Posted: 26 August 2013 by RaceMasteR J | Photos: Stunt and Rally School


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Up until recently I was searching the interweb for places in South Africa that offered rally driving courses. I managed to find one place but they were up in Pretoria and I was even thinking about making a plan to go there when I visited Gauteng again. The only thing Cape Town had to offer was Fantastic Racing which is great but it’s not what I was looking for at the time. All this changed when my good buddy Ernest Page told me that he is opening a Stunt and Rally School! Whoohoo! It was time to beat around the bush... LiteRALLY!

I immediately said he should book me a seat. Unfortunately the response was so overwhelming for Ernest and being the good friend that I am I let him sort his new customers out first. I didn’t mind waiting. But after a few weeks I started to grow more and more impatient as I was hearing about all the great feedback from satisfied customers, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I nagged Ernie until he eventually decided to set a whole session aside just for me! I went from impatient to anxious! I couldn’t wait!

Stunt and Rally School is based deep into the northern suburbs and well beyond the “boerewors curtain” out in the farmlands of Durbanville. It was a bit of a trek for a southern suburbs guy like me but it proved to be well worth it! Arriving at the venue, Dirt and Dust, I was greeted by two E30 325i BMW’s sitting on a fairly large open gravel area. The stage was set!

After the mandatory meet and greet we headed straight into the drivers briefing where Ernest explained all sorts of things from the do’s and don’ts of the vehicles, safety, driving technique and implementation.

My weapon, or missile as Ernest calls it, was the white 325i, because it’s got more stickers… and we all know how much faster stickers make you! But this wasn’t a game of speed. It’s all about honing your own skill levels, finding your personal limit and improving on them making you an overall better driver.

To some people the car may not look like much, but with a 130kw’s on dirt, it’s a whole other ball game! As I found out it was plentiful!

As I got into the car I was strapped into the bucket seat with a racing harness and immediately greeted by a deep dish rally style steering wheel. This looks like the business! Wait a minute, there’s a drift/rally style hydraulic hand brake too! I’m going to feel just like Sebastian Loeb today! Freaken awesome!

Strapped in, helmet on, I turn the ignition and hear that distinct straight 6 BMW sound. That coupled with a free flow exhaust makes for great listening pleasure. Ernest starts you off with the basics: A simple handbrake turn. It’s great because even though I’ve done this maneuver plenty times before, it gets you used to the car’s rear end sliding around. Since that’s primarily what you’re going to be doing all day, it’s a crucial learning curve for beginners.

Give it some revs, release the clutch and drive towards the cone. Turn hard and yank the handbrake. The car slides around and performs a 90 degree turn. Easy peasy. I must mention that if you’re not used to driving on gravel it can be a little unnerving at first because the steering wheel has very little weight. It’s not that the front tyres didn’t have any grip, it’s just very light. Get it wrong and you will understeer till next Wednesday. I did that a couple more times and I was soon moving on to the next maneuver. The 180 degree handbrake turn.

This is essentially the same as the first move, but it involves holding the handbrake for a longer period of time making the car slide more. The point is to get the car facing in the complete opposite direction from which you came.
After doing that a few times I moved on to the next step. A 180 turn but instead of using the hand brake, I had to use the cars own power to bring it around. I parked the car next to a cone, turned the wheel a bit, gave it a few revs and dropped the clutch. This spins the rear wheels and points the car in the opposite direction. It does involve a little bit of counter steer to get the car pointed in the required direction.

Moving on! The next step is a little trickier. It involves both previous maneuvers. It’s essentially still a 180 turn but now you have to use the handbrake to initiate the rear end to slide and then power out to point you in the opposite direction. Doing that a few times I learnt how to combine two steps into one and build on what I’ve just learnt. Ernest eventually encourages me to make the radius bigger and hang the tail out as much as possible for the most dramatic sideways angles possible.

Next step. And this is what most people come here for: The big slide! Yep, this is drifting basics right here. Ernest explains how to do a big circle and ways to keep it sideways for as long as possible. But here comes the fun part. I have to initiate this drift with the handbrake. Just like pro drifters! I pull away slowly and change to second gear to get the speed up. By the way, believe it or not, but this is one driving course where the instructor urges you to go faster! Usually it’s the other way around! I get to the cone, pull the handbrake, give the wheel a bit of turn and I feel the rear end sliding out. Initiation done! Now to keep it sliding. On the power, not too much, I don’t want to spin out. Feed the throttle and feel the car maintaining the slide. Eventually the revs start to drop a little and the car feels like it wants to straighten out. I give it more right foot and instantly feel the rear end stepping out again. Awesome!

The more throttle you give the more angle you achieve, but careful now because if you give it too much the car will spin out. But here’s the cool part. Because this is on gravel, there is a lot of forgiveness from the car. There was a few times where I got massive full opposite lock angle and thought I’m definitely going to spin out, but I didn’t. Why? Well while you’re sliding the rear wheels are digging into the gravel and the tyres are getting pushed up against it creating a wall. Kind of like Newton’s first law, but the gravel drifting version! Don’t get me wrong, give it way too much and it will spin out!

We take a break and chat about what I’ve done thus far. It’s good because it gives your mind and body a break and you are then able to digest what all just happened as well as what’s yet to come.

Moving on I proceed to something less technical but very rewarding and fun. It’s something I just mastered, it’s the handbrake turn but now it needs to be placed inside a 4 cone box. Something like that old Continental Tyre advert on the roof of a building. Bring on the handbrake park!

Pulling away from the starting point I change to second gear to bring up the speed once more. Not enough speed and the car won’t slide deep enough into the box. Too much speed and it will slide right through. The use of the handbrake is vital here because it determines how aggressive the park is. The longer you are on the handbrake the more angle you get, but too much and you will see yourself pointing in the wrong direction. This maneuver is key because it ties up to the final stage of the day which is a combination of all the techniques I will learn in a mini gymkhana course. I will need to end off in a handbrake park. So getting this right will score me big points with Ernest. I do a few practice runs and eventually I bang it into the box! There’s two ways of doing this. One way is to point the car straight at the box, turn and pull. Or, start sliding the car from a distance and then pull the handbrake which means you end up drifting into a “parking spot”. I much preferred the latter simply because it was more fun… and looked cooler too!

That was fun! Now to the next step. The infamous figure 8. I’ve attempted this before when I tested out Dylan Cothills Drift machine. I didn’t exactly master it; in fact it was far from perfect. But that’s another story. Now was my chance to prove to myself that I can do it! I came here today planning to get this move right.

I pull up and park the front wheel of the car next to a cone. Turn the steering a bit and wait for the dust to settle. I can do this! I know how to do it; I just need to apply it. Rev it up and drop the clutch. The back wheels spin and the rear starts to slide. I need to slide the car around to a 270 degree angle almost, not 180. 180 won’t be enough to make the next part of the figure 8 and I will only understeer the rest of the way. This part takes getting used to, because it feels as if I was going to spin out and not make the second half, but once I got it to that point, I just let off the throttle and grabbed the steering wheel (the steering counter steers by itself, all you have to do is let go and catch it at the correct time). Once I felt the back starting to straighten out I got back on the throttle and spun it around the second cone completing the figure of 8. Man that was awesome! Let’s do it again!!

Doing a few more figure of 8’s I got to master the maneuver and after taking a short breather once more it was time to move onto the final stage, the gymkhana course! As mentioned earlier this would combine everything I just learnt and I would have to apply it all in one go. It’s not easy for some people to do this as they end up buckling trying to remember everything all at once. But I was up for the challenge!

I got two chances to do this. I am going to be judged on both runs. I could either be cautious on the 1st run to get some points in the bag or just go balls to the wall and see how I end up. What should I do…?! Balls to the wall people! Ride or die! Haha. Ok I’m exaggerating just a tad but trust me these are the kind of thoughts that was flying through my head when I was sitting in that bucket seat as Ernest was counting me down. I decided not to stress over it and just do what I was comfortable with. 3, 2, 1… GO! I gave it some revs and released the clutch, slip it into second gear and aim for that first cone. Keep it straight! I don’t want to be sliding around all over the place when I need to concentrate on pulling the handbrake. Pull the lever, slide, throttle, slide, hang the tail out… boom! Handbrake turn and slide done! Reset. Second gear, aim for the cone once more, pull the handbrake, slide, keep it there, throttle, drift! Whoohoo! Reset. Figure of 8. Pop the clutch, slide, swing it all the way around, slide, counter steer, slide, rev it up, slide some more! Figure of 8’s done! Now to finish off in style. Drive the car towards the box, keep it neat… turn hard and pull… into the box! Boom! I feel like such a pro!

Not to sound too full of myself but I think I banged out two solid runs. Even Ernest said I was one of his best students thus far! What an awesome experience it was. To some this might not seem like a lot, but trust me there’s only so much one can ingest at a time. This course is perfect for the beginner to intermediate driver. If you own a rear wheeled drive car, or even if you don’t, this session is perfect for you! You end up learning so much and have the freedom to do it in a safe environment with someone else’s car! What more could you ask for?! I would highly recommend this to EVERYONE!!! This Dirt Drift course is just the beginning stage, there will be more advanced courses available later on. If you’re keen to find out more about this or book a seat, feel free to contact Ernest Page or visit

Till next time, keep it sideways!

RaceMasteR J

Watch the video of me below doing some of the stunts for an idea of what's it all about...

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