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left 6 long, stump, oh dear
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Discussion Starter #1
a buddy and i were talking about what it takes to be involved in rally racing. getting a car and getting the car to the various events seems to be the main focus of many looking to get into the sport, but i haven't seen much asked or written about driving practice.

in competitive cycling there is a saying - you will never do 30 unless you do 30. how can i drive at speed in the forest on race day if i never drive at speed any other day? to excel in the sport, i would imagine that many hours of practice would be needed just to get down the basics. i won't ever be able to do a Scandinavian Flick if i never practice.

so, how do you practice. i live in a metro area with very limited options for places to drive. going to rally school once a year is not going to hone my skills.

-steve
 

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Rally, Win, Drink Beer
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i live in a metro area with very limited options for places to drive. going to rally school once a year is not going to hone my skills.

-steve
Lucky for you, you live in a metro area where there is a strong rally/rallycross/motorsports community.

My first step was rallycross and I'm still doing that today. At Summit Point we have one of the more interesting (best?) spaces for rallycross in the country. We have enough room to keep things interesting and enough different surfaces (dirt, gravel roads, mud) that you can learn to adapt to changing conditions. We also have elevation changes which most rallycross courses I have seen do not have. We are limited in our top speeds though (need to keep it under 60mph) so we can't get the high speed practice that you will need for real stage rally.

After that, there's always Team O'Neil rally school in New England. I'm hoping to make it there some time soon.

When/if you actually have a caged car and a way to transport it, there are some other options that open up to you like rally-specific test 'n tune days in our area.

I'm a firm believer that doing track days (on tarmac) will also help you be a better driver overall. The same for karting (indoor or outdoor).

Basically, any seat time you can get is going to improve your skill.

But all that is just my $0.02 and I've never driven a caged car at speed in a rally. I'm trying to get there within the next year though...
 

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I autocross to keep my skills honed. The Wichita region is pretty good about getting autox's together and July 3rd is going to be our first rallycross.

Rally is more about car control than it is about pitching a car sideways. Any type of racing that you will do will help your car control skills and make you a better rallier (is that even a word?) The fancier stuff like the Scandinavian flick and handbrake turns are a little more specific to racing on loose surfaces and yes, you're right, you will have to practice to get good at them. The best situation for that would be a rallycross.
 

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Dirt surfer
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going to rally school once a year is not going to hone my skills.

wrong. you can learn more in a few days at school (and log more seat time) than by running several events learning as you go. the self-taught learning curve in rally tends to be pretty expensive, and tends to foster a one-way spending binge at your favorite body shop.

school helps you nail down the basics of car control on low grip surfaces, then you really-truly know what to practice at RallyX or autoX or you buddy's big gravel parking lot, etc.
 

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left 6 long, stump, oh dear
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Discussion Starter #5
i'm not saying don't go to a rally school - i'm actually in the process of putting it in the family budget...

my point was that i could do the rally school once a year, but the gulf between those events would dull the skills. spending large sums of money on a rally without honing my skills over time seems like something you do once. this isn't like cycling or running. training for those sports does not require large areas of private property. getting tie behind the wheel and driving in rally conditions is the only way i see my skills improving.

-steve
 

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<catchy rally phrase>
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its a long process....comparing it to a 'normal' sport like bicycling isn't really fair because, even if you get a top of the line bicycle and spend a lot of cash, it doesn't cost you anything to go out an practice.

W/rally, you can spend $4,000 on a car or $40,000....you can't run it until the next event, and then you have tow costs, hotel, tires, gas, crew, etc.

With biking you can practice ANYwhere....hell, most towns have bike lanes/laws that protect your right to ride/practice, while in rally, we're fighting (and losing) to keep our roads.

so while all the answers above are good ones, you need to keep your expectations realistic with rally....it will take a LONG time for you to get good (unless your rich, but I heard the words 'family budget', so I know you're not ;) )

herin lies one of the biggest debates of rally.....'buy or build'? That's your next big decision....do I buy a cheap/used already built rally car, knowing that I'm not going to be very good and crash it sooner than later, or do I build one, which takes longer, much more money, and it needs to be expendible (but the benefits being that you can perhaps build a car where you already have a lot of technical knowledge, you 'know' the car inside-out cause you built it, and usually people that go this route just like the time/effort/skill of 'building' something).

anyway, I'm getting off topic.....I say start out with rallyX'ing and local track days if you can....hell, even getting sideways in a kart helps!
 

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R3 into mudpit
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Im gonna echo briefly what a few other people said, karting. If you want massive amounts of seat time for cheap karting is the way to go. All the basic skills you learn and hone will transfer very well to any other type of driving. You may not be handbraking in a kart but you are learning braking zones, vehicle placement on the course, throttle control, and most important of all in my opinion is working on your response time. Things happen very fast in a kart and when you are able to subconsicously fix things when they go wrong in a kart, its even easier in a car.

And as far as finding a place to go all out on dirt in. Do you have any off road places around there? Jeeps, desert trucks stuff like that? Our test facility out here in Denver started out like that. And thanks to a few dedicated racers we now have a full time rally test track out there. In fact we just held our first RA sanctioned even out there this year. Now this may be an expensive and long process. But if you ask anyone in the Colorado area it is the best thing that has happened to the rally community. In addition to getting seat time in a stage rally environment it gives us a great place for vehicle shake down. But anyways then. Keep driving whatever you can, whenever you can, however you can and most importantly have fun :)

*Edit* and yeah thats me in my kart in my avatar, its so much fun :D
 

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i'm not saying don't go to a rally school - i'm actually in the process of putting it in the family budget...

my point was that i could do the rally school once a year, but the gulf between those events would dull the skills. spending large sums of money on a rally without honing my skills over time seems like something you do once. this isn't like cycling or running. training for those sports does not require large areas of private property. getting tie behind the wheel and driving in rally conditions is the only way i see my skills improving.

-steve
I would suggest if you want spend you money wisely go to the rally school. Then when you driver home from that school and every time you get behind the wheel, regardless what speed you are doing on the road, think about your approach to every bend and where you brake for that bend, where you apexes are, where you put the power on. This will make you a better driver every day. The next time you go karting you be amazed how much quicker you'll be.

This how you apply the skills you've learned a rally school. Because you do this, you be able to maintain those skill! When you are able to take part in a rally it will feel natural to you.

Ian
 

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I had the same question as the OP when I started the great sport of rallying. I went to the local rally school and then did a couple of seasons of rally X all the while still building my rally car. Granted the rallyX did help me with skills of looking ahead and car control, I still was looking for a way to practice as real life practicing got expensive quick (I won't go into that.)
So me and the guys on our team decided to try video games. (The theory we came up with is to use it like a pilot would use a flight similator. We got Collin McRae rally for PS2, steering wheel and pedals, and built a mount for a seat. After playing a while and beating each others records time and time again we switched it up and chose different stages and put a rally together. Ran it like a rally, took the times for the stages, added them for the whole rally and there you go.
The next rally I entered I noticed a huge difference in the way I drove. I did not charge it like I would do in the video game but I had a sensation. Things seemed a bit more familiar, like reading the scenary, looking way ahead of me, and the biggest thing was that I was able to hear my co-driver a lot more clear than before. The instructions made more sense and I was able to understand and compute it faster as we went along on the stages. The hand/eye/foot coordination helps out also using the video game as a training tool, yes the shifter is not what we use but you get the idea.
Now I do realize that video games are meant to be just that, a game. But if you take a minute and actually try to take care of the car and drive it like it is yours you will be suprised at what it will do for your "training."
I think it is a cheaper way but very helpfull tool for any beginner rallyist.
My wife actually laughs at me cause I tell her "i gotta train for the rallyX or the rally that is coming up" and go to the game room and turn on the PS.
 

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<catchy rally phrase>
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at Paul Eklund's rally school, they use recorded clips of turns/technique from Richard Burns Rally game to visually show whatever it is they're discussing at the time. makes for interesting discussion/classroom time.


I forget where, but I recently saw a rally simulator game......3 big ass flat screen TV's lined up to fill your field of vision, steering wheel and pedals, and a race seat mounted to hydraulics to simulate G-forces.

it was only $50K ;)
 

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Nothing will ever take the place of a real car, with real weight being shifted about. I don't race rally professionally, I wish I do, I just will never have the budget to do so. However, I was fortunate to be born a Finn and enjoy being put through the paces by my father. Wooded lots out back with lots of space to be able to do multi passes back and forth up to 160kph. Reading terrain even with the aid of a co-driver is essential. Finns don't use much in the way of notes, keep it simple is the saying. How to straddle your car at speed around objects or over them rocks and holes and so on, develops with seat time. You don't get that in a cart, nor do you get the feel of when the suspension set up is not right or when your alignment just isn't working for you on what you are driving on.
Someone mentioned Scandinavian flicks, sure you can try it in a cart or simulator, but to actually do it in a car of yours from gravel to tarmac or from tarmac to ice and back again comes with your brain understanding your speed and angle car must be well before the turn being in the right gear, and feel comfortable with your flick into the corner holding that drift knowing you will be straight on exit. One thing in training once you get the technique, now narrow the margin you have to do it in. If you only have the chance to do it in a rally school, do the school. Now, I don't have much of an area to practice in, so rallycross for now is my safe choice.
 

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Shifting and drifting
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Steve, I don't think anyone here will tell you the real answer for legal reasons.

One of the best things I ever did was drive the rally car daily as much as possible if the mods are minimal, and is a realistic alternative. Or drive your street version of the same make/model as a surrogate. Just driving the car in a normal manner helps becomes part of your body and brain.

Enter the car in track days events, or drift competitions if possible. Cheap fun.

Does it snow where you live?
 

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Not that it approaches performance rally speeds but doing brisk speed TSD's can be helpful. Up here in NY state we run a series during the winter about once a month on Saturday evenings. Most of the roads are unpaved and even at legal speeds people find them challenging. Not that you're going to find winter conditions where you are but almost any TSD event builds confidence in the teams ability to communicate and provides a chance to sort out the car and see how you can better get things done. Add to that the fact that you get 6 hours and 125 miles (and often more) of driving for about $40 or so and you can see that it's a big bang for the buck.

As others have said karting, track time, and such will also give you seat time, but the TSD series we do is on roads that come pretty darned close to what you'll find in the woods at a performance rally -- pavement just ain't the same. The speeds are a lot more forgiving while still letting you practice what you have learned. Take a look around and see what you can find in your area.

And the Team O'Neil Rally School is on everybody's wish list.
 

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Remember that you don't want to be practicing the wrong thing. Go to a school so you know the "theory". Perfect practice makes perfect.

Do any and all racing/driving/schools you can get your hands on.

Video games are awesome because they are nearly free and available at any time.

AutoX is great because there are TONS of events, they are cheap and easy on the car. I think that it also greatly improves your ability to think quickly and "drive what you see" (especially if you wake up late and don't walk the course ;) ) - the course changes at every event, so being fast is not just a matter of memorizing a track. It also teaches you car control like almost nothing else, and translates into other forms of racing very well. AutoX is the first racing I ever did, and after doing that for a few years I was almost instantly winning rallycrosses and being fast on a track.

RallyX is obviously even better, since it's on a loose surface. There aren't quite as many events though.

Track days are a must to learn how your car handles at higher speeds, as well as to practice things like heel-toe (which you should be doing on the street anyway).

I'm actually not so sure about karting. The theory is the same, but karts, with their short wheelbase and lack of suspension, seem to handle very differently from your average street-like car. Still good practice though!

Something that nobody mentioned here is riding dirt bikes. There is a lot of technique involved, and I don't think anything will teach you as much about weight transfer as this. I've been racing for years, but I'm relatively new to dirtbikes, and reading dirtbike forums makes my head spin from the depth to which most of those guys understand suspension/grip/line...etc. Not to mention that you can get a decent dirtbike for $1500 and trails are usually free of charge.
 

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stay less flat...
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reading dirtbike forums makes my head spin from the depth to which most of those guys understand suspension/grip/line...etc. Not to mention that you can get a decent dirtbike for $1500 and trails are usually free of charge.
that sounds interesting. can you link us up with said forum, please?

mountain bikes are good practice too. even cheaper than dirt bikes...
not the dramatic weight tranfer like a motorized vehicle, but great for reading trails/looking ahead, feeling the tires on the dirt and threshold braking.
 

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that sounds interesting. can you link us up with said forum, please?

mountain bikes are good practice too. even cheaper than dirt bikes...
not the dramatic weight tranfer like a motorized vehicle, but great for reading trails/looking ahead, feeling the tires on the dirt and threshold braking.
Thanks Scott, now i feel a little less insane. I grew up racing Bmx for over a decade. THat turned in to racing hare-scrambles/enduros/motocross. Once I got a car on the dirt it was relatively similar and finding my "balance" seemed to come pretty naturally. Though i would definitely say there is a lot I need to learn.

I have read alot of books on racing and many of them stated that even when you are driving around town at regular speeds, turn off the radio and teach yourself to be aware of what exactly is going on by "feeling" your tires and such through steering wheel and brake pedals.

I taught myself left-foot braking in highschool on my morning commute. well before the stop sign (with no one infront of me) i would pop it into neutral and use my left foot to brake. Same for heel-toe and rev matching- all learned on my morning commute.
 

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Thanks Scott, now i feel a little less insane. I grew up racing Bmx for over a decade. THat turned in to racing hare-scrambles/enduros/motocross. Once I got a car on the dirt it was relatively similar and finding my "balance" seemed to come pretty naturally. Though i would definitely say there is a lot I need to learn.

I have read alot of books on racing and many of them stated that even when you are driving around town at regular speeds, turn off the radio and teach yourself to be aware of what exactly is going on by "feeling" your tires and such through steering wheel and brake pedals.

I taught myself left-foot braking in highschool on my morning commute. well before the stop sign (with no one infront of me) i would pop it into neutral and use my left foot to brake. Same for heel-toe and rev matching- all learned on my morning commute.
Minus the BMX I did exactly the same thing.

Does cross country and track count as racing experiance?
 

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ITURNRT
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I taught myself left-foot braking in highschool on my morning commute. well before the stop sign (with no one infront of me) i would pop it into neutral and use my left foot to brake. Same for heel-toe and rev matching- all learned on my morning commute.
You actually want to have the car in gear when using left foot braking. If the car is in neutral it's the same as pushing in the clutch with your left and braking with your right because any input you give to the accelerator pedal will do nothing.
 
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