Observations from the trenches – "Rallying is all in the mind"
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Observations – “Rallying is all in the mind”

Phillip Pluck Rally Australia
Phillip Pluck on his way to third place in the NSW Rally Championship at Rally Australia. Photo: Wishart Media

This is the first of a series of ‘Observations from the Trenches’ articles in which which New South Wales rally driver, Phillip Pluck, will convey the challenge, the excitement, and the highs and the lows of rallying. 

Observations from the Trenches – Rallying is all in the mind

“When you step up to the challenge of rallying, you’re entering the ‘wild west’ of motorsport.

You’ll be threading a powerful car through gum trees with no run off, over constantly changing grip levels.

You’ll have to negotiate hundreds of different corners and, if it’s a blind rally, you will be seeing them for the first time at race pace.

If it’s a pacenoted rally, you will have driven them once or twice, but only at normal road legal speeds.  It’s a very different challenge compared to most other motor racing disciplines.

When I started rallying in 2013, at the ripe old age of 42, I’d been lucky enough to have motor racing experience on two wheels, mainly in motocross, and on four wheels in super sprints and motorkhanas.

Phillip Pluck Narooma Rally 2017

Phillip Pluck was a podium finisher in the final round of the NSW Rally Championship in 2017. Photo: Wishart Media

It took me a couple of years, and a couple of crashes, to realise that the most important thing for me to monitor whilst setting a stage time in a rally is my state of mind.

Despite being drenched in adrenaline, you need to stay calm, relaxed and in control.  You need to concentrate on what your navigator is saying, which is harder than it sounds in the heat of battle.

Rallying is very unforgiving.  If you let yourself drive right on your limit you WILL NOT finish the rally!  Instead, you’ll be waiting for the sweep crew to extract your crumpled pride and joy from the bushes.

I aim to start the first stage in a really calm state of mind.  Whilst sitting at the start of a stage, waiting for my starting time to tick down, I’ll use long slow deep breaths to stay calm.

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Phillip Pluck Rally Australia 2017

Phillip Pluck (left) and co-driver Peter Hellwig (centre) receive their third NSWRC awards after the 2017 Rally Australia.

Once we’re off, I’ll drive pretty conservatively at first.  However, once all four tyres have shredded up a couple of corners, the adrenaline kicks in, the ‘red mist’ descends, and if you’re lucky, the speed starts to come naturally.

You’re aiming for a Zen-like state of complete concentration that rally drivers call ‘flow’.  In this state, it seems easy.  Suddenly you’re sliding around corners with complete confidence.  This is the high that we’re all chasing.

Sure, if you’re oozing with God-given talent, you can go for it right from the start of your rallying career.

But, for the rest of us mere mortals, there’s no escaping the fact that consistent safe speed will only come with experience.”

– Phillip Pluck

  • The Pacific Motors Rally Team is planning to contest all seven of the NSW Rally Championship rounds, along with a couple of AMSAG rallies. It should be an exciting and fun year of rallying, and you’re invited along to enjoy the ride!

Do you want to be a rally driver?

Learn How To Start Rallying with our FREE basic guide on where to get started.

Related news:

How To Start Rallying – a beginner’s guide

AMSAG rally series continues to grow in 2018

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