Have you ever been cold, wet, and muddy? We have. As a matter of fact, we recently found ourselves at the Rally Ready Ranch located outside of Dale, Texas for a Ford Raptor event, and it got nasty. The unusually wet weather had made the course more challenging than normal, and we were beating down the door to get a look at some high-speed, high-adrenaline off-roading.
About The Ranch
The Rally Ready Ranch sits on 140 meticulously maintained acres and is run by Dave Carapetyan. Dave is an internationally renowned rally racing figure, 2004 Production Class Club Rally National Champion, three-time Pikes Peak Hill Climb champion, and teacher of all things car control. He also does awesome impressions and has at least five convincing accents, ranging from Australian to Southern USA.
When asked why he got into the business of rally driving, Dave explained, “I have always felt a sense of urgency about life. I am a firm believer in living each day as your last. I truly believe in not leaving anything on the table and for me, I’m not chasing the biggest dollar. The first time I saw a Subaru sliding sideways through the forest, something resonated and changed in me. And since the first time I managed to link together two corners in a giant, sideways, 4WD drift, nothing has ever been quite the same.”
The Rally Ready Ranch is a first-class facility for education and training related to performance driving, but it also hosts some pretty awesome events. We thought Dave and his crews were top notch during the event we attended, and spent some time throwing some questions his way. One of the first things we wanted to know was what kind of drivers come to take his classes.
“I’d say our clientele are roughly a 70/30 split,” Dave explained. “About 70 percent of our clients have never participated in any sort of motorsports event before and 30 percent have experience ranging from track days to stage rally or pro racing. We often get students who have never even seen a clutch pedal before! Those guys and gals tend to be the best learners because they don’t have any bad habits to retrain.”
While most participants were Ford Raptor owners due to the specific event, Dave sees drivers of all kinds of vehicles at his classes.
Driving At The Ranch
The core of the curriculum is focused around left-foot braking – a skill that is applicable to all drivers and vehicles. Unlike other forms of racing, rally drivers don’t get 20, 30, or 100 laps around a track to find the perfect throttle, steering, and brake inputs. They have to be able to adapt on the fly in the middle of a fourth gear corner when the grip falls off through a puddle.
The best way to do that is by adjusting the weight transfer of the car forward, backward, and side-to-side with the use of left-foot braking. Any driver that lives in the Southeastern United States, or has shown up for an event after it has been wet, knows what we are talking about here.
Rally Ready helps its customers to develop muscle memory with their left foot and starts to train their eyes to stay as far forward on track as possible, as this allows them to collect the data needed to translate appropriate movements and corrections to hands for steering and left feet for braking. The right foot just stays parked to the floor.
The only prerequisite for participating in a class with Rally Ready is a good attitude and the ability for critical thinking. If you’re willing and able to learn, they can and will take anybody with any experience level and get him or her Rally Ready.
In The Classroom
Adam Biderman is a Ford Raptor owner and satisfied Rally Ready customer. He was gracious enough to take some time to chat after his final lesson. “My driving experience previous to Rally Ready was a Ford Raptor event in October,” said Adam. “There was also some rockcrawling trips with a friend and his Jeep, and mudding shenanigans with friends.”
Adam rated himself at a level one or two on a scale of five, as far as driving skill prior to arrival at the Rally Ready Ranch. “I would definitely recommend Rally Ready to anyone looking to either dip their toes in or get better at off-road driving, especially Raptor owners,” Adam explained “The most specific thing I learned while at the ranch was getting comfortable with the counter-intuitive sensation of being sideways in the truck and the body roll. It goes against everything your head tells you is safe. Once I got comfortable with that, learning to keep my eyes up and anticipate how much steering or throttle input was needed came pretty quickly.”
We had the pleasure of watching some of Adams’ learning and the improvements in his driving abilities were immediate and clear. The muddy conditions were actually great to practice on as everything was exaggerated when mistakes were made.
In addition, Adam noted that every day now he works on keeping his eyes up and looking further down the road. This skill may sound basic, but when driving off-road or in exaggerated or nasty conditions, it can become a real challenge.
“The best parts of the class were definitely getting to know Shredder, Dave, and David,” Adam explained. “I brought no ego into it and was rewarded tenfold. Those guys simply love what they do and it shows. I am a chef by trade and I can see how much Dave and the guys care and the passion they have for the sport. It is infectious and made my experience way better than I could have hoped for.”
What To Expect At The Ranch
In the end, Rally Ready’s goal is to improve every student by a big margin. If you come with no experience and have no idea how to drive a manual, you’ll leave ready to tackle your first rally or your daily commute with a whole new level of safety and security after a three-day class! If you are an experienced racer, they still want to improve your driving. A competitive racer can be pushed past their comfort level safely and reliably with a new level of muscle memory and car control.
“I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to our students and clients, who we consider our investors,” Dave said. “The folks who have invested their hard-earned money into our program and have reaped the rewards of our unique program have helped us keep the doors open and continue to come back time and time again. You guys are the ones keeping food on our table and we can’t thank you enough!”
“I think the most rewarding part of what we do is empowering people,” Dave continued. “Whether you’re planning to become a pro rally driver or you just thought this looks like a fun way to kill a Saturday, you leave the Rally Ranch feeling empowered with a transformative new set of skills that apply not just to racing, but your everyday driving. In most cases, you’ll find much of that skill in as little as half a day. We want people to reactivate their imagination, remember how awesome it feels to learn new skills, and feel the rush of pushing outside their comfort zone.”
The school is more than just learning how to drive. “I want everyone to leave here inspired to push beyond that comfort zone not just in a rally car, but in their everyday lives, and to find tiny pockets of greatness in everything they do,” Dave explained. “I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but that is truly what motivates us.”
“I owe a huge amount of debt to my founding partner my co-driver and dear friend, Rob Amato,” said Dave. “Also, Brianne and Kevin Corn who helped bring the school back a few years ago and who are immense talents and forces in our Texas rally community. My current business partner, Ophelia who has trudged through the trenches with me for the past two years since we moved into the Rally Ranch, my lead instructor Fielding Shredder, who has put as much soul and blood as he could afford into the place over the past two years, and DavidMoss22, (who only goes by his Instagram name), who dove in head-first last August and has become the glue that’s held this place together.”
Whether you are a Ford Raptor owner, lover of all things motorized, or a professional rally style driver in your own right, the Rally Ready Ranch has a unique and satisfying experience waiting for you. These guys know their business and will have you headed down the road in a whole new fashion in no time. For more information about scheduling a learning session or to just learn more about the services Rally Ready has to offer, check out their website.