World Rally Championship drivers are as humanly close to the superheros we read about in comics and watch at cinemas as possible.
A lofty statement, sure, but also an accurate account. Think about it: lightning fast reflexes, the ability to sense the future, courage above that of a regular person. I wanted to avoid the clichés, but since you mentioned it, yes, I did witness some drivers fly during the weekend, too.
For those that care to argue with my playful theory, I’d challenge you to join the spectators in the forests, deserts, coastal roads or whatever sadistic ‘road’ course is closest to where you call home.
I can’t recall a single scenario that even comes close to the rush of standing just metres away from one-tonne of steel as it hurtles past at maximum velocity and at the edge of control (and possibly airborne), on an otherwise undriveable goat track.
Or avoiding the flying gravel traveling in its wake.
As I mentioned in my preview story, watching a WRC special stage first-hand is an indescribable experience. But what the hell, I’m going to try.
There’s more to spectating than the expected kick of adrenaline you’d expect, though. Let me walk you through the entire experience.
In Australia at least, those waves of excitement are balanced beautifully with a zen-like state of relaxation that being immersed within nature brings. Fresh air, bird calls and the sounds of the wind dancing with the tree leaves.
The tranquility is, of course, punctuated with some of the world’s angriest four-cylinder engines on a regular basis. To be precise, three minute intervals for WRC classes and two minute intervals for the Australian Rally series.
Nature is silenced; usually, the rhythmic thudding of the chopper blades cutting through the air proceeds the vicious little rally engine. Relaxation is replaced with anticipation.
A distant engine echoes through the trees, faintly at first, but building all the time. Your mind tries to map out the course as the sound rises, dips and fades around the landscape that separates you.
Finally, the reverberation reduces, and specific, nuanced sound that helps to identify each manufacturer before the car crests, or blasts around the final corner standing between the two of you.
As the car rushes into sight, time slows down ever so slightly. Water splashes seem to move at half pace; the car hangs in the hang when airborne. Although it feels slower, the sense of speed is not lost.
Your brain processes the details of what just transpired, replaying the action with your mind’s eye as the engine sounds fade away in the opposite direction. A short time after, the soothing sounds of nature resume once more.
I suspect I’ve fallen plenty short of my lofty goal of accurately sharing the moment, but hopefully, I’ve motivated at least one of you to say yes to adventure and make plans to experience the excitement of WRC first-hand. If that is you, trust me, you’ve made the right decision.
For those who require a little more persuasion, I’ve curated a gallery of images to give you a more visual taste of what you’ve been missing if you’ve never been.