The Real Deal

Posted on 21. Nov, 2008 by in Tall Pines 2008

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Each year, we look forward to Tall Pines. As media, we each get a chance to sit down in the right seat of a rally car as part of the media rides program. This year, Erik Ockwell and I got to ride with some of the best. I hopped in with Subaru Rally Team USA driver Ken Block, while Erik hopped in his brother's seat alongside Subaru Rally Team Canada driver and current Canadian Rally Champion, Pat Richard. Ever wanted to know what it's like to ride in a top flight car? Read on.

“I've only had four hours of sleep, and I was feeling like crap yesterday, so this isn't exactly the best conditions for this.” These are the words out of Ken Block as we're on our way for a ride on the shakedown stage. It's about ten degrees below zero, and we're riding on gravel tires. It's not very confidence inspiring.

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Last year, Alan Ockwell sat in with Ken Block to help guide him through the shakedown stage, and told me that Ken was perhaps the most committed driver he'd ever co-driven with before. This was going to be a treat. Despite the conditions, the tires were actually a good choice, as the surface of the stage was like sandpaper. As the marshal counted us down at the start line, the car bounced off the launch control, ready to go.

We pounced forward from the line, diving into the first corner. Ken, who'd said he was only going to drive at about seven tenths, was already driving hard, and his commitment was plain to see. We launched over the first jump, totally airborne, and practically catapulted over the second. We barreled towards a left three at the end of the straight, Ken with the car sideways, just waiting for the corner to catch up.

We got to the end of the stage almost before I knew it, and the ride was done. It was easily one of the most exhilarating rides on that stage I'd ever had, and the list includes rides with Frank Sprongl and Tom McGeer. For Rally Radio host Erik Ockwell, it was his first ride in a fully prepped, top end car.

Here are Erik's thoughts on a ride with 2008 Canadian Rally Champion, Subaru Rally Team Canada driver Pat Richard.

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Despite my 25 years of rally experience, I've never ridden in a top spec rally car. That's right, I'm a noob. Never caught air, never heard anti-lag from the inside, rarely witnessed proper left foot braking. Vanos is pretty good, so he's excluded, but nothing else compares.

After getting my belts adjusted, (Alan may be a bit smaller than me, who knew?), we rolled out of service. Chatting on the way, Pat mentioned that he was on gravel tires, not the ice tires that were the correct ones for the conditions, so the experience would be lame. I can tell you, it was not lame. It was awesome.

As we were about to take off, Pat showed me how to start the timer on the Coralba rally computer/tons of buttons that make no sense. He said to start it when we took off, and stop it at the finish. I figured I'd be too terrified to hit the stop button at the end, but I kept that to myself. Start button pressed, we were off. I wish I could tell you about his expertise in weight transfer, correct damper settings and diff mapping, but it was over before I knew it. And who'd of thought, I actually hit the stop button.

We slid, we locked up the tires (gravel tires suck on frozen surfaces, remember), we drifted, we accelerated. And we jumped. After hearing me exhale on the landing of a jump that was a good 3 feet off the ground, he said “Are you okay?” I said “Yeah man, I wanna go higher”.

I have a new respect for how much my brother has to cope with in that car. All we see on TV is him talking, as trees blur by, but you don't realize the forces acting upon him as he tries to read the pace notes. Think of it as trying to read your favorite book while on a roller coaster. Alan is my hero. And Pat is awe-inspiring. To control that beast on the wrong tires, on frozen roads, in the dark takes a pretty amazing skill. And I leave impressed, not terrified. These dudes know what's up.

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2 Responses to “The Real Deal”

  1. Don Currie

    21. Nov, 2008

    Thanks once again to FOC. You have no idea how much your readers and viewers appreciate your skills exibited through this web site.

  2. Adam Prime

    21. Nov, 2008

    Kym says: I <3 Jon's Cosby sweater.

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