October 1, 2010. It’s a very important date on the DirtFish calendar.
It marks the day that DirtFish opened its doors to the world, and began the journey to becoming the world’s greatest rally school.
12 years might seem like a long time, but it’s gone in a flash. From a humble piece of land, DirtFish Rally School has gone on to become a world-class facility, providing world-leading products that have enticed some of the greatest names in the rally and off-road community to grace the venue.
“We really started with nothing – just a huge piece of land and these crazy rally ideas,” explained DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer.
“Next thing we knew, legends like Tommi Mäkinen, [Toyota CEO] Mr Toyoda, Alister McRae, Travis Pastrana and Ken Block were walking through our doors. I even accidentally set the DirtFish office alarm off and had the police arrive in front of [Subaru manufacturer principal] Toshi Azuma.
“So much of this started with the Subaru. While renting Travis and Ken’s cars to compete in the 2008 McRae Memorial, I met Lance Smith, who supported our pursuit of a Subaru sponsorship. Twelve years later and we’ve maintained a fruitful and long-lasting partnership with them.
“We’ve run cars for some of these incredible drivers, including running cars for our very own. Watching Sam Albert and Michelle Miller racing in 2018 in a fully prepped DirtFish car was such a realization of the dream.”
Over the last 12 years, the team at the Rally School has grown to 49 members, with the addition of a media team joining the ranks in 2020, and it’s the dedication of DirtFish’s employees that Rimmer appreciates the most.
“This team has been incredible,” he said. “We have two employees who are also celebrating their 12th anniversary with us – or more – they were here months before we even opened our doors!
“We simply would not be here without the blood, sweat, and tears that have been poured into this place by every single employee that has helped us. When Covid came, this team didn’t falter.
“One of my favorite sights is the giddy smiles on students’ faces when they get out of the car after their first time in the driver’s seat, and knowing that we provided that to them.
“Beyond our local students, it’s been another realization of the dream to be the ones sharing the rally community with the world through our new website.
“Also, our dedicated Women in Motorsport initiative is an exciting move towards making the rally world as inclusive and accessible as possible
Every single day, we get to watch people climb into the driver's seat and feel something they never thought they would. We get to watch them leave, empoweredJosie Rimmer, Head of Strategy, DirtFish
“Closer to home though, both of my kids are now competing. It’s been my dream, but I didn’t realize that I’d pass it along to them this way.
“I am so grateful for the progress of DirtFish, and can’t wait to see what it becomes.”
One employee that has been ever present since the inception of DirtFish is Nate Tennis. He’s been around right from the start and has gathered plenty of great memories along the way.
“To find a single memory that defines my twelve years at DirtFish is no simple task,” said Tennis when reflecting on his time at the Rally School. “To put it simply, I don’t think a storm has ever congealed so beautifully to create such a perfect situation.
“The interesting thing about our company is we do not necessarily ‘make a thing’. Our product is largely based on increasing our customer’s knowledge of a unique skillset, as well as providing an enjoyable experience. But to do so relies on assets that are strong qualities in themselves: the cars, the location, and the people.
“If any of the key ingredients were missing, it wouldn’t be the incredible place it is, and those ingredients are: Our property alone has a fascinating history that borders on celebrity status. Our school cars deliver impressive performance that alone are worthy of bragging. Our Steve; Nothing could exist without a vision as lofty as his, and with the talent to put all the pieces together. Most important of all, our people, who toil at every level to ensure an experience for customers beyond expectation.
“These key parts are impressive individually, and when combined, have an effect unparalleled in the industry.
“I could (and often do) share stories from the past that were peaks of the “normal amazing” that is the day-to-day of DirtFish. But the memory I have is not a singular one, but an amalgamation of thousands of smiles, molded together in one continuous stream of excitement, new-found confidence, and pure, genuine enjoyment of a subject for which I have unintentionally dedicated my life.
“To have been lucky enough to share that for so long is truly special.”
As Steve alluded to earlier, DirtFish is a real family business. Both his children, Josie and James have been heavily involved with the school and have played a big part in its growth and success.
And for Josie, DirtFish naturally holds a very special place in her heart.
“James and I grew up here. We got to watch the roads being built, lifts being installed in the shop, the gazebo going up,” she explained.
“We’ve watched the place grow and change and shift into exactly what it is.
“Here, Calum MacLeod taught me to drive a manual and Ian Gwynne immediately taught me to do donuts – all behind the Planar Building. I’ve walked every inch of this property with DirtFish employees who have become some of my very closest friends.
“The place is magic.
“Every single day, we get to watch people climb into the driver’s seat and feel something they never thought they would. We get to watch them leave, empowered.
“For me, twelve years of DirtFish means a whole lot about family; both the one I started with, and the one I’ve gained on this site.
“I’m so proud of my dad; the kid camping out at rallies is now celebrating the 12th birthday of his own school.”
It’s a view also shared by Josie’s brother, James.
“Since day one, DirtFish has been a special place.
“I feel privileged to be here twelve years later, recounting countless great stories and memories (including the time I went running from mice in the Planar Building…).
“The next years carry exciting things, and I can’t wait to be there even more to share it with the team. DirtFish is ultimately special because of its people and their passion for rally, so thank you!”
And it wouldn’t be right to complete this piece without a word from Steve’s wife, Leslie. She’s the one that supported Steve when he came up with the idea to have a rally school and has been along the journey every step of the way.
“I love how women with no interest in motorsports are transformed after a class at DirtFish! They are more confident, empowered and smiling ear to ear,” she said.
“I also love how DirtFish has created an incredible community of passionate people who are dedicated to helping others embrace and enjoy the rally experience.
“Our entire family is part of DirtFish in different ways, and it’s been a joy to watch the growth of Steve’s wild idea.”
It’s been one hell of a ride so far. Here’s to another 12 years of DirtFish!