Long time no post! I have finally finished university (HOORAY!), so I’m looking to putting a little more time into blogging. As my first blog back, I thought I would share my experience of rally driving in Gloucester (UK), done through Virgin Experiences. My boyfriend bought me a rally driving experience about a year ago for my birthday and I’ve only just got round to using it. And let me tell you… it was insane!
For the experience, my boyfriend and I drove down from Canterbury which took around 3 hours. We had decided to stay at the De Vere hotel, which was literally less than a 5 minute drive to the rally driving site. I had decided to go with Gwynne Speed for the experience and I’m glad I did as the staff are lovely and very accommodating. For this post, I’m going to talk to you about the car and the track, finishing with my overall experience.
Side note: please bear in mind that I am a complete beginner and don’t know anything technical about rally driving.
If I remember correctly, we drove a Citron C2 which is front wheel drive. It’s nothing too fancy, thankfully, but it still provides the rally driving atmosphere. Essentially, anything that you would normally have in the car has been removed, like drinks holders etc, stuff normally situated around the gear stick. As well, the seatbelts have been changed into proper rally driving straps – there are four straps, all connecting in the centre over your torso. And finally, there was obviously a roll cage that had been added in. I felt safe in the car, even if I was the one behind the wheel…
When I first drove the car, I completely over-revved it, not realising just how high the clutch point it. To be honest, it was quite embarrassing… having extremely loud revs and not moving AT ALL (I promise I can actually drive). Looking back it was really funny. I don’t know what cars would be like at other rally driving centres, but the gears and steering are pretty stiff, presumably from the hammering that it gets from different rally driving experiences.
Part of me was expecting for the rally course to be like what you see on TV, with narrow roads and the edges of the course just being trees. All I can say is THANK GOD it wasn’t like that, because honestly, rally driving is HARD. I can confirm that if the course was like what the professionals drive, I would have left behind a truly mangled car!
The actual course had been laid out on the sand with tyres which acted as “trees”. This meant that instead of crashing into an actual tree, you drove across a tyre without totalling a car. I think the course was perfect for beginners, providing enough of space to build speed up, as well as sharp corners to drift around. This also meant that if you were to make a mistake, you only came off the tack onto an extended part of flat land.
At the beginning the track was bone dry, but after people had taken a few laps, they brought their water truck. I’m assuming this was done to make it a little easier for beginner to drift, but I’m not entirely sure. However, as the morning went on, the weather took a turn for the worse and started raining. This actually made it really difficult for the tyres to grip onto the track.
My top tip to anyone who decides to do a rally driving experience, regardless of where you decide to go, is to be really careful about over-steering. Other people in my group seemed to handle it okay, but this is something that I found really hard to get to grips with. Basically, this means that even if you are still going round the corner, straighten up the steering wheel. The tip that the instructors gave is to make sure that the wheels are facing the way that you want to go. I literally only understood this in my last couple of laps of the day, during which I ran over a few tyres and span out a few times, but that’s all part of the fun.
[Look at those noshers 😂]
As you can see, I had a large cheesy grin on my face! The whole rally driving experience was absolutely amazing and I honestly recommend anyone to do it themselves, whether you are an excellent driver or not. The instructors that took you round and taught you to rally drive were incredibly patient, particularly the guy who took me. The poor man had to put up with me spinning the car out a few times!
Throughout the whole experience I felt extremely safe. Before we began driving, a talk was given laying out rules of the course and a brief overview on how to travel around corners. The only thing I would say is that it would have been beneficial for the instructors to discuss the layout of the course before we began, just so we knew what to expect. I feel that I may have been a little less nervous if more instruction had been given on the actual course. That being said, it was nice to have complete freedom and learn the course for yourself, so it probably depends on your personal preference.
At the end, there was a little competition to see who could win driver of the day. This was decided by who could drive the quickest round the course with two timed laps. I have to say, by this point I had made great improvement, but unfortunately I didn’t make the podium. Instead, it was won by the oldest man there, who had to be in his 60s or 70s. Good on him!
There was the possibility for any spectators of drivers to go in the car with the instructor for £20 but you would only be in the car for maximum two minutes, so I didn’t personally think it was worth it. That being said, some of the spectators took part and enjoyed the experience, so I guess it’s down to personal preference.
Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for my next post!