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After four years of rallying with varying amounts ot seat time, I decided that I should siphon some money away from the rally car and invest it into my driving. Having attended a pro-licensing school at Tim O'Neil's rally facility in 1999 prior to our first attempt at the Maine Forest Rally, his school was the logical choice. I had remembered Tim's easy going attitude and his ability to communicate effectively. I also recalled reading about Tim's past rally successes and figured he was the man to break me of any bad habits I had developed.
I'll preface my thoughts on the school with this comment. If you are new to rally or have had limited experience, go get some instruction before you drive your car at speed on a live rally stage! Not only will you be in more control and be able to drive quicker, but you will have more fun!

I initally signed up for Tim's 3 day rally course(a Christmas present from Sharon, my ultra-supportive wife) during the winter months via the Subaru i-Club, but due to unseasonably warm temperatures, the class was cancelled twice. Tara, who organizes the classes, was very helpful and persistant about getting me into a class. Finally, I made my hotel reservation and went to the white mountains of New Hampshire the second week of May 2002. Of course, it poured, turning the school into a low grip mud bath-yeeehaw! The third day say both snow and rain.

There were four of us in the class, but I was the only one who had any rally experience. My driving had improved over the last few years(well, at least my stage times had), but I knew that It was just a matter of time before I my right foot wrote a check my left foot couldn't cash! I had begun to use left foot braking in my last two rallies and noticed that I was going quicker and the car seemed more controllable.

Tim is a proponent of left foot braking, and this was the other reason I chose his school. Tim and his co-instructor Tony Brush put us in VW Golfs and Jettas the first day to see what kind of bad habits we all had. The second day, we moved into Audi 4000 Quattros. I had brought my '94 Subaru Impreza rally car and was anxious to try that on the third day.

Tim alternated driving exercises(skid pad, slalom) with chalkboard discussion. He and Tony advised us to get out of the car and take a break when we had performed the assigned maneuver well. Of course, we all protested, pleading, "just one more time!?"

By the second day, we were all understanding left foot braking and the benefits it affords us on loose surfaces. We also learned that we had to get all the work done(braking and steering) for the turn before we got there. This seemed to be our biggest hurdle, but once done correctly a couple of times, it clicks. An, "epiphany," as Tim likes to call it.

The second day also saw us putting 11-12 car control inputs together to perform a pendulum turn or, "Scandanavian Flick." Sliding the car the opposite direction from where you want to go is very counter-intuitive until you actually get it down! The third day was spent doing a simulated rally stage with various turns, crests, and pendulum turns. What a blast!

I've planned on heading back for a fourth day in the near future to re-familiarize myself and polish some of the skills. It's hard to believe I haven't stuffed it yet without the instruction I have received from Tim and Tony! I'm hoping that stage times will reflect my new found confidence and left foot!

A heartfelt thank-you to Tara for her persistance and help. Thanks to Tim and Tony for their knowledge, superb communication and teaching skills and a great three days!

Cheers! John

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