After eight or nine sessions at Wakefield, I thought I’d try my hand at rally school. A friend shouted her partner eight laps at Hunter Valley Rally School, so I decided to play “The Cable Guy” and join their party.
Leaving work on Friday and getting stuck on the Pacific Highway was not the best way of starting our adventure, but once we cleared Warawee, things improved drastically. My friends were lucky, as they’d left about 30 minutes earlier. However, at least I had personalised updates on the traffic conditions.
We arrived in Cessnock, quickly found a fabulous pub called the Oaks with a fancy restaurant and great food. Feeling much mellower after our meal, we quickly hit the hotel for an early morning start.
We arrived at the requested time at HPOTs. I love watching the individuals booked for these sessions. You have a variety ranging from fathers with families who would not look out of place at a corporate “meet the family day” to teenagers with licenses so new that the ink has not yet dried, guys who would not look out of place riding a Harley wearing club colours and everything else in between.
After an intensive briefing from Amber, where we received a severe warning not to abuse or be rude to the young helpers, who turned out to be her delightful children, we were ready to start. The initial eight laps were in a Datsun from the 1980s. As you can appreciate, a car about 30 years old (which for the last ten of these has been used as a rally car, and for the last five has suffered the indignity of being abused by customers of the Hunter Valley Rally School) was never going to provide a luxury ride. Sitting in the little red Datsun, waiting to enter the circuit, I thought that the rattles and shakes were re-organising my internal organs. The interior was covered in inches of dust and the instructor and myself very quickly shared this dust coverage. The first lap is supposed to be completed at a moderate pace to get you familiar with the track and the car. The subsequent seven laps are to be done faster and faster, whilst trying to stay on the track and hopefully not lose your teeth, internal organs or dignity.
After completing the eight laps, I was covered in dust, and my liver was somewhere above my shoulder blade. But boy, what fun! Both my friend’s partner and I booked an additional five laps in more recent and lot less-abused WRXs. I wished that it had been more than five laps. The WRX was more responsive, faster and so much more fun. I fully realise that no sane person would let you trash one of the WRXs on the first round, and this business treats the last five laps as icing on the cake.
It is now three days since my highly enjoyable but dusty experience, and I am still coughing up dust.
We drove home via Wollombi. This is such a pretty road; with the twists and turns and traveling at the allowed speed, it keeps you engaged and concentrating at your peak, in contrast to the boring and concrete F3. I had the Harmon Kardon sound system turned up to level that would alarm most people, listening to Lorde, Cloud Control, Kite String Tangle and Mumford & Sons. I am still smiling three days later.