Inside DirtFish Rally School: Living the Dirty Life
There are moments in your life where time almost seems to stop. It happens when you meet the love of your life, when you become a parent, or achieve a lifelong ambition. In those moments, you tend to take a look around and figure that everything about a life worth living just makes perfect sense. Last week, I travelled all the way to Snoqualmie, Washington, to have one of those moments courtesy of DirtFish Rally School. DirtFish is truly a breathtaking place to visit, even if you don’t take a class. The school itself is nestled at the bottom of towering peaks of the Cascade Mountains. They are privy to an absolutely beautiful landscape. Additionally, the building that houses the schools offices, classrooms, and old rally cars, actually once was the police station from the TV show Twin Peaks, which is pretty cool in itself. RELATED: See Photos of the Iconic Subaru WRX STI Rally Car To ensure you know what you’re getting into from the start, four old school rally cars greet you as you open the doors. Like sleeping lions, just sitting there. A Ford Escort, a Ford RS200 Evo, a Subaru WRX, and a Ford Focus WRC. More than the rest of them that Ford RS200 made my palms all sweaty. For 12 years that beast held the production car record for fastest 0-60 mph. Quicker than the McLaren F1, even. Unfortunately those cars are just for show— I was there to drive a different kind of animal. As you head down from the main building, you enter what can only be described as a rally playground. Acres and acres of land make up the actual rally compound, which includes full tree-lined stages, a run around and through an old timber mill, a massive skid pad, and a few ballsy geese that "just ain’t care," about rally cars screaming around corners. It’s heaven on Earth for any rally fan. RELATED: Check Out the Legendary Ford RS200 Evo Rally Car To tailor the experience to your dirty fantasies and rally experience, DirtFish offers a few different classes in two different cars. They range from beginners half-day classes that let you play with an AWD Subaru STI, to a full 3-day class in a RWD BRZ, as well as advanced courses. As a former FR-S owner and a big fan of the iconic Lancia Stratos rally car, naturally, I went with the BRZ class. It was definitely fun— but a lot tougher than I had initially anticipated. I want to make this perfectly clear: thinking you can drive a car hard, and actually being able to drive a car hard are two completely different things. I've karted for most of my life, driven performance cars on tracks, and been to racing schools, so I figured I’d have an easy time managing DirtFish’s rally prepped BRZ’s. I was so wrong it was laughable. RELATED: See More of the Standard Subaru BRZ Driving a BRZ/FR-S on the road with a full interior, road tires, and normal seats is an easy thing to do. The car slides predictably, it handles unsurprisingly, and the throttle is easily managed. Transferring to a stripped out BRZ with semi-used rally tires on a surface that literally changes with each passing moment is like driving on the moon. The throttle on the car is so light thanks to a massive weight loss and a loose surface. It's so twitchy you have to feather it pretty much all the time. Even on longer straights, you can’t just plant your foot to the floor; the car dances and you have to dance with it, otherwise you’re likely to dance your way into a tree. And that skill — that ability to make the car dance — comes when you start listening to the expert tutelage of DirtFish’s own instructors. These men and women are experts at car control. They have the uncanny ability to know just where those late apex’s are, where the most amount of grip is on loose gravel, and how to get the car pitched into a turn that allows them to link the next four other turns together into one perfectly executed slide. It takes plenty of practice (and patience), and over the three days that I was there, I was able to get progressively faster and faster over each stage. That training then culminated into what can only be seen. RELATED: Watch MotorTrends Road Kill boys Rip Apart a Subaru The video below is from my last day of class. You run the full course— a course that practically makes up the entire property. It has ditches, trees, gravel, tarmac, wet areas, dry areas, handbrake turns, and two straights that get your up to near 70 mph. In addition, our instructors are reading full on rally pace notes to us as we attempt to get through this massive rally complex. It was insane, and I loved every single second of it.
At the end of the weekend, I was left with more confidence in my driving, a smile that will stay with me forever, and a couple new friends I hope to see soon. So if you want to go rallying, or just become a better driver in general, check out DirtFish’s school, it’s absolutely astonishing the amount of knowledge and fun you’ll have in such a short amount of time.
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