RIP is good. Personally, I like it almost much as speed, because one without the generally leads to twisted flesh, scr and ambulance rides. Rally drivers, hand, arenít that fussed about grip, and happy to dance along its edges, thumbing noses at physics and probability and someho enjoying the ride.
I was more than a little apprehensive, then, I was told Iíd be driving a Citroen DS3 R3 rall far more so than if Iíd been tasked with tackling Supercar, or even a rocket ship.
My wussiness about driving hard on dirt can thankfully remain a secret because we ended up at kart track on the Gold Coast, the idea being to turn into a Ken Blockhead so I could make a gymkhana- video and break the internet with billions of YouT views. Okay, it wasnít a dock full of shipping container but it was still very much Kenny from the Block style.
And there were no trees and no real room to make a total dick of myself.
Normally the way these things work is that youíre strapped into whatever mad machine youíre being allowed to drive and sent off around a track with an instructor shouting in your ear (fortunately we had proper $9000 helmets with intercoms because I couldní hear a thing for 10 minutes after I got out of the car, let alone while in it). At dayís end you then swap places and the expert shows you how half-arsed and embarrassing your efforts were.
Today things are different. Tony Sullens, Team Citroen Australiaís number two driver Ė the car weíre steering is team leader Eli Evansí entry in the Australian Rally Championship Ė agrees to take me eaming on y ube almost as the other and ar thumbing their someho tackling a at a turn me gymkhana-style container style. a couldní eaming metal on the other e quite w when car, V8 ube s, t around and show me the very confusing ropes first.
There is much to take in. The big pole with the bright yellow tape around it where the gearstick should be does not operate the sequential gearbox; itís the handbrake lever, and Iím not to touch it. The clutch, which was designed by someone cruel, sits up and to the left (as does the driver in this car), where it feels totally unnatural, like using your foot to adjust the air-con vents.
Once youíve somehow managed to use the clutch to get off the line you can ignore it, changing cogs using a flappy paddle, just one of them, on the right Ė towards you for up and away for down. Thereís a red button on the paddle for neutral, and reverse, but donít worry about that, just donít press the clutch when youíre starting up or it will explode.
The brakes should be used with your left foot, because thatís how rally drivers roll through corners, and the pedal must be kicked like a savage dog because there is no booster.
The bad news is the rear tyres are already shagged after many hot laps, so much so they look like they lost
and dri c a fight with a panther. On Tonyís last flying lap with me next to him, the rears give way altogether, sending us into what I know to be an unsalvageable spin. But while Iím bracing for impact and breathing a slight sigh of relief that I wonít have to drive this barking monster, Tony is applying the maxim of ďwhen in doubt, power outĒ, with spectacular effect. We somehow drift through the next bend, rising up on two wheels as he uses a tyre barrier for balance, and then heave and giggle our way to the pits.
As we swap places, Tony goes to check that the right rear hasnít exploded, returning to tell me that theyíre not that bad really, and heís not worried. I look deep into his laughing eyes and tell him that Iím worried, and that perhaps he should be, because heís a rally driver and I have less motor sport experience than your average penguin.
Unfortunately he thinks Iím trying to be funny and, after just one entirely predictable stall getting off the line, we launch out of the pits and around the first few corners at what I think is a daring pace.
After ving hange unleashing Never things so boost.
and c few After a couple of laps of the absurdly tight, twisty hallenging track, Tony tells me that weíve been ving around in Road mode, and that heís going to hange the engine mapping to Stage 1, effectively unleashing the beast.
Never has the pushing of a single button changed things so much, so quickly.
Road mode is used for transporting between stages, so youíre getting just 30 percent of throttle and no boost. Now, this crazed Citroen, which apparently makes only 130kW at the wheels, is giving its all, and the result is what can only be described as a lightswitch throttle. Get on the power and itís instantaneous; the anti-lag kicks in, so it feels like full torque is being thrown at you without delay, and accompanied by the kind of banging and burbling that makes rally cars sound so great from outside.
Everything about driving a car like this is hard, physical work, yet it requires subtlety at the same time Ė apart from the brakes, which you just hit as hard as
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you can, with tremendous results. If youíre not patient on the throttle, or you give it just a millimetre too much, too soon, youíre going sideways, particularly if your tyres are tearing themselves apart with each lap.
I lasted just over nine minutes, or 10 laps, and after the first five I even managed to start enjoying the experience.
Yes, a great road car will let you brake late and throw it into corners, and the very best of them can change direction like a school of fish, but none of them are as darty, or as involving, to drive as a genuine rally machine.
It might not sound like a long time, but I estimated the temperature inside the car by the end to be around 90 degrees Celsius; inside my padded race suit it was double that. Throw in the fact that my pulse was achieving the kind of BPMs beloved of hard-house DJs fr g and pools. om corners really around DJs fr g and I was sweating not just buckets but swimming pools. My leg hurt from hitting the brakes, my arms om wrestling the steering wheel around countless corners and my teeth from alternately gritting and rinning. The video, no doubt, will be superlative.
ďYou can imagine what itís like when youíve done a really hard, fast stage for 30 minutes on gravel and you climb out of the car and they tell you youíve got four more to go,Ē Tony laughs.
But the fact is, I canít actually imagine that. Iíd never get that far, particularly on gravel.
Itís been said many times but itís worth saying again, racing drivers arenít just super talented and supremely bonkers, they are amazing athletes.
Driving a rally car, or any race car, really isnít for the faint-hearted. But in short bursts, at least, itís an enormous amount of fun.
achieving Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Citroen DS 3 R3 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 130-154kW @ 47500rpm (pending tune) 340Nm @ 3 00 0rpm 6-speed sequential 123 0kg (with driver pairing) 6.5sec (claimed) N/A $POA Special order
wheelsmag.com.au 97 THEORETICALLY, Ken Block makes his living as a rally driver, but in reality heís a professional YouTube megastar and walking, talking, grinning brand machine.
Essentially, he makes crazy driving ĎGymkhanaí videos to help him sell shoes Ė heís a founder of the DC brand Ė and more recently his Hoonigan clothing range.
When he released his fifth Gymkhana video on YouTube in 2012, featuring a guest appearance by Travis Pastrana on a dirt bike, it was viewed 5.1 million times in just 24 hours, making it the most watched video clip in the world that week.
Block is said to be worth a cool $US20 million. Not bad for a hoon.
You can watch all of his greatest viral videos here: bit.ly/1GHyY5i