to survive the 2-day course he'd be instructing.

After thinking it over, talking to my wife about it, and asking a few friends, I started to think that maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea after all.  Just reading and watching wasn't going to get me to a Stage Rally any time soon... so I went for it.  Even as I write this now, just shy of a month away from attending this weekend course, I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins just THINKING of getting a start with this.

Creating and using pacenotes is probably the most crucial thing I want to understand from this course.  I've been driving competitively in Rallycross for 2 years so far, so I'm fairly confident behind the wheel of a car on the dirt and gravel.  However, the ability to "see around corners" that pacenotes grant the driver a huge advantage in the jump from rallycross to Stage Rally.  Whether my future with rallying lies in the driver or codriver seat, learning how this process works from an expert like Craig is an excellent starting point.

Can't wait to finally get cracking at this!!

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