Hot & Happening
Driving experiences offering adrenaline-seekers the chance to try a rally car have been around for decades but, as reporter Dan Wright discovered, few live as long in the memory as the latest offering at Brands Hatch.
When Brands Hatch bosses replaced ageing Peugeot 206s with a fleet of Toyotas in 2015, they knew the decision would do their RallyMaster experience the world of good.
The venerable front-wheel-drive French machines had been trusty workhorses for years – surviving a pounding from a host of inexperienced punters – but the time for change had come.
Works-prepared Toyota GT86s were drafted in as the new weapon of choice, offering eager enthusiasts the chance to handle a tail-happy, rear-wheel-drive rally car.
“The Peugeots were really good cars, but the Toyotas offer a different experience now,” says instructor Andy Elcomb.
“People want to be going sideways and, although we still have the Peugeots for passenger hot laps, the Toyotas are really good.
“They can go sideways easily and that is what the experience is all about.”
RallyMaster gives anyone with a licence the chance to drive the thoroughbred sports car, which comes complete with 198bhp and a six-speed gearbox.
Its front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive configuration makes the Toyota easy to drift with varying levels of success, helped by its light weight and low centre of gravity.
The tight and twisty confines of the technical Brands stages mean drivers cannot get out of third gear, but that takes nothing away from my experience, which is punctuated by plenty of power slides and the odd – but never any less frustrating – grassy moment.
“You are over-driving and trying too hard too soon,” Andy, who has been coaching since 1999, says after my first run.
“If you were doing a proper rally over a full day, you would be tired very quickly and that wouldn’t help your performance.
“Drivers have to let the car do the work, otherwise they will all be exhausted very quickly.”