Circle K Norge Rally Värmland is now but a distant memory for DirtFish instructors Sam Albert and Jack Harrison, but both are surprised how real the Solberg World Cup in association with DirtFish is feeling to them.
The snowy spectacular was the second round in the six-round DiRT Rally 2.0 series organized by Oliver and Petter Solberg. Albert claimed 128th position, and Harrison was 1127th.
Harrison’s Swedish adventure was “a little frustrating” after two separate punctures caused by an innocuous brush with a snowbank curtailed his event. The Fiesta R5 pilot had been inside the top 700 before his first one on SS8, while the second was picked up on the SS12 finale and ruined his hopes of achieving a top 1000 finish in the rally.
Albert was again fiercely competitive and brought his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 home inside the top 150 after utilizing his real-life experience.
“I took a similar approach to how I take a real snow rally and I know that it’s a lot easier to lose the rally than it is to win it, so I took a little more of a conservative pace,” he explained.
“As Jack experienced, one mistake or even two mistakes can be pretty devastating to your overall placing. At Big White Rally, if you’re in an Open class car all you have to do is finish and you’ll get in the top 10 because so many people just end up stuck in a snowbank or sliding off sideways. So I knew I wanted to go mistake free and I did do that for the most part except for a nice 50/50 slide on a snowbank but it wasn’t that bad, I maybe lost five seconds off of it but definitely not too bad.”
After his 89th place on HTC Racing Rally Monte Carlo, Albert is now doing DirtFish proud in 53rd in the standings. Concentrating on the championship picture really emphasizes the ‘reality’ in ‘virtual reality’ rallying according to them both.
“Among the instructors it’s surprising how real it gets where you’re just sitting doing practice and you’re pushing, you’re having fun, that’s great and then you go to the first stage knowing there’s 12 to go and you really do have this mindset of ‘OK we need to keep this steady, we’re competing now’ and that caught me off guard the first time I did it,” Harrison said.
“There totally is a mindset change that goes into it just playing a game versus running a championship.”
Albert added: “Taking the championship mindset to it is incredibly similar. Everybody wants to get stage wins and win a rally and have the bragging right there, but if you win one rally and you bin it and DNF the next that doesn’t help you for your championship.
“I’ve definitely done the same thing doing the full national championship [in the US] where I’m like ‘Well I’m not going to risk going off on this stage because I want to win the stage’. I’m going to make sure I get points and finish. That’s far more important and it’s always played in my favor to be a little more smart than go full on Colin McRae on every single stage.”
Albert confessed the nerves are similar to the real thing which has surprised him, but he puts that down to the realism of the competition, the fact he is so competitive and that ultimately he doesn’t feel as confident on DiRT Rally 2.0 as he does in real life.
“There’s definitely a weird feeling when you go in to start the actual runs where you get the butterflies and I’ve gone through a couple of stages where my legs start shaking up,” he said.
“I get so nervous which is really odd because when I first started stage rally like 10 years ago now that was pretty common. I still get butterflies showing up to a rally now but not near to the degree like I am in the game. I really, really want to do well but I don’t feel as confident in the game as I do in real life.”
Both Albert and Harrison are now practicing for round three, Argolis Rally Greece, which ends on Sunday. Albert is wary that the majority of players will feel more confident on gravel than on the asphalt and snow that has preceded Greece, and Harrison is in agreement.
“We ran through a couple of stages on the Twitch stream, getting some practice of all different cars,” revealed Harrison.
“I’d probably say of all the stages having played DiRT Rally [since] the first game, and then going into the second game, I know Greece a little better than some of them but unfortunately it’s so rough and tumble through there as well you get a little confident like ‘oh I know this corner’ and all of a sudden you’re upside down and off a cliff or something. I know a little bit more than I did Sweden but we’ll see how things go.
“I’m still aiming for top 1000,” he added. “That surely has to happen for this one just to satisfy myself but we’re getting continuous improvement. I’m looking for a clean and consistent rally to be honest on this one.”
Sweden was won by Robin (XVZombieSlayaaVX) with Monte Carlo winner Lukáš Matêja down in sixth. That elevates Robin into a 231-point lead in the championship over Matêja.