Yesterday, a good friend of mine had his birthday party at Dirtfish Rally School and treated a bunch of his friends to a day on the course. Besides being incredibly thankful for the opportunity, it was an incredible time. If you are looking for a taste of racing or just want to be better at driving on rough conditions, this is definitely something you should look into.
The start of the day, we covered material concerning steering and controlling your vehicle. We spent a lot of time on vehicle weight transfer which is a big thing when trying to control the direction of your vehicle. Once that was all done, it was time to head out on the track where we would spend some time with our instructors and learn the basic principles of lift-turn-wait and lift-turn-brake which is the main way that you can get your car going in the direction you want. To practice this technique, we hit the slalom.
The way it would work is that the instructors would take us onto the course and show us some of the technique and how it should look. Then we would swap into the drivers seat and do 3-4 passes before we would trade with the other set of students (8 students, 4 instructors, 4 cars). Rinse and repeat. With the Slalom, it was a nice simple course where we were just trying out this stuff for the first time, so it looked pretty rough. Our motions were definitely exaggerated as we were trying to find feel for the car and our muscle memory for the right way to handle. Lift-turn-brake was one of the hardest motions to get into your head as most of the time, you as a driver on the road want to break and then start the turn.
Once we finished up, we headed onto the Boneyard, where we would practice our turning techniques with larger turns. We had a variety of turns from light bends to nearly hairpin turns. This was definitely a challenge because as you got more comfortable with the course and got faster, it became more difficult to actually make the turns. Once this was done, we took a break for lunch, some Forza/DiRT video games, and some more instruction on a new technique, Trailbraking.
The rest of the afternoon was working with an extended course which included the Slalom, the Boneyard, and the Link which connects the two. This was definitely a ton of fun and really educational. Almost without fail, once you got comfortable out there and felt like you nailed a series of turns, it would fall apart and you would push it too hard and lose control. The biggest thing to learn from the course is that precision and control are the focus of good driving.
For pictures.... Dirtfish Flickr Album