Even the best rally drivers make mistakes. It is after all a fast and dangerous sport with little room for error. Earlier this year, professional rally driver, Sebastien Ogier, spun out at the very first turn, SS16, when he caught a snowbank at the second round of the 2017 World Rally Championships, Rally Sweden.
In an interview with Motorsport.com, Ogier admitted it was one of his stupidest mistakes. It robbed him of a chance to fight for the win. He not only spun out, he stalled the car as well, costing him valuable seconds on the clock.
At round 7 of the World Rally Championships in 2016, Kiwi driving ace, Hayden Paddon, also crashed out twice, labelling them both as amateur mistakes. The first incident at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal cost Paddon the lead when he crashed and shattered his car’s suspension. Day two at the event didn’t get any better. Paddon clipped a wall and went wide on a right hander, ending up on two wheels and crashing into a wall.
If you are gearing up to test your driving skills to the max, you may want to take have the heads up on some of the mistakes that even the best rally drivers can make. First timers have to start somewhere, but ambitious amateur drivers dreaming of motor racing stardom, are more likely than most to fall foul of common mistakes. Here are the top 5 mistakes first-time rally drivers make.
1. Arriving late and coming unprepared
If you are an absolute first-timer, chances are you’ll be attending an experience day like these available here at Into The Blue, or an experienced rally driver is mentoring you. For your first day on the track, the biggest mistake is to arrive late or come unprepared. Be sure you’ve read all of the track rules and requirements the school or instructor has laid out. If it’s your first proper race, the car you are driving will need to pass a tech inspection, so make sure your vehicle is up to scratch.
2. Trying to outmanoeuvre or outperform others
When you get behind the wheel, and take to the rally track, the adrenaline rush can go to your head. Don’t, whatever you do, overestimate your capabilities. If you do, you could cause yourself and others harm. Remember there will be other drivers with a range of different skill levels on the track. Invariably, some will be faster than you.
Don’t try to overtake or outmanoeuvre other drivers unless you are confident you have the skills to do so safely. At your first track day, you will be getting used to the way your vehicle handles and testing out taking the corners. Don’t be dogged by your competitive spirit. That can come later when you know exactly what you are doing. Poorly judged overtakes can be the downfall of even the best professional rally driver.
3. Over relying on mirrors
Car mirrors are mainly used when reversing, parking and changing lanes. On the rally track you’ll be flying along at high speeds. Checking your mirrors too often will take your eyes off the track and what is in front of you.
4. Fixating on the car ahead
Keeping up with the car ahead is an easy mistake to make. Fixate on the wheels of the car in front of you and you will drive towards them instead of where you want to go.
5. Using brakes in the middle of turns
You’ll no doubt hear about advanced trail-braking techniques, but advanced drivers know what they are doing. Using your brake in the middle of a turn is the commonest mistake made by novice drivers. If you use your brakes in the middle of a turn, chances are you will come off the track.
6. Forgetting to check oil and temperature gauges
It may seem like a simple thing to remember, but in all the excitement of the race, checking your oil and temperature gauges is an easy thing to forget. It may not seem important, but when your vehicle is stressed to the max, not checking your levels could put you out of the race.