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View Poll Results: Are you going to try RallyFish at some point?
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No 11 23.40%
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:50 PM   #1
Barnacules
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Default DirtFish Rally School (Snoqualmie, WA)

I wanted to share my experience I had on November 6th, 2010 at DirtFish Rally School (http://www.dirtfish.com) with the members of the NWIC chapter of NASIOC.

I'll start from the beginning. One day at work my Boss was talking about some Rally School place that was opening up in his back yard (Snoqualmie) and peaked my curiosity. I started looking online for it and came across DirtFish.com. I was completely shocked that a place like this existed so close to my house. I live in Duvall which is only about 25 - 30 minutes from the place. After discovering the place I started looking around for videos and reviews and found one on here from some guys that went in early October before the place was officially open and it looked absolutely awesome! I then decided to take the next step and sell it to the wife I told her that my Birthday was coming up (Oct 30th) and I would love to go do this and dropped the bomb that was $900. To my surprise she was 100% for it and thought it was a great idea. Needless to say the next morning I was on the phone with
Jaime Billadeau at DirtFish booking the next available date. Unfortunately my Birthday was booked so I had to settle for November 6th.

Okay, so now I'm booked. The wait between the time I booked and the day of the event was like Christmas night all over again, it went by at a snailís pace because I wanted so bad to get to that day!

So the day has come, November 6th! I have my bag packed with a change of clothes. Got my dirt bike riding attire on and I'm ready to go power around in a 300hp dirt go-kart. I show up at the place 30 minutes earlier then they opened just because I drove there so fast and left early. Yeah, I was itching badly. One of the employee's opened the doors and let me in the building early which was awesome because it was cold out.

Entrance to DirtFish Rally School


I am now inside! The place actually looks quite professional and wasn't really what I was expecting. To be honest I was expecting a shed with some guys standing next to cars. But no, this place is very serious and means business. The building the school is in is HUGE; 10,000 sqft to be exact. This houses a shop, driverís rooms, class rooms, bathrooms, lockers, showers a lounge w/ driving simulator, etc! This place looks fantastic and like a shiny penny.

Front Desk


Shop


after getting inside I signed the paperwork and checked in and had a look around the place. It was awesome! The place looks a little empty at first because there is just so much room but they have plans to bring in some cars and put them inside, etc. You just get the feeling that this place is going to explode.

After a little while people started to show up. The other students that would be participating today. A fantastic group of people that were all down to earth and were looking to have a good time. We were all offered coffee while we waited and got to know each other in there little sit down area. It became obvious to me that I was probably the poorest guy in the room . At 8:30am everyone was finally accounted for and all of the instructors were back from helping to setup the course for the day. They took us down a hallway to the classroom to get us started on our adventure.

Continued on next post...

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Old 11-16-2010, 07:53 PM   #2
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Main Hallway


The first thing you notice walking down the hallway on your way to the classroom is all of these authentic drivers’ suites from past champions of every racing type. I felt like I was in a museum.

Drivers Suites


[font=&quot]Too many to post, there were probably 10 - 15 of these driver suites. One hanging outside each driver room door. There we're also lots of Rally artwork on the walls too.

Rally Artwork


once we reached the classroom we got settled in and they showed us a power point presentation for the School on the big screen and showed us what they were all about and the types of driving we would be doing that day. After going though the presentation and getting us to memorize a few things the instructors all introduced themselves. That day 4 of the 5 instructors were present and every one of them had a fantastic attitude, personality and were a lot of fun to talk to and learn from.

Class Room



the instructors all have plaques on the wall so you can learn a little about them. I took pictures of them so I could remember all the names and faces for the review and for when I go back!

Continued on next post...
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:56 PM   #3
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Rally Instructors


All of the instructors come from a racing background and have been Rally racing for a long time. Many of them even picked up and moved here to be an instructor at the rally school. It was obvious that the owner wanted the best of the best teaching at his school. They even brought in Ross Bentley to consult and he was actually there that day! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Bentley) and he is a hell of a nice guy. He has created quite a few racing books that are considered the official training manuals of the sport. He also co-founded SWERVE driving school. So at this point I'm actually pretty impressed by the owner’s investment in to this business with his huge piece of land, his ultra-professional staff and his 2nd to none headquarters. I'm now jacked up and ready to do some driving so I grab my helmet and we're on our way!

Me (Jerry)


we are lead out of the class room and down the hallway and instructed to use the Bathroom before we go out. I laughed my ass off when I saw the signs on the Bathroom doors.



the signs didn't lie either at the end of the day I about did crap myself but we'll get to that more later.

We were taken out to a van outside of the doors of the school that they use for transporting you around the grounds. We drove down to the first area where we would be driving called the "Skid Pan". This was basically a big circular field of gravel with a cone in the center. There were (3) 2009 Subaru WRX STi's sitting there waiting for us. There is a vehicle that goes ahead and sets up a canopy, chairs, etc at each area before you get there so you will be comfortable while observing. I thought this was pretty cool and they executed it really well. That day there were 6 students so they paired us off 2 students per car and instructor. You stuck with that instructor for the whole day and drove the same car which I thought was great. There were a few times where the 4th instructor would step in just to go for a ride with the students but for the most part you spend the whole day with the same instructor.

Canopy



Continued on next post...
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:58 PM   #4
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Cars are Skid Pan


Car #3 was my car for the day


so after a brief talk we all jump in the car with our instructors. The first thing i notice is just how tricky it is to get in and out of a car with a full roll-cage and getting the 4 point straps connected, etc. I'm glad I opted not to do 4 point straps in my street car . We start out as a passenger while they do a few laps to demonstrate what we are trying to accomplish. They do this for each new area we visit throughout the day. I can't wipe the smile off my face even just going around in circles sideways. The experience is already awesome knowing that I'm partaking in something that on the street would get me a ride in the back of a car with blue lights and a siren. At any rate after doing a few laps and the instructor explaining what he is doing it is my turn. By the way my instructor was Adam Newell for the day but I also got to ride with Forest, they are both awesome guys!

I finally get in to the driver seat and connect up my Com my helmet so we can communicate and get all strapped in. Finally here it is; I get to drive this crazy car in the dirt. I'm so excited! We set off and I quickly realize just how hard what he was doing was to accomplish. I'm going to be honest; I was arrogant and thought since I drove an STI on the road that driving one in the dirt and drifting it around would be a synch. I couldn't have been more wrong. The first you realize that is you have to rewire your brain to drive a Rally car. You do things that are counter intuitive like early steering, hard braking in a turn, left foot braking, etc. Things you normally just would not do on pavement. However the results you get are unreal. The instructor pushes you to accelerate and tells you when to steer and when to brake until you get a feel for the car. You quickly realize that the brakes in the car are vastly different then a stock STI, the pedal feels like it doesn't move at all and the car has no booster so you have to stand on the brakes with unreal force to stop the car on pavement. That being said a little goes a long way in the dirt and that is precisely why they setup the brakes this way.

After doing a few laps we stop and swap out with the other students and now it's our turn to watch. You get to see a lot of mistakes watching the others driving and you quickly learn from their mistakes with the help of the 4th instructor that is coaching you when the other students are in the car.

Forest Teaching Us (I really suck with camera's, sorry Forest )


After this first exercise I was feeling good, I finally knew what it would be like driving the car in the dirt and I knew what it felt like to slide sideways at speed and how the car responds to inputs.

After each one of us getting 3 sessions in the car we decided we had a grip and it was time to move to the slalom course. This was a long straight away with 5 cones and a turnaround at the end. The goal here is to learn how to properly pitch the car before each code so you can quickly move in and out of the cones at speed. Just like before the instructor does a run first to give you an example of the timings and how it is done. Then you switch out and the fun begins. For the first couple runs the instructor tells me exactly when to brake and when to accelerate until I get a feel for it. Once I got a feel for it then it just clicked and I was absolutely amazed at how fast you could flip though these cones at speed in mud.

I should also qualify at this point that it was a very nasty day with rain and the ground had giant mud puddles and was very slick. However this in no way diminished the experience and if anything else added to it. Every time you raced around the tracks it was different. You never felt like you could just memorize the pattern and complete the race, you were constantly presented with new variables.

After we were done with the slalom course we head back to the van and back to the School for lunch. We go back to the classroom and talk with the instructors and recap what we have learned, ask more questions and watch Rally Videos on their big screen while we eat. This also gives them time to setup the 3rd and final track we would be using for the day (The Boneyard). This track is comprised of 2 very sharp turns; a long straight away with a swooping high speed turn and then 2 more high speed turns. They connected this track in with the slalom so that you do both as a single lap. You then turn around and do the track in reverse and come back. We did this for the rest of the day to perfect all of our skills we had learned and each time we progressively got faster and faster. Before long you begin to get a feel for the car and understand that these rally cars can turn in the mud and dirt sharper then you could in a street car in many cases (Hard to believe but totally true). You quickly realize that the faster you go the more control you have. It's all about balls at this point.

Me at Half Time


After we switched off and each one of us got 5 - 6 sessions riding this track (Each sessions consisting off several laps 5 - 6 laps) the day is coming to an end at around 4:00pm. We all regroup back at the shop where they work on the cars and they give us a tour and show us the Group 'N' 2005 Subaru STI's that we would be running if we do the 3 day advanced course. They have an amazing facility, they can do all the work themselves on the cars right there. They then gather us up for a ride as a passenger with the instructors on the "Wedge" which is there Rally Circuit track that we didn't get to drive on.

All I have to say is "ZOMG!". Forest was my driver when we did the Wedge and he didn't disappoint. As soon as they radioed the all clear he punched it and we took off in to the woods. I could not believe how fast he was driving this car though the woods and actually making the turns. I was on the edge of my seat though the whole ride. After the ride was done I basically told him that I felt like nothing I did that day was even mildly entertaining to them . At that point I realized just how much I still had to learn and grow before I could really experience Rally the way it was meant to be.

We then headed back to the shop and got to see the 2005 Group 'N' STI's that we would be driving if we came back for the 3 day advanced course. These cars were absolutely amazing. They have the facilities to do all of the work on the cars themselves too which is awesome. From the looks of things they are 4 2009 STI's and 3 2005 Group 'n' STI's but that is just what I could see on site. They also have storage room with extra parts, motors, transmissions, etc. They are ready to rebuild these things at the drop of a hat.

We finally exchanged contact information and headed back to the school where they let us pick out a T-Shirt or Hat from there store. They also have showers if you need to cleanup, etc. I spoke with the General Manager (Greg) and he is a great guy. He obviously doesn't get enough track time though being the GM so I hassled him to make a new rule that puts him in the car every morning before anyone else

That pretty much rounds out my experience with DirtFish Rally School. Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of pictures once I started driving because the focus was on driving and not on taking pictures (Oops). However I do have lots of video I still need to go though and edit so I can post it of us actually driving the cars, etc. I will try to get that posted in this thread as time allows.

The total time behind the wheel where I was actually driving was probably about 2 - 2 1/2 hours. This seems like it's not much however I felt it was plenty considering the time required to teach and observe to get the most out of your experience. The time behind the wheel probably would have been more if the class size was smaller that day.

I give RallyFish a 9/10 score for being an awesome once in a lifetime kind of experience and having the facilities, equipment and experienced staff to make it a memorable one. The only reason I would not give them a 10/10 is purely because of the price. $900 for a day is just too much for the average Joe and honestly I can only afford to do it once or twice a year. The plus side is after you go once they send you coupons in the mail and special offers so the next time you go it will be closer to $500 - $600 which is more reasonable but still pricey. I completely understand that this cannot be cheap. The cars have $15k alone in just the suspension! And the cars are built absolutely professionally and beautifully. I would not be surprised if they didn't have $60k - $80k in to each of the 2009's and over $100k in to the Group 'N's. They have to do constant maintenance and replace parts on the cars which also are not cheap.

I consider myself very fortunate to get to partake in this experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life. When I went there all I could think about is how I was going to convert my STI in to a Street/Rally car and walked out of there knowing that is never going to happen but for good reason. If I ever get in to Rally with my own car I will be buying a $1000 cheap 80's Audi that I can just hammer in the mud since I learned that a car with 90hp could be just as fun as a car with 300hp on a Rally course. Before having this experience I never in a million years would have thought that.

I hope everyone enjoyed my lengthy write-up. I have never spent this much time writing something up in a forum so that in itself should give you an indication of how exciting and cool this experience was. I am sure I missed plenty of details so if you have questions please ask them and I will try to answer them for you. Also feel free to email DirtFish, they are very prompt in replying to you and very polite and professional. I never at any time felt like this school was about the money, I felt like it was about the passion the owner and his employee's shared for the sport. I even spoke with the owner while I was there and he talked about his Lotus Rally Cars and the cars that he purchased to put on display at the school including Colin McRae's Ford Focus completely restored. I can't wait to go have a look at it once they have it in the show room!

Last edited by Barnacules; 11-18-2010 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 11-16-2010, 08:20 PM   #5
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Very good write up Jer. I am glad to hear you had fun. Id love to have my wife and I take this some day looks like an amazing experience.

Thanks again,
-Daniel
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Old 11-16-2010, 08:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Super_HKS View Post
Very good write up Jer. I am glad to hear you had fun. Id love to have my wife and I take this some day looks like an amazing experience.

Thanks again,
-Daniel
You should, there was one guy there named Mike that brought his wife. He just sat back and watched while his wife tore it up She just got a 2011 Subaru STI and he said he wanted to get her the course so she could learn how to drive it. She was tearing it up that day! There was one kid out there that 17. His dad brought him that day and they were both Students. But this kid had no fear and was by far the best driver out there that day. He was all over the place at speed I wish I could go back to that age where there is no fear!
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:59 PM   #7
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Thanks for the review I plan on doing this next year
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:15 PM   #8
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I'm rendering a 45 minutes video right now, I suck horribly at video editing and filming so don't expect anything super awesome but it should give you guys some idea of how much fun I had
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:18 PM   #9
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I would LOVE to go, but it is a touch out of my price range for a driving experience.
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWD>FWD View Post
I would LOVE to go, but it is a touch out of my price range for a driving experience.
I completely understand, honestly if it wasn't my birthday and I didn't have some spare cash laying around I probably would not have done it. Just happened that all the stars were in alignment and I'm glad I had the opportunity.
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:27 PM   #11
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Thank You.
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:37 PM   #12
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Awesome writeup thank you for the time you spent posting!!! I just got one of those coupons in the mail and if it didn't mean sacrificing a weekend of road racing my STI I would be there ASAP.

Nick
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Old 11-16-2010, 11:44 PM   #13
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No doubt it would be fun, but not worth $900 in my opinion. To each their own.
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:10 AM   #14
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Awesome write up.
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:16 AM   #15
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Thank you for the awesome write up!

DirtFish is definitely a bucket list item for me.

From the other thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barnacules View Post
The day was amazing, I just did a writeup in a seperate thread (http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=2088674).

The courses were not that big but you would run them in different directions and link them together to change it up. The big course they have is reserved for the advanced course (The Wedge). We used 3 different courses when we were there ranging from an open field to a multi-turn technical course.

The highest gear we got to was 2nd, there was no reason to leave 2nd because we couldn't top it out anyways on there course. I'm sure they could but I didn't have the balls to

We had 6 students that day and 3 cars so we just traded off every couple of laps. It worked out good because we got instruction while watching the others drive so we could see what was going on from the outside of the car.



Honestly these guys will work with you, if you have great driving abilities and can handle the car they will let you go as fast as you want. I actually had a hard time going as fast they wanted me too 2nd gear doesn't seem like much but in the dirt with that turbo coming on hard its crazy. Also keep in mind it was very muddy and slick that day so it wasn't helping my confidence. I didn't want to flip there car and have to buy it
Sounds like great! 2.5 hrs being the wheel is gobs of time. And it sounds like you have a lot of direct instructor interaction. This is what I really need is lots of direct interaction while behind the wheel. And it sounds that with just 3 cars, you got to get back out on the course pretty quickly (as opposed to sitting around a lot waiting for the 8 other cars waiting along side you),

2nd gear is just fine... really 3rd would be too fast for beginner and intermediates, I'd guess. And I'd be happy in a caged, stock powered 2.5i .

Barnacules, it sounds like you've never even rallyx before?
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:28 AM   #16
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5 / 5. Would read again.
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Old 11-17-2010, 11:47 AM   #17
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:Thumbsup: Fantastic Jerry!

Thank you!

Jaimee
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Old 11-17-2010, 11:49 AM   #18
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I plan on doing the 3 day in the Summer of 2011. I can't wait!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-17-2010, 11:58 AM   #19
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Awesome write up. My wife and I are thinking about doing this next year. If anyone has some coupons laying around, please PM me.
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:10 PM   #20
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I got one of their promo letters with a discount in the mail the other day - wasn't sure how they even found me (and why they thought I drove a Mitsubishi) but it piqued my interest.

Great write-up. I may definitely check this out if I can talk the wife into letting me spend the scratch. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:26 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barnacules View Post
I'm rendering a 45 minutes video right now, I suck horribly at video editing and filming so don't expect anything super awesome but it should give you guys some idea of how much fun I had
Let's see it!
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:34 PM   #22
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Hmmm... maybe I could convince my wife we should both take the course for our anniversary in March...

That looks like a blast! Thanks for the detailed review. It's hard to make a decision to spend that kind of money with limited info. I think you gave enough of an impression that we'd really get our money's worth and it's a once in a lifetime kind of experience.
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:39 PM   #23
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Do they only let you drive 08+?
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:39 PM   #24
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Jerry

So what kind of stuff would one need to bring? Any tips for out of towners?

It looks like bringing your own helmet is not necessary?
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:50 PM   #25
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Dude...you had a blast! And so did I! I took both the 1 day intro course and the 3 day rally course. Both were equally as awesome!

They must have changed things since I took it because they let us drive their cars around the Wedge before giving us that hot lap ride! I rode with Forest too and yes, I agree, he is awesome. We used those Group N cars when I took that course.

When I came back later to take the 3 day course which of course you MUST take too, we used the Group N cars on the 2nd day.

Here's my write-up from the 3 day rally course.
3 day rally course

Oh and I'm atomic80 normally and I'm new here because now I'm considering buying a STi all because of those DirtFish guys.

Last edited by atomicstar80; 11-17-2010 at 01:19 PM.
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Dirtfish Rally School Open House... Oct 3rd who's going? Subie Gal North West Impreza Club Forum -- NWIC 101 10-14-2010 07:25 PM
Dirtfish Rally spot on TV edrach North West Impreza Club Forum -- NWIC 12 09-29-2010 07:54 PM

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