DESCENDING WHAT SEEMED A MOUNTAINSIDE COVERED WITH LOOSE GRAVEL AND STONES AND LISTENING TO THE INSTRUCTOR IN THE PASSENGER SEAT, I HALF-SLID THE IMPREZA I WAS DRIVING AROUND A SLIGHT CURVE, COGNIZANT OF THE TRAIL LEFT BY THE CARS THAT HAD GONE IMMEDIATELY BEFORE ME. APPROACHING A BLIND CREST, I KNEW I HAD TO BE READY FOR THE SHARPER CURVE ON THE OTHER SIDE. BUT WHICH WAY?
I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO THINK OF ANY OF THAT. INSTEAD, I HAD TO USE WHAT I HAD LEARNED EARLIER IN THE WEEK AT TEAM O'NEIL RALLY SCHOOL AND CAR CONTROL CENTER.
Send the Editor!
When the Drive Performance editorial team discussed sending someone to rally school, I asked who would be going. As much as I enjoy rally and appreciate what the teams do in the rally stages, I figured the likelihood of me eventually entering a rally event would be small.
Even so, all fingers pointed at me – and, despite my initial protest, I was delighted. Going to New Hampshire to learn something new, to improve my driving, and to enjoy springtime in New England was exciting.
Our introduction to the course took place in a classroom above one of Team O'Neil's shops. Further lessons were given in another shop and in a cabin next to the roads where our exercises took place. However, most of our time was spent in cars with an instructor, two students per car.
The first day, the overwhelming impression was made by mud. It was raining, and, as we drove, mud rolled up and under the fenders, balling into clumps and dropping behind the wheels. Furrows of mud mixed with gravel delineated the skid pad and slalom course.
The four-day course demanded that we change old habits. Piloting front-wheel-drive cars, we used our left feet for braking and held down gas pedals while turning corners around the skid pad and slalom.
I had been practicing left-foot braking ever since signing up for the class two months before, but practice and utilization are two different things. Every once in a while, I'd forget to move over my left foot and hit the clutch instead … or the other way around.