Hallowed Grounds - DirtFish Rally School

Madison Square Garden. Fenway Park. Lambeau Field … DirtFish Rally School?

Located in Snoqualmie, Washington, DirtFish Rally School is North America’s Premiere venue for learning how to drive sideways on dirt. With educational courses that range from two hours to three days, DirtFish has an appropriate level of instruction for every range of experience, even if that’s none. And thankfully, SCCA® members receive 15 percent off any DirtFish school when using the special, members-only code found on the SCCA Member Benefits webpage.

Everything about DirtFish is an unparalleled experience. Even before arriving, driving through the Cascades makes it clear this facility and its instructors are steeped in what they should be: mountain roads. Once there, the view of the facility and its expansive grounds make it even more obvious that this isn’t just a simple carnival gimmick. Under the shadow of Mount Si, its 315 acres makes for a private kingdom of rally.

Walking into the main office lets you know the immersive rally experience has already begun. Behind the helpful staff at the front desk, a small but very impressive rally museum boasts a 2001 WRC Ford Focus driven by Colin McRae, a 1980 Ford Escort Mark II, a Prodrive Subaru Impreza WRC99 and a Ford RS200 Evo S Group B car. Surrounding the cars is an impressive retail store that offers a broad selection of quality rally garments and accessories.

The main hallway is lined with retired race suits from Sebastien Loeb, Travis Pastrana, David Higgins and other drivers from many disciplines of racing. Memorabilia and decorations are scattered throughout the facility, leaving visitors with plenty to gawk at and marvel over.

Before getting out on course, students spend a brief amount of time in one of the multiple classrooms where rally concepts are taught and discussed. But this is no dusty chalkboard affair. Instructors use slideshows and videos to prepare students for the “coursework” ahead.

Then the real fun begins. With two fleets of Subaru rally cars at their disposal, DirtFish has plenty of muscle for students to choose from. AWD Impreza STI’s equipped with roll cages, active differentials, 6-speed manuals and hydraulic hand brakes give students all the grip they can handle. RWD BRZ’s with similar equipment eliminate just the right amount of grip to give students the experience of steering with the rear end. For those with the inclination, there is also an Open Class Car and an OMSE SuperCar Lites Rallycross car.

Once on course, the instruction begins in earnest, rain or shine -- or even snow. There are many courses and configurations at DirtFish, giving the instructors and students a wide variety of features and surfaces to work with. Starting with the basics and progressing through more challenging sections of road allows students to put the puzzle together one piece at a time rather than trying to figure it out all at once.

Class sizes are limited to just 10 students, ensuring they get the focus and attention needed from instructors. As students drive the course, there is always one instructor in the car, providing performance feedback and guidance. One car is shared between two students, giving each a moment out of the car to watch and learn from each other while decompressing from the last session and planning for the next. As the end of their class nears, students tie together their newfound skills and negotiate a longer and more challenging course.

While the foundation of DirtFish is rally instruction, it’s clear that as an organization they value professionalism in all aspects of their operation, both on and off course. This shows not only in the results of the drivers they have trained, but also in the presentation of every part of their facility. If you need to improve your driving skills, DirtFish is an ideal choice. With the 2019 SCCA RallyCross® season only a few months down the road, DirtFish is a great way to prep for next year’s competition. And could there be a cooler gift for the holidays than a DirtFish class? Sign up today to improve driving skills and, well, just have some fun sliding around the DirtFish facility in beautiful Snoqualmie, Washington.

Words & Photo: Greggar Helgeland