The first rule of going faster is simple: get all the seat time you can. Prepping yourself and your car are crucial, but there is no substitute for being out on course. This is when you assemble the pieces of the puzzle and maximize the benefits of each. Racing is the final step in achieving the speed you’ve worked toward, but it will also show you the path to even more. However, none of this will happen unless you race. You must show up to move up. And focus on improving and refining driving skills before you rely on the capabilities of your car. Your car will never be fast if you are not, so work on yourself first.
Keep your focus forward. Reacting to the course is far too late to build and maintain speed or momentum. It’s just linked recoveries. Instead, keep your vision as many turns ahead as you can see and plan your lines through all of them. Each turn and your line through it will affect your speed in the next turn. This is why knowing where you want the car to go and placing it there is so crucial. The here and now is too late. Plan ahead.
Once you achieve effective focus, don’t let the small stuff ruin it. If you are driving hard enough you will occasionally hit a cone. That’s not the problem. The problem is how you respond. Looking at it in the mirror moves your focus to where it should never be: behind you. And it won’t change anything. If you knocked it down, nothing you do is going to stand it back up. What’s done is done and dwelling on it only robs you of your focus. When you make the inevitable mistake, the right reaction is to learn from it and employ that on the next lap.
Get off the brakes. It sounds so bluntly simple and obvious that it should never have to be said. However, many drivers struggle with this, often without even realizing it. Brakes rob you of much more performance than just velocity. It’s infinitely easier to steer the car while on the throttle than it is on the brakes. Consequently, the goal is to get off the brakes and back to the gas as quickly as possible, not just to increase your speed, but also to improve cornering.
Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided on your line, drive it. Don’t steer around the rough stuff unless you absolutely must. Remember, the fastest route to point B is almost always the shortest line, so stick to it. Sometimes this means driving a line that isn’t as fun, but you will be rewarded with better times. Make your inputs decisive. Move quickly between pedals and steer fast. Be calm and smooth and avoid overdriving the car, but don’t waste time in the process.
Above all else, don’t forget to have fun out there. Like all forms of racing, RallyCross encourages performance and competition, but the real enjoyment doesn’t come from winning. It comes from improving your driving and camaraderie with your fellow competitors.
A great place to work on your driving technique is at the DirtFish Rally School found in Snoqualmie, Washington. More than just a rally school, DirtFish recognizes that advanced car control skills taught on loose surfaces like gravel and mud directly translate to track, desert, autocross and street driving. Professional DirtFish instructors pride themselves in teaching car control, confidence and safety behind the wheel year round through various driving techniques built from the roots of rally to over 3,000 students a year from across the globe. From 15 years of age with a learner’s permit, all the way up to the sophisticated age of ninety, DirtFish has a program for everyone. And SCCA members get 15% off any DirtFish Rally School program.
Words and Photo: Greggar Helgeland