So on the first full day of my summer break I woke up and reached for my phone to angrily dismiss the alarm, “shut the hell up there is no exam today”. To my surprise and slight confusion at that time of the morning, Twitter told me that I had won Race Lab’s contest! I had won a free Intro to Advanced Car Control package for that Saturday.
After a quick email and a call from Pro Rally Driver Leo “Crazy Leo” Urlichich, I had all the information that I needed to know and the next day I headed out to the Rockton Fairgrounds. I arrived really early to watch some laps of the large gravel circuit they had created and reality hit me a little bit. The course featured two chicanes, at least one square right hander and a slew of corners for you to negotiate as aggressively as you dare. Things got a even more interesting early in the afternoon when a straight away was opened up that featured a jump to send the car over. I knew no matter how quick I was that this was going to be awesome.
My 2:30 time slot arrived and I was introduced to my weapon of choice. We took to the track in a fairly tame Subaru Legacy (1994 give or take a year) outfitted with just enough to withstand some good abuse. I’ll say it right now, while this car is the beginners vehicle, by no means is it boring and I laughed the entire time. Thankfully, things started with a warm up lap of the course with Leo in order to show me the proper line to take and how not to put the car in the ditch on my first day. Honestly, that even felt pretty fast on gravel and I found myself fighting my preconceived notions of where to brake in order to maintain control, 3 minutes later it was my turn.
Hot lap 1 was interesting, call it a combination of remembering the course and reminding myself that hitting the huge ruts in the road is ok. The most helpful advice Leo gave me was to look for the straightest line through the corners which felt a bit like playing aim for the trash cans. Also, unwind the wheel faster than you ever have in your life…ALL THE TIME.
Hot lap 2 was go time, we thought it would be fun to time it and then compare it to an all out lap in the same car by Crazy Leo. This time I found myself much more comfortable through the course. Its amazing how much easier it becomes when you begin to take the faster lines and start to trust your braking foot (trust the ruts and gun it over the washboard!). With constant encouragement and instruction from Leo I was able to get the car around the track in 2:32:06, apparently one of the quickest beginner times they have had! My take away from that experience, mat the gas towards any jump you encounter, you won’t regret it…no guarantees on your landing but flying is fun.
Finally, it was Leo’s turn to show me how its supposed to be done and I was manning the stopwatch. We took off down the main straight, over the boneshaking jump and into the first corner. The entire time I laughed hysterically and I found it amazing that he could drive that car to the point where to a newbie it seemed like we were at the edge of control. My first Corollas body roll has nothing on how much I was moving around in my seat. Squeezing through the square right and through the last portion of the course Leo clocked a time of 2:12:06! Thats a full 20 seconds faster than my lap and clear proof of the difference that practice and experience can make to your driving! If I had to compare, the adrenaline rush from that one lap was higher than lapping the Ferrari at Cayuga. Don’t get me wrong both were amazing but this gets your blood rushing on a whole other level
I want to thank Leo and the Race Lab team for the awesome opportunity and I encourage you all to try something like this for yourself! I really think that one day there might need to be a rally cross toy in my garage…now to find the funds for it.
Cover Photo: Sean Wang