BARS IS PERFECT PREP FOR RALLY DEBUT
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: shop.msauk.org. ■
Our man drove GT86 at Brands
Woods (r) is an instructor