I apologise forthwith for that awful headline.
Anyway, later than it should be up, a little something about last weekend. Courtesy of a birthday present I’d not had time to cash in I had a Rally Experience voucher available for Knockhill, out in the country between Perth and Edinburgh. I’ve always wanted to have a go at rallying, and the always-wonderful Leah picked up on my hints and bought me this for my birthday/Christmas. Erm, last year.
OK, I’m a little slow about organising things right now.
The weather’s been pretty lousy recently but I checked on the morning and the rally experience was still on. I hopped into my little Clio and zipped down from Perth. When you get to Knockhill along the country roads, do keep an eye out. Heading from the north it’s fairly well signposted right until you get to it. I drove past and had to double back.
Once there I parked up, handed in my voucher and was given a driver log sheet and a wristband. A short while afterwards one of the instructors gathered up the 15 drivers and took us for a short induction and safety briefing. This was quick, clear and well-presented.
We were then shuttled down to the lodge from where we’d be based for the afternoon. A nice, cosy little structure protecting us from the freezing wind outside! There we were given some more instructions and left to our devices as the first five drivers were taken to their cars.
I sat and watched some of the rally videos on the big screen inside and got a couple of pictures of the cars setting off on their first run up the course. The schedule was simple – two repeat runs, another two, one final hell for leather run up and then the final drive back with the instructor in the driver’s seat.
For those who wanted the “real” experience or for others who were spectating, a retired rally driver was on hand to take passengers up and down the course at full pelt for Â£20. A few people took him up on it and every one came in shaken but smiling.
I was in the third group and finally my number was called. I was in red car 10 with my instructor Iain. That’s always a good start, having someone with your same name in the co-pilot’s seat. A really pleasant guy who made me feel comfortable from the off. The cars are all old Ford Sierras with roll cages, uprated suspension, 4-point harnesses and so forth. Otherwise, the only safety equipment is a decent crash helmet.
The first run up the course was done slowly so that I could become familiar with the turns. Iain pointed out when and where to turn, the best entry points, where to avoid mud and so on. We turned at the end of the course and came back down. Then repeated the return trip only somewhat faster.
My task while waiting for my second run through was to draft some course notes using my memory of the run and a map placed on the wall of the lodge. This is trickier than it looks, given the short time I’d had in the car. Do I take that second turn in 2nd gear or 3rd? How far do I go flat out before the sharp left? And so on.
Soon enough, my second run came up and I managed to get around much faster without crashing. Although I came on one occasion. Well. Two. But I didn’t. That’s what’s important.
My third and final run was to be assessed on various points – steering, cornering, quality of my notes, consistency, braking, control… quite a few things to worry about! I think I did quite well – then Iain took over and tried to kill me on the return leg. The video of that is below. It was… bumpy.
Finally there was the award ceremony. All the drivers had their points collated and the instructors argued over the ties. I’m very pleased to say I came 3rd with 78 points. The guy who came 2nd also had 78 and the winner had 79. There was at least one other driver on 78 so I was lucky to pick up my little plastic medal!
Overall I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone who’s even remotely interested. It’s fun, well-run and not that expensive for something you’ll probably only do once.
Thanks to the folk at Knockhill for a fantastic afternoon, and to Leah for buying me the gift certificate in the first place!