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Home  /  July 2019  /  Reviews

What weighs 544kg, is 2m high, 3m long and can run beside your car at 60km/h and kill you if it hits you?

As a recent report from the American College of Surgeons said: “When the front of a vehicle strikes a moose, it tends to impact its long legs, sending the bulk of the animal to collide into the windshield and roof.”

Obviously, this is not good for you, your car or the moose. My rally instructor said to aim for the animal’s butt because they rarely reverse before a collision.

Then there are the black bears.

The advice is: “If you are faced with a cranky bear maintain eye contact, speak in a soft, calm voice and slowly back away from the bear. Bears can outrun, outswim and out-climb you. If you are attacked by a black bear, you should fight back rather than play dead.” Yup, I can see myself doing that.

I am now the world expert on animals you may hit in a rally car in northern New Hampshire after spending the past week at Team O’Neil Rally School, which is in the middle of 240ha of heavily forested mountains.

Anyway, I paid about $8.5k for five days of intensive slippery driving coaching in Scubbys, Ford Fies­tas and Beemers. As you know, I have done more driving and husky school courses than Wiki has had leaks.

Despite this and extensive on track, road and drift pan experience, my success in any form of the sport has been limited to a sensational second last years ago. (I think the last car had retired.) In my rally efforts I consistently run out of road and talent.

However, the Team O’Neil course is based on serious learning theory and about six hours a day seat time in rear, front and all-wheel drive cars. This means by the end of the five days you drive away with some serious skills. Apart from improved mud and dirt abilities I came away with a love affair with Ford Fiestas, which I had previously regarded in the same boat as Alfas and Mazdas. My class included a mother and her two sons, a Hollywood stunt person, fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, investment bankers and a professional athlete. Marketing director Karl Stone says this is pretty normal.

“Only about 10 per cent intend to compete, the rest are mostly car fanatics who want the experience,” he said. “Our youngest student was nine years old.”

My instructor politely intim­ated I was close to being the oldest. The school runs all year, the instructors are full time and picked for “being good communicators and teachers rather than rally experience”, although two of them had just won a rally a week before.

The student-teacher ratio is two to one and it’s two days before they let you on real and tough rally roads. Basically they allow you to get to know your limitations without getting arrested.

There’s very few things in our sport I recommend. Team O’Neil is one. But a few suggestions I’d think about when booking. The school is about 15 minutes outside Littleton, which is 2½ hours drive from Boston and three hours from Montreal. I rented a Dodge Durango from Hertz that was cheap and better to drive than the usual sedans it rents.

Stay in downtown Littleton if you like a drink with dinner or just like a drink. I’m told Dave’s Taxis has two taxis but they were never available and I’m told someone has an Uber car but it was never on the road. I am considering going in winter for the snow driving course, which I think would provide some serious skill development.

If you’re in the area on August 10 you can’t beat Team O’Neil’s Rally School’s RallyFest. For $13 there are rally car rides, Farm to Fire Pizza, how to drive a manual transmission courses, helicopter rides and pistol and rifle demos at the nearby rifle school.

Now our consumer protection department has told me to warn you not to buy any Lambos you are offered for $40k. After complaints from real manufacturers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, police raided Autofibra Brazil in Santa Catarina, a father and son operation, allegedly passing off replica supercars as the real thing. Lexicar Brazil report that a “large number of the replicas are powered by large V-8 engines, though some Porsche replicas reportedly contain six-cylinder Subaru motors”. Motor1.com says the forgery scheme was already in trouble before police closed the operations. “Two lawsuits were filed by people who bought vehicles from the shop who complained about the delay in delivery.”

And copies aren’t the problem for Volvo, which this week is recalling 500,000 cars globally including nearly 4000 in Australia because the engines of the S60, S80, S90, V40, V60, V70, V90, XC60 and XC90 can catch fire.

In better news look for a free mani and pedi next time you drop your car in for service or recall. Given 50 per cent of a dealer’s profits come from service and parts, it’s not surprising Lexus San Antonio has a free coffee bar with snacks, a manicurist and a masseuse. The New York Times reports that “at Intersect by Lexus in Manhattan … there’s an auto parts wall installation, fine dining with rotating chefs (currently one cooking avant-garde tapas from Chile) (and) a circular bar featuring the same leather used on Lexus car seats”.

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