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Rally Training Day

Motor sport is dangerous. Everyone knows that and a warning is included on entry tickets and any other documentation supplied to spectators or participants. This presents a problem for people wanting to get into the sport and learning how to do it. To go circuit racing you can get training in driving skills but you still need racing circuits to practise and compete on. Practising rallying is even more restrictive because the events are generally held on roads that are open to the public, such as in state forests, where speed limits apply. In an actual event competitors might have to drive on roads that they have never seen before. There are schools offering to teach rally driving (it seems they are mainly about how to go around corners) but rallying is a team effort where the skill of the codriver can be almost as important as that of the driver, not to mention the importance of the support crew.

The only way to do it is to go out and do it, and the first event can be a little daunting. Before my first rally I'd had extensive driver training (and a lot of circuit experience) and my navigator had spent a lot of time learning about what the second chair was there for, but none of this prepared us for our first event. Three hundred kilometres of driving at high speed on roads we had never seen before following instructions prepared by someone we had never met tested everything we had been taught. We got through it (and even won a trophy) but it was not an ideal introduction to the sport.

On March 7, 2020, the Australian Motor Sport Action Group (AMSAG) ran a rally training day in Vulcan State Forest, centred on Black Springs.. It was organised by Ron Moore who is probably best known around the area for his rally car sponsored by the local Reliance Bank. I might be a bit parochial about things but I've been in a lot of forests around NSW and I believe the forests around Oberon are as good as they get. (That first rally I went in – it started in Oberon!)

The training day ran over roads in two parts of the forest and the roads chosen were an excellent choice, with a good combination of fast straights, twisty corners, places where caution was required and a bit of rough stuff to test car durability and the drivers' mechanical compassion. Rain over the previous few days could have been a problem but the roads drained well and there was even some dust. It was run over what would be two stages in a normal rally, and though it wasn't competitive cars were timed over the stages using the same methods used in competition and codrivers were provided with the normal instructions. There was even a service and refuelling break so service crews could practise setting up and learn the rules about what they could and could not do. (The service park was a Workcover NSW official workplace, so WH&S rules applied.) There was an opportunity for people to learn how to be officials, and I even got to learn how to use the new lens for my Nikon camera. Some experienced crews used the day to test their cars and crews before the start of the official competition season. Something for everyone.

This was a perfect way for competitors, crews and officials to learn how to do things in the same way that that would happen in a normal rally. Rather than the conventional ways to learn about the sport which treat the various aspects individually it brought everything together in a meaningful way. AMSAG should be congratulated for providing the opportunity for both newcomers to the sport and old seasoned campaigners to practise in a realistic environment.

There was even a sausage sizzle for lunch. I had the chance to travel as a passenger over the stages in one of the faster cars, but the logistics of getting around to take photos meant that it didn't happen. I wasn't too disappointed because although I'm a great one for nostalgia I thought that getting back inside a moving rally car might make me think about buying more Lotto tickets.

This article was going to be my contribution to the Oberon Writers' Group in March 2020
and it would have been except that month's meeting was postponed and then the coronavirus struck and
all meetings for any reason were cancelled until further notice. The group came back in 2021
and this was my contribution to the April meeting.
This was also published on the web site. A much shorter version appeared in the Oberon Review.

Copyright © 1998- Peter Bowditch

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