Channel Your Inner Hoon at Team O'Neil Rally School
Most people learn about driving from their parents and in a completely boring driver's education class that they are forced to take in high school. The intent is to make sure we know enough not to kill ourselves when we get a license. Team O'Neil Rally School in Dalton, New Hampshire aims to teach the fun stuff that can also help keep you out of trouble. Tucked away in the New Hampshire White Mountains, the rally school opened its doors in 1997 with nothing more than a skid pad and a slalom. Today, it is over 600-acres, with 10 miles of courses designed to teach and test students. It's the creation of five-time North American rally champion, Tim O'Neil, who personally selects the staff of experts. They teach attendees how to drive on loose surfaces and how to better control a car. You can walk through the door with zero experience and walk out a better driver, which is exactly what I did recently. RELATED: Inside Team O'Neil: A Snow-Lover's Paradise
Ford invited a small group of journalists up to Team O'Neil, where we had the chance to meet Ken Block and go for an insane ride before learning a little about how he does what he does. Ken Block, I am not, but in only a few hours, the instructors taught us an incredible amount about driving in the dirt.
The school partnered with Ford back in 2009, and we experienced a greatly abbreviated version of the Ford Fiesta Rally Experience. We drove a fleet of little green Fiestas through three different scenarios, each increasingly complex.
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Our first lesson was learning to steer using only the brake out on the skid pad. Left foot braking isn't something you do everyday, so getting it figured out took a few tries. All that muscle memory in your right foot doesn't magically appear in your left foot.
After a good many circles around the skid pad, we moved on to a slalom course to learn how to steer the front-wheel drive cars so that the end kicked out just enough without continuing right around to throw the car in a circle. Last up was the Scandinavian Flick which was the trickiest of the lot. It's a pendulum turn that briefly unbalances the car and produces a drift that looks damned impressive. Well, it looks damned impressive when you do it right and don't eat a cone. After a few tries, we all managed to pull it off.
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We learned in a few hours what most people learn over the course of a few days. I left wanting to go back, because I wanted to know more. The basics are good and although they can be learned in a few hours, muscle memory only comes with practice and that requires days.
Team O'Neil offers courses up to 5 days long so you get plenty of time to practice. There is also a winter safe school to help you learn what you need to know to stay on the road and not in the snowbank. The location is incredible and the instructors were fantastic. These guys know their stuff and they make it fun to learn. If you're looking for the chance to hoon around in the dirt and learn skills that will help keep you safe behind the wheel, spend a few days at Team O'Neil Rally School.