Applying your skills on a rally stage

The last day of DirtFish Rally School's three-day program puts the techniques you've learned into practice on a longer stage


Alasdair Lindsay is taking DirtFish Rally School’s three-day program this week, and charting his progress! Here’s his account of day three:

Doing the final day of a three-day DirtFish program the week of the Ojibwe Forest Rally was apt timing.

After two days of hitting the fundamentals hard, the final day is all about stringing those techniques together over longer distances. One of the courses for doing this is The Wedge; it has a pond in among the trees lining the road.

You can’t finish the course if you end up in that pond, Eric Schofhauser, one of the senior instructors, highlighted. He was pointing at the board; specifically, a photo of last year’s Ojibwe Forest Rally.


The ‘Scubaru’ submerged in a lake, having aquaplaned its way off the land bridge, was a reminder not to push beyond the limit.

That was advice I hadn’t heeded particularly well on days one and two. I needed to shape up; things were getting serious.

Those first two days had followed a consistent structure: a practice exercise, with a couple of demo runs with the instructor before swapping back over. But there are no more show-and-tells on day three: you jump straight in the car and get going.

Across a three-day program, students work with six different instructors in the car next to them; one per half-day. It gives a great mix of different feedback styles and perspectives.

On the final morning, it was Geoff Clark’s turn alongside me in the #35 car. And it was Geoff who delivered the bit of advice that triggered a eureka moment.

“You’re pulling yourself up to the steering wheel too much,” he pointed out. Doing an Elfyn Evans impression hadn’t been bringing much success. I had to relax. And relaxing meant allowing the OMP bucket seat I was strapped into to envelope me, rather than trying to escape it.

Suddenly it all crystalized. My butt was finally receiving proper communication with the road underneath.

There was no looking back after that.

I’d kept it safely clear of the murky pond hidden in the trees on The Wedge. It was time to move on to the big daddy of the three-day program and DirtFish’s most famous course: the Mill Run.

Two and a half days of running suddenly all made sense. All the techniques that had been repeatedly tried and tested – not necessarily with success – were finally starting to fuse together into a single, unified skillset.

But for the grand finale there was one last new addition to consider: we were finally on pacenotes. Mercifully, I’ve watched so many World Rally Championship onboards over the years that they feel normal.


With Eric now sat alongside me for the final session – three hours on the Mill Run – I finally felt like a rally driver. I was getting pacenotes called out and reacting appropriately. The weight transfer had gone from surprising to predictable and now controllable.

There were still mistakes, sure – one three-right had both an over-rotation and a wide exit over some tires lining the track on separate passes – but those mistakes were getting fewer and fewer after every pass.

Not because I’d started learning the route but because I’d learned how to handle the car’s behavior better, using what was in my newly developed toolkit.

The car got to the end of the rally, as the DirtFish instructors like to say. I hadn’t turned the #35 WRX STI into an Ojibwe-esque Scubaru after all.