Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Flat Out" at Rallyconnection

JOE's day out at RallyConnection

Report by Oisin Collins from Joe.ie

22/12/2011 10:10 am

Last week, JOE’s resident petrol head, Oisin Collins, made his way down to Waterford to have a go on RallyConnection’s purpose built rally track. Here’s how he got on.

Recently I made my way down to Mondello Race Park, which saw me take to the track in a single seater Formula Sheane. The buzz and excitement was amazing and I haven’t shut up about it since. However, on Friday, I was silenced (just for a little while). I was silent because I had to navigate a super-charged Ford Escort around a series of hairpin turns as I tried my best to keep the car on the straight and narrow.

I had made the trip to Waterford to have a go on RallyConnection’s purpose built rally track and I have to say, if you’re looking for the excitement of tearing around a field without the hassle of having to evade a p***ed off farmer, you should look no further.

Before I set off I checked out RallyConnection’s website to see what I was getting myself into. One line particularly jumped out. It read, “You will experience a special rally stage on a circuit of roads designed to keep you 'busy' behind the wheel.” Busy was definitely the right word to use.

My rally experience actually began just outside the RallyConnection HQ when I managed to skid on a patch of black ice outside a small cottage and nearly found myself having breakfast with the neighbours. At least it gave me taste for what was in store. It was a clear day and the temperature had been moving between -3C and -1C all morning, so shaded areas were fairly icy.

Finally, I arrived at the track, which looked as though it had been painted white thanks to the frost, but thankfully it was a clear day and the sun was just breaking over the mountains.

When I walked into the main office I was greeted by four lads from Carlow – Adrian, Niall, Dave and Dwayne – who were also there to experience what RallyConnection had to offer. This meant, of course, that they were the competition. Though I tried my best not to show it.

After our instructor Tom, the head man at RallyConnection, got the Ford Escort warmed up we got in the passenger seat and took to the track as co-drivers for a lap. To "get to know" the course.

Tom’s experience as a competitive driver was clear from the off as he threw the car into a power slide with ease around tight corners and floored it on the straights – to speeds you wouldn’t believe – making sure to keep the car inside the lines with absolute precision.

We drove eight laps around the 1km course in a clockwise direction and eight laps anti-clockwise. After that, we drove another six laps clockwise, and it was these six that were the ones that mattered because the last lap was timed. No matter how well you drove all day, even if drove better than Tommi Mäkinen himself, a mistake on the last lap meant a decent time was out of the question.

The current lap record for the track stands at around 55 seconds, which might seem easily attainable to a novice with a lust for speeding around a track sideways, but believe me, it’s not. Seeing Tom tear around the track is somewhat misleading, as he’s a pro, so he really does makes it look easy.

When you get into the Escort you instinctively feel ready to race. The bucket seat hugs you closely and keeps you nicely centred, the clutch is heavier then an elephant holding a piano and the top of the windshield is covered in a massive decal, like the proper WRC rally cars. So before you even set off your heart will be pumping.

If you get there early and you don’t think you’ve quite woken up then just wait until the Escort’s engine is unleashed. As you stand on the sideline watching the other people in your group have their go on the track (two cars are allowed on the track at one time) you get a sense of how loud the cars really are. Mountains surround the track so the echo only adds to the aural ferocity.

When you’re inside the car, however, things change. You use proper rally approved helmets, so Tom gives you directions through a built in intercom. That along with trying your hardest not to crash, drowns out any other noise. You really are kept ‘busy’ behind the wheel, but Tom is always there to lend a hand if things start to go wrong, which they did for me. Twice.

My day at RallyConnection was truly a fantastic experience, one which I can't recommend highly enough. Both myself and the lads from Carlow had great craic and we’re sure to be talking about it for some time to come. In case you're wondering, I managed a time of 62 seconds. But it was a wet day so that alone easily adds an extra seven seconds. Ahem.

RallyConnection has the two things blokes look for in a car: speed and the ability to go sideways. Very sideways. If you’re looking for a last minute Christmas present for your brother, ideas for a stag party or even a lad’s office day out then look no further. If you want to check out more about RallyConnection's prices and the activities they have to offer then go onto their website www.RallyConnection.com or contact them on:
Telephone: 00 353 (0)58 47000
Mobile: 00 353 (0)86 2572302
Email: drive@rallyconnection.com

RallyConnection Rally Driving School, County Waterford, Ireland.
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