Toronto’s Mike Pateras is an avid Subaru fan, drifter and Gymkhana specialist. His biggest dream is to follow in to the footsteps of legendary Subaru WRC champion Petter Holberg and become a rally cross driver. Mike already knows how to slide an AWD car around obstacles on tarmac with precision and perfection, but he joined the DirtFish Rally School to learn how to get faster on the loose stuff. We caught up with him to find out about his experiences.
Mike, tell us a little bit more about your story… What are you racing right now?
At the moment I’m more of a Gymkhana specialist, the sport that was made famous by Ken Block. For this I have a custom ’05 Subaru Impreza STi which I’ve completely modified and tuned to perfection – at least for my purposes. I’m constantly tinkering with the car and making videos about the process. This is how I teamed up with Motul. I’ve been racing go karts since I was nine, so motorsport has been in my blood since I was a kid, but now I really want to get into rally-cross because there’s no purer form of motor racing on the planet.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what you’ve learned, what is the DirtFish Rally School all about?
DirtFish Rally School is a place where you can learn all about driving a rear-wheel-drive car or an all-wheel-drive car on gravel surfaces. They have a full track and test area where you can learn these things safely and really get to grips with them. They have a large selection of Subaru rally vehicles on offer for you to gain experience in. The really cool thing is that they offer training programmes for all levels of drivers and the participants vary between rally drivers who want to hone their skills to people who just want to experience driving a rally car across gravel and are taking their first steps.
What did you experience during the course?
I joined DirtFish for the three-day advanced course. The course acquaints you with the advanced techniques of handbrake-turning, playing with the weight of the car. You learn typical rally techniques such as the Scandinavian flick and generally just getting to grips with how to make the car move faster and more efficiently over all surfaces.
What was the one big eye-opener that you took away from the course?
Well, the biggest eye-opener for me was something I learned at DirtFish on the beginner’s course, which I did earlier, and that was how to steer a rally car using the pedals rather than the steering wheel. In an all-wheel drive car, you can control the oversteer and understeer with your feet rather than fighting it with your steering wheel.
It’s often said that rally drivers are a different breed. Do you agree?
Ha-ha, yes, that’s true. When you race a circuit, you have to memorise a few corners and apart from some extra rubber on the track and possibly a change in weather conditions, the track stays pretty much the same throughout the event. But a rally driver takes hundreds of corners during one event. They have to judge how much grip there is, and that is constantly changing. And even though an event might have loops that run a stage twice a day, the stage you ran in the morning is never the same stage in the afternoon - the entire surface will have changed after 50 or more rally cars have ripped across the gravel.