Offseason Training: Part 6 – Get Dirty

In the last post, I mentioned offhand that DiRT Rally completely changed my perspective on driving. When I started sim racing, my style was very tidy: meaning I didn’t slide very much. There were several good reasons for that:

  • I was driving in iRacing, and if you lose control, you pick up penalty points
  • My steering wheel was a Logitech G25, which has a weak motor, which makes it difficult to sense and catch slides
  • All of the tracks were asphalt, and the optimal slip angle wasn’t very large

There were also these less good reasons:

  • I didn’t know how to drive with a lot of yaw
  • I was proud of my CPI stat (corners per incident)

Taken together, I actively avoided driving with a lot of yaw.

Enter DiRT Rally

Steam suggested DiRT Rally when it was in Early Access. I didn’t know anything about rally racing in the real or virtual world. I bought it on a whim. When I started it up, there were no directions at all. I found myself at a starting line somewhere in Greece with the road ahead of me disappearing as it dropped to the right. Seconds later I was driving off a cliff. I don’t know how many attempts it took for me to finish the first stage. You might think that repeated crashing and re-starting would turn a person off to a game, but no, I was enthralled. The roads were unsafe. The cars were old and squishy. The grip was terrible. There was no help at all.

While I tried to drive tidy, there wasn’t much point. When a course is covered with gravel or ice, you have no choice but to slide around. I was forced out of my comfort zone and weirdly loving it. It was also fun listening to my co-driver’s directions, though I must admit I drove each stage enough times that I had them mostly memorized.

The Drill

These off-season training exercises are based in Assetto Corsa, so that’s where we’re headed. I don’t think Assetto Corsa has the best model of loose surfaces, but it’s also not bad. It doesn’t have to be authentic to be a great training exercise anyway.

The key to high performance driving is driving with the right amount of slip. While it’s true that driving on dry asphalt doesn’t require much yaw, bad shit happens on a race track! If you suddenly find yourself in deep shit, you don’t want to hope your way out of it. You want to rely on your training. So how do we train for slippery conditions? By driving in slippery conditions of course.

  • Track: Karelia Cross (follow link to download)
  • Car: NA Miata
  • Tires: Default (Street 90s)
  • Weather: Default

Karelia Cross is a fantasy dirt track that was originally made for rFactor. It’s also available in rFactor 2, but I can’t really recommend it on that platform. The reason we are driving a small circuit and not a long rally stage is because I want you to experience the same corners over and over. This will let you set up and evaluate experiments in your head.

These are the goals:

  • Drive hard
  • Experiment with something
  • Drive harder
  • Recover as best you can

You will probably crash a bunch at first. Good, you’re supposed to do that. The goal of this drill isn’t to drive around as tidy as possible and not get into trouble. You can’t recover from disaster if you don’t experience disaster. So go drive the ragged edge. Vary your driving style. Drive way off line. Figure out what does and doesn’t work. Eventually you will learn how to recover from near disaster.

The ultimate rewards of this drill are:

  • Better disaster recovery skills
  • More confidence in your driving skill
  • Faster lap times on every surface

It will be frustrating. But once you come out the other side, you too may come to the opinion that the only thing better than driving the limit is a brief trespass and safe return from well beyond.

Although the goal of this drill isn’t lap times, try to get down to 1:05 or so.

iRacing Variation

If you don’t have Assetto Corsa, try driving the MX5 on rallycross courses. It’s basically the same thing.

FWD Variation

FWD and RWD have slightly different behaviors, so if you want to increase your car control vocabulary (you do), then definitely do the drill in FWD too.


This is the end of the offseason training posts.

3 thoughts on “Offseason Training: Part 6 – Get Dirty

  1. Hello!

    I stumbled across your website a few days ago while searching for some Assetto Corsa-related stuff, and decided to try this drill out.

    Not only has it been a very rewarding experience, but it has been unbelievably fun too!

    I’ve been reading through your other blog entries as well, and find them very enlightening. Thank you so much for taking the time to post your thoughts. I look forward to trying more of your drills.

    I’ve got a question that I’m sure you are qualified to answer: What are your thoughts on using a motion simulator for driver training? Do you think it would provide any additional benefits?

    Thanks again! I hope you’re doing well. :)


    1. I’ve tried motion simulators and found them to be fun but also unrealistic. It’s slightly more immersive to have the harnesses tugging at you, but the tilting and sliding motions are a distraction. That’s not what a real car feels like. To a person who has never been on track, a motion simulator is probably more fun than a static rig. However, once you know the real feeling, it’s better to have authenticity, and that isn’t replicable on a hobby budget for anything other than a steering wheel and a load cell brake. If you have $500K, then yes, I imagine one could build a good motion rig. But for $50K? No.


      1. Hey Ian,

        Thanks for your reply. $50k is a significant investment for me, so I’m glad to hear your recommendation before I spend any bit of money on a fruitless endeavor.

        Thank you so much for your advice. Take care, and good luck in your races!


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