Do you like watching motor sport on the TV and have thought I wouldn’t mind giving this a go. Well here’s a chance to experience the real deal without having to invest the time or the cost involved in buying a race car, getting your CAMS license, and travelling half way around the country to get behind the wheel.
The Melbourne event is held just out of Bacchus Marsh a rural town only 45 minutes from the Melbourne CBD and only a 30 minute drive from the Melbourne Airport. The course is designed on a 900m speedway circuit, the longest in Australia.
Being in a rural environment with a motorcross course on one border the venue has a feeling of Mad Max 3, Beyond Thunderdome, to it. And on the drive out to the course from Melbourne you drive past where the original Mad Max was filmed, a true classic car film.
The aim of the day is driving ‘Sideways’, doing something you wouldn’t normally do, learning the art of weight transfer. Don’t worry if you haven’t driven a rally car before as, rally drivers aren’t the target market. However, if after a day behind the wheel you find yourself getting the twitch for more action, Rally Drive can provide the necessary training to get your race license - they also are involved with the one make Rally Drive Hyundai Excel Rally championship. The championship is run on the back of 9 of the rounds of the Victorian Rally Championships and is an inexpensive entry into motorsport.
The man behind Rally Drive is a modestly spoken gentleman named Peter Wrench. With a surname like this, well he just has to be in the auto industry.
Peter knows rallying back to front. From the age of 17 he began racing in Autocross, before moving across to rallying, beginning a successful career in the UK and mainland Europe.
The day kicks off with getting fitted into a one piece race suit, then heading into a classroom where you get a short course from Peter himself and from various rally legends through an entertaining short film. Apart form learning some tips on how to drive a rally car, we also watched highlights from the crazy Group B supercar era, surely one of the most lethal era’s of motorsport. One tip that stayed in my mind was that when you get airborne in a rally car, always try to land on one of the front wheels first, just like a cat which will never land with all four feet touching the ground at the same time.
I also got distracted by the tip from some 1970’s rally dude that a good rally co-driver should be like the drivers girlfriend. This sounded a little weird, but the next powerslide got my attention back on the movie. I also discovered that I’ve been pronouncing the rally superstar and now Porsche test driver Walter Rohl wrong all along, as in true German style its more ‘Vaulter Rule’.
The cars we would be rally driving were real pukka rally cars, with a heavily modified VRX Mitsubishi Magna (the AWD model) worth $160k and two Subaru Impreza RS models on offer, all with full roll cages. These cars even compete when they’re not teaching people.
The staff are all hand picked for their friendless rather than being ‘just grizzly ex rally co drivers’ so it’s a fun all round event.
After the film we all head down to the track, to get ready for our hot laps. It was a little nervous yet exciting watching the track getting hosed down.
The mantra of the team at Rally Drive is ‘more water, more sideways’ so the watering truck came out and muddied up the race track. Peter radioed through to check that the course was wet enough; it sure looked it from up here, and then gave the go-ahead for the action to begin.
We all grabbed a race helmet, and started visualising where the cones, which we were told to imagine as trees, were laid out around the course. However it wasn’t the cones that would cause havoc, rather the 2 metre high concrete wall between the course and the grandstand.
Stepping in I was reminded what Peter said earlier, “It’s a bit like going to Movieworld, being on a rollercoaster except you’re in control”.
We were told the ambient temperature on the day was optimal for going sideways, so there was going to be lots of sideways fun.
There are also two manual Subaru Impreza RS rally cars with the naturally aspirated 4 cylinder 2.5L Boxer engine. Being a lift off oversteer course, it was very easy to get the cars sideways.
At the end of my time behind the wheel my forearms were tense from all the steering wheel spinning, but I wanted even more time behind the wheel. I’ve definitely now got the taste for rallying and plan on heading back to Rally Drive soon for some more sideways action.
Believe it or not three quarters of the calls for the Ultimate Rally Experience come from females who are predominantly buying a gift for their husbands and boyfriends. However that’s not to say that females don’t also get their hands behind the wheel.
At a starting price of $249 per person the event is considerably cheaper than most other motor sport experiences.
Rally Drive is also popular with corporations looking to do something a little different. It would definitely make a cool Christmas party.
The facial expression of the driver says it all, that was bloody awesome!
If you're an adrenalin junky or just want to test your rally driving skills, book in a drive with Rally Drive Melbourne.
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