Slalom – Land of the Flying Cones
After the skidpad, the group headed to the slalom to weave between cones as fast as we could. That’s where the STI best exhibits why it is the ultimate rally car.
Due to the SUBARU BOXER engine’s positioning, the STI has a low center of gravity that keeps all four wheels firmly planted despite my attempts to thwart gravity while navigating between tightly placed cones. (In my six passes, I knocked down only one cone!)
The slalom course is more sand than gravel, and navigating through it required more mashing on the accelerator and quicker steering moves. No palming the steering wheel on this course. While I wasn’t quite the fastest through the cones, I was by far the neatest. The only cone I toppled was on the last run. Guess I was getting a bit cocky.
After lunch, we headed for the Boneyard. The Boneyard isn’t as intimidating as its name implies. It’s where everything comes together – lift, turn, brake, 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, left-foot braking, patience.
Patience. The next lesson.
The Boneyard is like a flat figure-eight course – four gravelly corners, two short straightaways, once through the slalom, and then back to the figure-eight. Brake too soon and you won’t have enough momentum to plow your way out of those corners.
Natural driving instinct is to slow down before taking a curve (lift, brake, turn). However, as Ted growled more than once, natural driving instinct means nothing on gravel.
So it’s lift-turn-brake as we slide the STI through the turns at 35 mph. Too much speed and the car will spin out. Patience. An ironic attribute for racing.
All WRX STI models come standard with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, which is vital to the success of all Subaru Motorsports teams – and the reason DirtFish uses these vehicles. Because of the drivetrain symmetry, the car is perfectly balanced and naturally carves through the turns with relatively little driver input. Thus, for this exercise, the steering wheel doesn’t need to be turned more than the quarter rotation that the nine-and-three hand positioning affords.
After a half-dozen laps around the Boneyard, no spinouts, only one cone down, and no embarrassing stalls, I felt pretty good. At this level, according to Ted, it’s a matter of building enough confidence to move forward.