Motor Sport News - - Feature: Bars Licence -

Daunt­ing. That’s the word that springs to mind when start­ing out in ral­ly­ing. Cir­cuit rac­ing some­how seems more at home. You’ve driven on the as­phalt roads, you feel that com­pet­ing on a cir­cuit is ob­tain­able at least at an en­try level.

Ral­ly­ing ap­pears all the more dif­fi­cult thanks to the un­pre­dictabil­ity. The chang­ing sur­faces, the scream­ing co-driver in the pas­sen­ger seat, the not know­ing the roads. It all adds up to a pretty scary ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­fore you ac­tu­ally com­pete in a rally, you need to pass a test for a li­cence, and, ac­tu­ally, the BARS test is the per­fect loosener to get you ready for your de­but. Sounds odd; the last thing that should re­lax you when ner­vous is a test. But the prepa­ra­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence of the test does ev­ery­thing to put you at ease.

Or so I found out at Brands Hatch spend­ing the day with MSV Track­days in a Pirelli-shod Toy­ota GT86. The rear-wheeldrive car is the per­fect level to get started in. It feels quicker and more ag­ile than a road car, but it’s not a World Rally Car.

Im­me­di­ately, nerves were soft­ened when I was greeted by John Woods, the BARS in­struc­tor at the Kent track. I’d heard of John through his many years of ral­ly­ing and cir­cuit rac­ing.

I headed out on to the mixed sur­face train­ing course with Woods for some tu­ition. The course has a bit of ev­ery­thing, un­du­la­tion, cam­ber, quick cor­ners, hair­pins. There’s never a dull mo­ment on the track. I won’t men­tion the wa­ter­splash and the nearby shed, which was al­most de­mol­ished on my run...

On the menu was lessons in weight dis­tri­bu­tion in the car, how to hand­brake turn, how to stay men­tally fo­cused and tips on cre­at­ing a rhythm of clean driv­ing. All eas­ier said than done but un­der Woods’ tute­lage, the pace be­gan to come by the end of our time in the car.

After a quick run out in the morn­ing, time for a test. The MSA starter pack gives you ev­ery­thing you need to re­vise, and you will need to re­vise, as the test asks for an­swers about dis­tances, boards and what to do in the event of an ac­ci­dent among other ques­tions.

Once that’s out the way, it’s time to show you can con­trol the car and that you’re able to cope with the un­pre­dictabil­ity of ral­ly­ing.

Woods took me back out on the stage and re­mained si­lent as we went for two rapid-fire runs of the spe­cially de­signed rally stage, which is used in the cir­cuit’s own Brands Hatch Stages rally, held ev­ery Jan­uary.

If you can prove that you’re com­pe­tent be­hind the wheel, and you’ve passed the writ­ten test, you have the stamp of ap­proval and it’s out onto the stages with a few wise words of cau­tion from the ex­pe­ri­enced Woods.

From per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, after mak­ing a rally de­but in Septem­ber, the BARS test gives a great in­tro­duc­tion to what to ex­pect in a rally. No test can sim­u­late the real thing per­fectly, but it’s an eye-opener that will have you ex­cited for that big de­but on the stages.

To get your MSA ‘Go Ral­ly­ing’ starter pack, which you’ll need be­fore do­ing your BARS, visit: ■

Pho­tos: Gary Hawkins

Our man drove GT86 at Brands

Woods (r) is an in­struc­tor

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