In order to control a rally car in tight corners and on narrow roads, both amateur and professional rally drivers need to learn and use a number of specific driving techniques. In a realistic rally simulator, such as Dirt Rally, you can put these techniques to the test in a safe environment. Practice makes perfect, but learning requires a good handbook.

Dirt Rally is a realistic rally simulator that simulates the thrill and experience of rally driving. As a result, Dirt Rally requires a basic knowledge of weight transfer, off-road driving and complicated braking and shifting techniques in order to reach the end of the demanding and often complex stages.

Learning the basics

Before you can learn some of these complicated techniques, you need to understand the basics of car handling. In circuit racing, you stick to the ideal racing line for as long as possible and brake at the last second. Rally drivers tend to deviate from this line as some driving techniques require a slightly different entry point. In rally driving, the racing line is not always your best option.

Inside and outside of the turn

Understeer and oversteer are two frequently used terms, but you have to understand their meaning. These terms describe how your vehicle handles when you push it beyond its limit and lose control. If your car tends to understeer, it denies your steering input and pushes the front end towards the outside of the corner. Taking turns at a slower speed prevents most instances of understeer.

Oversteer is a condition similar to understeer, but it affects the back end of the vehicle. Too much throttle or momentum pushes the car towards the inside of the corner and makes the rear end slide out. This also occurs by braking too hard while turning or by suddenly removing your foot from the throttle.

Dynamic weight distribution

Shifting the weight of your rally car is the most efficient method to take tight corner, but requires you to learn and understand how to manipulate the dynamic weight distribution of the car. Your brakes are the quickest way to transfer the weight from the back to front end of your vehicle, but there are other methods.

A lot of rally drivers use their left foot to control both the throttle and brake pedal at the same time. A handbrake is effective in a slow turn to rotate the rear end of your vehicle, but a left foot braking technique will result in more predictable results at a higher speed.

Turning off as many assists as possible might help you execute some of these driving techniques. This allows you take control of your vehicle and use as little steering input as possible to reach the end of the tracks.

Left foot braking in corners

Using left foot braking to take corners faster requires a little bit of practice. After entering the corner, you turn the steering wheel slightly towards the middle of the corner and press the brake pedal. This shifts the weight of the car to the front and initiates a slide towards the inside of the corner on a loose road surface.

When you feel the back end of the car slide towards the outside of the corner, you lift your foot of the brake pedal and point the steering wheel in the direction you want to drive. Keep steady pressure on the throttle to keep the car moving towards the end of the corner. To exit a corner as smooth as possible, you slowly straighten the steering wheel and increase the pressure on the throttle.

Left foot braking is useful if you can take a corner without shifting to a lower gear. You enter a slight bend in a specific gear and slow down a little bit by pressing the brake pedal with your left foot, but not hard enough to require you to change gears.

Heel-toe downshifting

The purpose of downshifting is to allow your vehicle to accelerate faster when exiting a corner that you slowed down for. The time taken to shift into the correct gear seconds before accelerating out of a corner costs time, so shifting down while braking before a turn is more efficient. Heel-toe downshifting also prevents a sudden forward weight transfers when downshifting and reduces the chances of locking the rear tires of a rear-wheel drive car.

When you reach the braking point, press the brake pedal and reduce your speed to a point where it is required to change down a gear. While braking, press the clutch with your left foot to disengage the wheels from the engine. At the same time, you rotate your right foot and rapidly press the throttle with the heel of your right foot. Try to match the revs of the engine to the ones required in the lower gear. Switch to the correct gear and slowly disengage the clutch while still pressing the brake pedal.

The advantage of working your way down through the gears is that you slow down your car more efficiently and keep the weight of your car in balance. Heel-toe downshifting is a very helpful technique on fast straights leading to slow corners.

Handbrake turns in tight corners

If a corner is too tight, you might need to use your handbrake instead of left foot braking and heel-toe downshifting. After entering a corner, pull the handbrake to lock up the rear wheels and initiate a slide. This technique helps you throw the rear end towards the outside of the corner without having to brake excessively and lose momentum.

Once the rear end of the car is sliding towards the outside of the corner, you disengage the handbrake and keep your tires pointing towards the end of the corner. This results in you turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction to that of the corner, a condition known as opposite lock. Be careful, using a handbrake is often unpredictable and you better avoid using this technique at high speed to prevent losing control over your vehicle.

Threshold braking and feathering the brakes

Professional drivers rely on threshold braking to brake as hard as possible at the last possible second while remaining in control of their vehicle. This braking technique results in a shorter braking distance, but only when the driver executes this technique without locking up the rear wheels. Threshold braking is a good technique to slow down on a hard surface without losing too much time.

On a loose surface, a rally driver feathers the brakes by pressing the brake pedal rapidly to engage and disengage them in order to brake more efficiently and throw out the rear end of the car. Due to the sideways movement of the tires on the road, there is a build-up of sand and stones in front of the tires which results in more friction and this slows down the vehicle even harder.

Scandinavian flick

The tightest corners require a handbrake turn, but there is one equally efficient technique that can be used in such corners. To perform the Scandinavian flick, you need to know and understand how to transfer the weight of your vehicle and use your momentum to slide through a corner.

When driving towards the corner, position your vehicle slightly towards the inside and ease off the brakes once the cornering speed is reached. Right before the corner, you turn briefly towards the outside of the corner and immediately turn in hard to the middle of the corner. When carried out properly, this technique throws your car around the corner by sliding the rear end of your vehicle towards the outside of the corner.

To exit the corner, keep your tires pointed towards the end of the corner and keep steady pressure on the throttle to keep your momentum. Once you are past the middle of the corner, reduce the amount of steering lock and progressively press the throttle to accelerate out of the corner.

Other obstacles

A rally stage often consists of a lot of sand or gravel roads that are not always flat. These irregularities makes the tires of the rally vehicle lose contact with the ground. If you decide to slow down and hit the brakes prior to the take-off, you will most certainly land on the nose of the car.

To prevent taking damage from jumps, puddles or water splashes, you use your left foot to engage and disengage the brakes and shortly after hit the throttle prior to hitting the obstacle. This technique shifts the weight of your vehicle from the front to the rear and points the front of your car slightly higher which makes it easier to drive over these hurdles.

Ready to race

Once you understand these driving techniques and are able to use them during a race, you are ready to compete with other drivers. Be careful in abnormal driving conditions. In heavy rain, you are especially at risk of hydroplaning. Use all your senses to be aware, at all times, of what is happening on the road and to adapt to the circumstances you drive in.

Do you enjoy this content?

Blogging and content creation is hard work. Donations are used to support this blog and its content. Do you want to help me create more and better content? You can now buy me a coffee.

Do you want to donate a different amount with PayPal? Please visit this page and select the exact amount you want to donate to help create more and better content.

Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Dirt Rally, a video game developed and published by Codemasters. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.

7 thoughts on “Learning the basics of rally driving | Tutorial

  1. Tried some of these tricks and improved my personal bests a lot. Still crash often in Dirt Rally, but it helps and practice makes perfect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.