Learning how to drift is a lot like dating

Learning how to drift is a lot like dating
Subaru Impreza WRX STI at DirtFish Rally School

I recently had the chance to spend some time at DirtFish Rally School near Seattle, Wash. And, while that's not terribly Chicago-related, I figured there was a way to tie my experience to a blog post in Chicago. Specifically, I'm going to posit, that learning how to drift is a lot like dating.

Both experiences keep your heart pounding. In the space of seconds, you feel dizzy, giddy, happy, scared, grounded, confident, freaked out and ultimately exhausted. Plus, at the end of the day, you must have complete trust and faith in your co-driver.

Sure, drifting looks cool and easy when you see Ken Block do it. Just like Beyonce and Jay-Z  make it look easy to be blissfully in love. I know the first isn't as easy as it looks, and just a guess, the second isn't either.

Our car du jour at DirtFish was a phenomenal Subaru Impreza WRX STI with a 2.5-liter, 300-horsepower engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. This is an all-wheel drive hatchback that fairly floats on city streets and highway merges, and to my surprise, it can also get down, dirty and gritty on gravel and mud. I liked the STI as a tester in Chicago, I love it as a rally car.

Before we hit the track, our group instructor, Don Wooten, gave us some classroom instruction to drill in the basics. The core of our lesson for the day: Lift - Turn - Brake. Whether you are rallying or dating, you follow this combination indefinitely.

OK, I'm ready to learn how to drift. Let's go!!

OK, I'm ready to learn how to drift. Let's go!!

Lift = Lift your foot off the gas

Drift: This helps you prepare for a turn or obstacle. You'll likely feel a bit of giddy anticipation here as you're clearing your vision and looking ahead, past the obstacle. Remember, you're not alone. Rally drivers always have a co-driver who knows the roads, have course instructions and will help you clear the obstacles.

Relationship: In the dating world, this is where you slow down. You've likely been jumping blindly into the relationship. All heart no brain. So, this isn't where you stop, hit reverse or go sideways. This is the point where you open your eyes a little bit and realize how cool the person is that you're dating. You're  not alone here either.

Warning: Don't freak out. Yeah, that turn ahead looks scary. But listen to your co-driver, and have a little faith. You're traveling this road together.

Turn = Keep your hands at 9 and 3, and give the wheel a turn

Drift: It often doesn't take much to get the car to turn. Especially if you have a little momentum going into it. Keep your hands at 9 and 3, and you'll always know when the wheel is straight.

Relationship: Anyone who has ever dated knows that the road is rarely straight. Or flat for that matter. Not a lot of relationships look like Chicago city streets. They're more like the mountain passes of Washington. So, anticipate the turns, and enjoy them! They're often the best part of a relationship. Every time you learn something new about the person you're dating, you take a little turn.

Warning: Avoid target fixation. In the rally world, if you look at what you don't want to hit, you'll likely crash.

The entry to the slalom course at DirtFish Rally School

The entry to the slalom course at DirtFish Rally School

Brake = Redistribute the weight to the front of the car to help the turn

Drift: Once you are well into the turn, you have to give the brakes a little tap. This will redistribute the weight to the front of the car and help you finish off the turn. But you have to wait for it, and have a slow steady ride on the brakes.

Relationship: Just because you're applying the brakes doesn't mean you're breaking up. You're just finishing the turn, readjusting for new knowledge. Kind  of like when you find out that your boyfriend golfs every Sunday at 6 a.m. during the summer and you'd rather be sleeping in. Tap the brakes, finish the turn and settle in for the next straight away.

Warning: Be patient. In the rally world, if you don't glide far enough into the turn or if you hit the brakes too hard, you'll spiral into a 360. Trust me. I know this from experience.

As, I was moving through the paces at DirtFish, my instructor Ted constantly kept telling me to be patient. I can still hear him in my head: "Patience, Grasshopper."

Frankly, that's not something I have in reserve. But, when we went through "The Link," and I did every thing just right, listening to Ted as my co-pilot, having a little patience after the turn before the brake, and accelerating into the straightaway, it was smooth, easy and exhilarating.

Kind of like when you get it right in a dating relationship.

See below for video I took while learning to drift at DirtFish and the following day at the Oregon Trail Rally in Hood Valley. ...


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