Rally experience gets adrenalin pumping

INPT12-205 Superdrive
INPT12-205 Superdrive

“GIVE it more throttle,” shouted Jim Crozier through my earpiece as I neared the hairpin bend.

My instincts were telling me to slow down, indicate, check my mirrors, change gear, then look left and right for pedestrians, but the man in my ear was having none of it.

“Now brake,” he said. “Brake harder,” he added. “Now turn the wheel”.

I compressed the brake pedal as far as it would go, locked the steering wheel to the right and the rally car I was attempting to tame skidded round the corner, its back end lifting and arcing away from me.

I applied the throttle again and powered out of the bend, wrestling to keep my car on the straight and narrow as my rear end threatened to be the undoing of me.

It wasn’t the perfect example of rally driving, but for someone who dislikes driving and loathes motorsport, I was happy enough with my rallying skills and the fact that I didn’t break the car or anything or anyone close to it.

They say you should do something that scares you every day. There’s no denying that last Thursday I faced up to my fears at Superdrive Motorsports Centre in Portadown.

Ahead of Adventureland Weekend which takes place across Northern Ireland this weekend, I was given the opportunity to have a go in a rally car at Superdrive, one of the participating venues.

My fears weren’t eased by the introductory spiel which might as well have been in Swahili as the instructor explained the technique necessary to manoeuvre the rear-wheel-drive rally cars using words like ‘camber’.

It was a case of learning at the wheel and thankfully I was paired with experienced rally man Jim Crozier who made me feel at ease before putting me through my paces in a rally-ready Ford Focus.

To compare rally driving with regular driving would, in musical terms, be like comparing Coldplay with Slayer.

I’m a reasonably confident driver, but all my road experience went out the window on the rally track where the emphasis seemed to be on hitting corners fast, braking hard and saying a little prayer.

Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get, and by the end of it, it’s fair to say I was enjoying the rush of adrenalin and the roar of the rally car as I managed to keep it pointed in the right direction for long enough to gain a decent speed.

I drove two stages in the RWD Ford Focus and one in the MII Escort RS2000 before switching seats and getting a high-speed demonstration run with experienced rally driver Andrew Bushe.

It all became clear what rallying driving was about as Andrew guided the car around the course faster than you can say ‘Perhaps I should have passed this opportunity on to someone else in our office’. At times it was as if Andrew was using black magic to negotiate the bends as he made the Escort disprove at least two of Newton’s Laws.

As the car came to a halt and I checked that my rally experience was definitely over, it was safe for me to declare, “I really enjoyed that”.

Whether or not my experience was made better by the fact this was something that took me out of my comfort zone, I can’t say for sure. Another way of looking at it is, if someone like me, who hates driving, enjoyed a morning at Superdrive this much, then imagine how good it would be for someone who sweats petrol.

Superdrive also offers 160cc and 270cc outdoor karting and a 4x4 off-road driving experience in addition to the rally experience, which can be upgraded to include a couple of stages in the Mitsubishi Evo.

Superdrive is the only rally school in Ireland offering junior rally driving experiences for young people age 13 to 17.

The Northern Ireland Adventureland Weekend takes place on March 23 and 24. There are 77 activity events taking place across Northern Ireland, all for either £10 per person or 50% off their normal price.

As well as Superdrive in Portadown, adventure lovers can also try their hand at a segway at Tannaghmore Gardens in Craigavon with Segway NI.

All events being offered by the two activity providers in this area are perfect for beginners, enthusiasts, families or groups of friends and everyone is encouraged to come and try what’s on offer. With qualified and experienced instructors showing people the ropes, no experience is necessary and all that’s required is a sense of adventure so book your place now.

Full event details and more information on the weekend itself can be found at discovernorthernireland.com/adventure

The Northern Ireland Adventureland Weekend is an initiative of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) in association with OutdoorNI.com