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Pretending to be a Rally Driver (Snetterton Stages 2024)



massiveCoRbyn

ClioSport Club Member
  Several
So, last weekend was pretty special for me. I did my first (and only) rally as a driver back in 2019 but, moving out to Saudi a couple of years ago means it's something I'd not yet been able to repeat. Ever since I moved, I've really been missing being involved in the sport, as it's something I've done in various capacities for the last 15 years. However, I wasn't really sure what to do about it. I'd half looked into hiring a car, as owning and preparing something myself isn't practical, but hadn't pulled the trigger. Anyway, with my 40th approaching this year, my missus came from nowhere and said she would cover an event as an early birthday present. I don't know if she did because she thought it might shut me up for a while, but I am a lucky bugger either way.

Anyway, with it agreed, I needed a car and a rally. The latter was easy. The first event I did was at Snetterton, so it made sense to revisit it. I felt I had unfinished business after all the problems last time, it's a familiar venue for me having done quite a few track days there, and it's my local track, so meant we could visit family while we were there. That just left a car. I'd originally planned to try and get some kind of R2 car, as it seemed like a sensible way to go. Basically, R2 (now called Rally4) is for 2WD cars, either with a 1600cc NA engine, or a small capacity turbo unit. They have sequential gearboxes and decent dampers etc, so I thought it would be a decent experience, while also being familiar enough to not be terrifying. As it turned out, hiring one was much more difficult than I imagined. The only company I found wanted £5k for the one event in a 1600 R2 Fiesta, which seemed like an awful lot of money for a 12-year old car that wasn't even that competitive anymore. A friend eventually pointed me in the direction of a guy called Dylan Davies, who is based in mid-Wales. I was told he had one and was much more competitive, so I reached out to him. Sadly he had decided to move his Fiesta on, but he did have some other options, including a Skoda Fabia R5, two MK2 Escorts and two Imprezas. The Fabia was a no-go due to cost, and I wasn't really interested in the Escorts, but the Imprezas did pique my interest. We had a chat through the numbers and it made sense, and was considerably less than the price I had been quoted for the Fiesta above, so I agreed to hire the "lesser" of the two cars - basically a late Group N hatch, but that still used a standard six-speed STI gearbox.

So, after much waiting, last Thursday me and the missus touched down in the UK, ready for the rally on Saturday. The first surprise of the week was, when I landed and let Dylan know we'd arrived, he said there was a problem with the car - d'oh! The PDM was playing up so the lights weren't working properly, so he asked if it was ok to switch to the "big" car. This meant a sequential gearbox and an engine running on race fuel. Eek, ok, in at the deep end then. He drove down to Snetterton on Friday afternoon with his mechanic, and we met them at the circuit with my co-driver (and best mate) to get the car through scrutineering and get ourselves signed-on. This meant we didn't have to be there quite so early the following day, and also gave us a chance to make sure the seat was in the right place. So, this was the first time I set eyes on the car I'd be driving:

WhatsApp Image 2024-02-14 at 09.43.43 (3).jpeg


With that done, we headed back to our AirBnB, while they went off to their hotel. The following morning, we all arrived back at Snetterton, ready to kick things off. After the driver briefing, I got my missus situated somewhere she could sit and watch (and sit in the car if she got cold), then got into my race suit just a few minutes before we needed to head to the first stage. By this point, I was crapping myself to be honest. When I got strapped into the car for the first time, and remembered how claustrophobic it feels wearing a HANS device and being surrounded by roll cage and bucket seat, I really felt the nerves. It might look like a standard Impreza, but this thing was intimidating. The only Impreza I'd ever driven in my life up to this point was a bog standard WRX. About 20 years ago. The only other fast 4WD car I've driven is a Golf R, and I've never driven anything other than FWD stuff on track. Should be fun. After a quick chat with Dylan to go over the important switches, we decided to ignore the anti-lag and flat shift and just see how we got on for the first couple of stages. It had rained a lot in the run-up to the event, so it was going to be slippery and we just wanted to get used to the car.

With it now time to set off, we headed to the first time control. Obviously I stalled the car pulling out of service but, after that, I managed to drive through the paddock without issue. We got to the start line and I pulled the lever back into what I thought was first. Dan counted down and, when he said "Go!", I dumped the clutch and....nothing. I hadn't been aggressive enough with the lever so, while the gear indicator said we were in gear, we weren't. Bugger. Especially after it had been fine while we were plodding about the paddock. Anyway, pulled harder on the lever, built the revs, dumped the clutch and f**k me! It span all four wheels and launched itself forwards. Once you were up and running, it didn't feel that fast to be honest but, off the line, it was definitely the most brutal car I've driven. The first stage had started with a 90 right that brought you onto the circuit before Agostini. It was bloody slippery and, with cold tyres and zero experience, it was only going to go one way. I turned into Williams (going onto the back straight) and, once the car started to turn, it just kept on going :ROFLMAO: It was a totally rooky mistake, and one that saw us sliding across the grass, with me wondering just how big the bill was going to be. Thankfully we avoided the barrier, but did end up with the nose a couple of feet away from it. It shouldn't have been a problem but, in order to select neutral and reverse, there is a small cable operated lever on the front of the shifter. We didn't realise it but, the moment I pulled it, the cable snapped, so we only had forward gears. You can see from this screenshot from another crews' on-board camera where we ended up:

d.png


We sat there for a few seconds, desperately trying to find reverse, but it wasn't happening. Then the marshals appeared and said we needed to switch off and get out of the car. Then they changed their mind and said we had to wait for a gap. I was (obviously) super pissed off at this point, thinking we were going to miss stages because of a stupid mistake, but luckily Dan kept a cool head. As we were stuck in the car, we asked if we could start the engine and keep trying then, when there was a gap, the marshals could get over the barrier and push us backwards enough so that we could get going again. It was a pretty dreadful start and had cost us three minutes, but we were at least moving again. We got to the end of the stage and back into service and, while I was pissed off in the moment, I was relieved to have at least survived.
We went out for the second stage and, while we didn't get stuck this time, I did spin the car at Oggies. I am happy to admit that I am no professional driver and I was really struggling with the car at this point. It just seemed to oversteer like mad. This was partly down to the conditions of course, not to mention my lack of talent. Regardless, the car just didn't handle like I expected. It was super tail-happy and felt more like it was RWD than 4WD. The slightest breath on the throttle, even coming out of first gear corners, and the car was sideways. On the muddy sections of the infield, you could barely touch the throttle. Anyway, we got through that one and, once back in service, I had a chat with Dylan. He suggested that it might be worth altering the centre diff settings, as the car was currently in full-on tarmac setting, so was pushing quite a bit of power to the rear axle. Given the conditions (and my being a numpty), we agreed to back it off a bit and send a bit more to the front wheels.

We headed out for SS3 and my god what a difference. It was still tail-happy on the loose but, on tarmac, it felt so much more planted. There was a touch more understeer mid-corner, but that was pretty easy to manage and I immediately felt more confident. I'm sure it wasn't the quickest setting but, for me, it made the car much less intimidating, and I finally felt like I could push on a bit. There were no spins on that stage (yay!) but it wasn't drama-free. The rally uses the circuit, but also uses sections of the infield and outfield. This meant that we exited the circuit on the pit straight, using a dirt track that took us to the stage end at one of the access roads. Just off the circuit, a big hole had been dug up next to a section of the old runway and, as we went up it, the concrete took a chunk out of the front-left tyre and bent both front wheels. We didn't lose any time but, when we got to the end of the stage, the tyre cried enough and went down. We changed it just after the stage (you're not allowed to drive on punctured tyres anywhere in the venue), and got back to service with no time loss. It was fortuitous in a way though as, with conditions improving, we decided to switch to soft slicks on the front of the car.

From there on out, it was pretty plain-sailing to be honest. We were growing in confidence by that point, and I was beginning to get used to the car and push a bit more. We did spin on SS4 at Nelson (going the wrong way round the circuit), but we had a good laugh about it, as it was pretty much a full 360 and we got a good cheer from the spectators. The last two stages were back in the right direction and, although it did rain a bit before the last stage, it didn't cause any problems. We never did try the anti-lag or flat-shift, but that was fine to be honest. Dylan said that the anti-lag can make the car push on in the corners, while you need to get the timing right with the flat-shift, so it seemed more sensible to focus on learning the chassis of the car.

Going into the event, I had no expectations in terms of results. My only aim was to get a finish, and to improve as the day wore on, which we achieved. We were seeded down in 52nd, which was really low given the car, so we were overtaking a few cars on every stage by the end of the day. We ended up 39th and 6th in our class. Not spectacular by any means, but a solid improvement. If it hadn't been for the time loss on SS1, we would probably have been around 33/34 overall. We were consistently faster than the car that finished 5th so, again, without the issue on SS1, we would have gained that place. The top four guys were a good bit quicker (and are all 4WD regulars) but, while we started the day around 1m30s slower than them, by the end of it, that was less than a minute, so we were going in the right direction. With more time in the car, I'm sure we would have been in the ballpark, so I'm more than happy with that. Let's face it, stepping into a powerful 4WD car on only my second event was a pretty big ask.

The only issue is, I really want to do it again :ROFLMAO: There's no way I can wait another five years, so I need to find a way to do another one. I'm definitely going to try and do it again next year to see if we can get a bit further up the order, but the bug is back in a big way. It wasn't a cheap weekend by any means but, if you ever get the opportunity, you should absolutely go for it. Actually competing makes track days feel like the most boring thing in the world.

Anyway, enough waffle, here are some pictures:

The 2024 Snetterton Stages 2.jpg

The 2024 Snetterton Stages 10.jpg

The 2024 Snetterton Stages 16.jpg

The 2024 Snetterton Stages 19.jpg
The 2024 Snetterton Stages 23.jpg
 
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Twingo 1??

ClioSport Club Member
  Twingo 133 Cup,
Well done, looks like you were trying on some of them pictures! I know that car is a weapon it's been used on Mull by the lad who won it last year.
 

massiveCoRbyn

ClioSport Club Member
  Several
Well done, looks like you were trying on some of them pictures! I know that car is a weapon it's been used on Mull by the lad who won it last year.

Yeah it's a very capable car. Dylan said it's had a fourth at Mull. Had some good Rally GB National results too.
 

MarkCup

ClioSport Club Member
Nice work. You have some balls, I wouldn't know where to start. Every year I say I'll enter the GRRC Spring Spring the following year but I always seem to find a reason not to.

You've inspired me 😁👍
 

McGherkin

ClioSport Club Member
Great writeup. Imprezas with DCCD are so much fun especially when set up for being tail happy, but are nothing like what most people expect from AWD.

I presume you have done your BARS and got your MSUK stage license? I was planning on doing mine pre-covid as it’s something I’d love to do one day, but realistically the cost of getting into stage rallying is astronomical these days, so it was as much about having a day at PPRC or similar chucking scoobies about and having a willy waving ticket at the end than actually having any real plans to go stage rallying.

How much was the rental out of interest?
 

massiveCoRbyn

ClioSport Club Member
  Several
Nice work. You have some balls, I wouldn't know where to start. Every year I say I'll enter the GRRC Spring Spring the following year but I always seem to find a reason not to.

You've inspired me 😁👍

Thanks Mark. It was definitely a big step and, looking back, I think I underestimated just how much of a challenge the car would be for a relative noob like me. It's left me wanting more for sure, but I do wonder if I want to go back in a 4WD, or try a decent spec 2WD car.

Competing is mega though and, in the meantime, I might try to do some of the sprint/autocross type events they do out here to keep my hand in.

Great writeup. Imprezas with DCCD are so much fun especially when set up for being tail happy, but are nothing like what most people expect from AWD.

I presume you have done your BARS and got your MSUK stage license? I was planning on doing mine pre-covid as it’s something I’d love to do one day, but realistically the cost of getting into stage rallying is astronomical these days, so it was as much about having a day at PPRC or similar chucking scoobies about and having a willy waving ticket at the end than actually having any real plans to go stage rallying.

How much was the rental out of interest?

That's definitely true. I knew it wouldn't feel like a faux-wheel drive car like a Golf or Audi, but I was shocked at just how much power-oversteer it was capable of. I'd definitely like to spend more time experimenting with one as, while I was happy with the car after we adjusted it, I'd love to have the time to get to grips with it in full-attack mode, especially with the anti-lag and flat-shift.

I did my BARS test back in 2012, so a long time ago now. Honestly, unless you're planning on competing, I wouldn't bother. It's a bit of a waste of time in reality. I did mine at the Forest Experience in Wales (which I believe is now moving to Scotland). I basically just paid for one of their rally experience days, which then had the BARS test bolted onto it. David Higgins was my instructor and he just said that, so long as you aren't a complete ham-fisted idiot, he will pass you. Then it's just the multiple-choice questionnaire. It's not like ARDS, as there isn't really any practical assessment of your driving. That said, driving on proper forest roads with David alongside me was good fun, as he has obviously competed at the top level. I don't think he does it anymore though, as he sold the school to someone else.

The rental for Snetterton was £3,500 plus fuel and entry fees. Almost half of that was the insurance though, which is out of the control of the hire company. It also varies a bit depending on which event you do, as some of it has to cover their travel/accommodation costs. Most hire companies are based in Wales or the north of England though, so it was always going to cost me a bit more for that element of it.

It's not cheap by any means but, for a proper international spec car that's a genuine contender for class honours/top 10 overall, it's not awful. Even if you have your own car, you could easily spend a grand on a single event once you've bought some tyres and replaced some wear-and-tear bits. Overall, I think I would still prefer to have my own car, as I enjoy the tinkering element of it, but it's not really practical for me right now, so this approach made sense, and I do see why a lot of people choose to do it. And, if you were just looking to do a one-off event to tick rallying off your bucket list, I think it's totally worth it. Yes you could do a lot of track days for that money, but this was on a whole different level in terms of the experience. I've done a lot of track days, but they don't come close to the buzz of competing, and the challenge of doing stages. I don't think I'd ever want to try circuit racing, as going round and round on exactly the same piece of road doesn't have anything like the same appeal as trying to maximise your performance on a (relatively) unknown course.
 

McGherkin

ClioSport Club Member
That's definitely true. I knew it wouldn't feel like a faux-wheel drive car like a Golf or Audi, but I was shocked at just how much power-oversteer it was capable of. I'd definitely like to spend more time experimenting with one as, while I was happy with the car after we adjusted it, I'd love to have the time to get to grips with it in full-attack mode, especially with the anti-lag and flat-shift.

I did my BARS test back in 2012, so a long time ago now. Honestly, unless you're planning on competing, I wouldn't bother. It's a bit of a waste of time in reality. I did mine at the Forest Experience in Wales (which I believe is now moving to Scotland). I basically just paid for one of their rally experience days, which then had the BARS test bolted onto it. David Higgins was my instructor and he just said that, so long as you aren't a complete ham-fisted idiot, he will pass you. Then it's just the multiple-choice questionnaire. It's not like ARDS, as there isn't really any practical assessment of your driving. That said, driving on proper forest roads with David alongside me was good fun, as he has obviously competed at the top level. I don't think he does it anymore though, as he sold the school to someone else.

The rental for Snetterton was £3,500 plus fuel and entry fees. Almost half of that was the insurance though, which is out of the control of the hire company. It also varies a bit depending on which event you do, as some of it has to cover their travel/accommodation costs. Most hire companies are based in Wales or the north of England though, so it was always going to cost me a bit more for that element of it.

It's not cheap by any means but, for a proper international spec car that's a genuine contender for class honours/top 10 overall, it's not awful. Even if you have your own car, you could easily spend a grand on a single event once you've bought some tyres and replaced some wear-and-tear bits. Overall, I think I would still prefer to have my own car, as I enjoy the tinkering element of it, but it's not really practical for me right now, so this approach made sense, and I do see why a lot of people choose to do it. And, if you were just looking to do a one-off event to tick rallying off your bucket list, I think it's totally worth it. Yes you could do a lot of track days for that money, but this was on a whole different level in terms of the experience. I've done a lot of track days, but they don't come close to the buzz of competing, and the challenge of doing stages. I don't think I'd ever want to try circuit racing, as going round and round on exactly the same piece of road doesn't have anything like the same appeal as trying to maximise your performance on a (relatively) unknown course.
Yeah, you have to drive them like an RWD, but the small amount of power going to the front helps drag it to point where you want the angle to be. Endless fun.

Yeah that’s basically what I was expecting tbh. Cocking about in the mud with a license at the end. Forest Experience was based at Sweet Lamb iirc?

That’s not bad at all. Something I’d definitely consider one day. As you say, stage rallying is stupid expensive even in something like a Nova or MG ZR etc., so £3500 for a proper spec Subaru is peanuts. Guessing around £5k all in for the event?

Yeah honestly compared to sprinting etc driving around a track gets boring quickly, there’s so much space 🤣 Rallying is a whole other ball game. And the competition side of it makes things so much better.
 

massiveCoRbyn

ClioSport Club Member
  Several
I saw this flying around Snet, good work :)

Thank you. I don't suppose you got any pictures or video? Don't have much footage from the stages unfortunately.

Yeah, you have to drive them like an RWD, but the small amount of power going to the front helps drag it to point where you want the angle to be. Endless fun.

Yeah that’s basically what I was expecting tbh. Cocking about in the mud with a license at the end. Forest Experience was based at Sweet Lamb iirc?

That’s not bad at all. Something I’d definitely consider one day. As you say, stage rallying is stupid expensive even in something like a Nova or MG ZR etc., so £3500 for a proper spec Subaru is peanuts. Guessing around £5k all in for the event?

Yeah honestly compared to sprinting etc driving around a track gets boring quickly, there’s so much space 🤣 Rallying is a whole other ball game. And the competition side of it makes things so much better.

I've clearly got some learning to do before I can drive one like that!

FX was somewhere near Welshpool I think. I guess they must have lost the use of the land if they're moving to Scotland. A shame, as it was a great venue. WRC teams used it for testing, so it was very representative of proper stages. I don't know if they do any experiences or license testing at Sweetlamb.

This event was just under £4500 all-in. Entry was £380, with the rest on the Carless fuel. As you say, expensive on the face of it, but not bad for a car that would probably cost you £40k to buy.
 


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