Paul’s DiRT Diary Part 6 – End of the Road?



February 17, 2014

Frustrated by our performance at the Scottish Rally we were eager to get out into the forests again.

We had a look for prospective events and found the Malton Forest Rally based in Pickering, Yorkshire in early November 2012. This rally had a smaller entry and was not part of a bigger championship so we were pretty confident that we would be able to get a solid finish and erase some of the bitter memories of our previous performances.

The Impreza had been given a once over and there was no clues as to what had caused the overheating at the Scottish rally.

The rally uses the same stages as the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire which has been used in the British Rally Championship and the BTRDA. The Impreza had been given a once over and there was no clues as to what had caused the overheating at the Scottish rally so the team packed up the gear and travelled to Pickering on Saturday 3rd of November. We found the hotel, eventually, and then bedded down for the night.

The next morning we woke to a frosty 5am start, we checked out of the hotel and headed to Dalby forest to set up the service area and go through scruitineering. With most motorsports events in the UK part of the scruitineering process starts with a noise test, this is to ensure that local communities are not overly disturbed by the event taking place. We knew the Subaru was loud but we were genuinely surprised when we failed the test. This really put us on the back foot as we quickly had to make some adjustments to the exhaust system to ensure we would be allowed to compete. Fortunately the adjustments we made worked and we managed to make it through in time for the start of the rally.

With the frost thawing we set out towards Stage 1 – Langdale. As always the anticipation and excitement built up as we got closer and closer to the start line. We set off from the start line with good pace and quickly started to get a feel for the conditions. For the most part the stages were wider than many of the events we had competed in previously. While this allowed a bit more room for error there was a lot more loose stuff off to the edge of the track. As we pressed on the car was feeling good and despite a close call with a pile of logs on the exit of a square left we were feeling the rhythm and getting back into the flow.

Then disaster struck. Approximately a mile and a half from the end of the stage a huge cloud of steam burst through the bonnet vent and sprayed onto the windscreen. Immediately Jon knew it was serious and killed the engine so we started to coast downhill towards the end of the stage.

Frustrated we managed to limp the car to the end of the stage to take a look at what was wrong. The header tank had blown, rupturing the top of the tank rather than popping the lid off. We set about making some repairs using whatever we could get our hands on in the car and half an hour later we managed to refill the cooling system and very carefully drove the Impreza back to service.

dirt-diary-6-3After further inspection it we suspected that the Head Gasket had blown, this had allowed air into the system and caused the header tank to blow under all the pressure. The mechanics worked tirelessly to get the car up and running again. While we couldn’t replace the head gasket in service we felt it was important to confirm that that was the problem so with the car patched up we set out just in front of the Course Closing car to try to get to the start of Stage 2 – Cropton. We were already over time limit and knew the rally was over for us but we still pushed as hard as we could to try and make the most of bad situation.

As we were running last we quickly caught the next runner in a BMW and spent at least 2 minutes trying to get past them. We eventually managed to get through and pressed on to the finish. As soon as we pulled up at the marshal’s post the engine coughed and died. We called the service crew to ask for a pick up and then started to discuss what went wrong.

With the car back in the workshop we worked out that the head gasket had developed a small crack towards the end of the Scottish Rally but it was so small that it was impossible to get the problem to occur without driving the car really hard. Sadly that was the last time the DiRT Rally Team competed on stage. The engine needed a full rebuild and the costs were really starting to pile up so, reluctantly, we have had to take a break from the sport.


Luckily for me, working as the Chief Designer of DiRT games at Codemasters I get to spend every single day immersed in Rallying. The anguish of not being able to compete at full speed through the forests is softened by the fact that I get to work with the most talented and exciting team of developers. Getting the opportunity to sit in the co driving seat and experience the sport first hand has been incredible, something that most other game developers don’t have the opportunity to do.

I am confident that every decision we are making here in the studio is bringing us closer and closer to creating the most authentic experience ever.

The experience has truly opened my eyes to the challenges and the excitement of the sport we are setting out to represent and I am confident that every decision we are making here in the studio is bringing us closer and closer to creating the most authentic experience ever. This is not however the end of the DiRT Rally Team.

The car has recently been brought down to the Codemasters campus and it is now getting rebuilt. I look forward to bringing you more information about the process of getting it stage ready. The plan is to get back out on stage later this year and hopefully we can keep the momentum going into 2015.

Thanks for reading!

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About Paul Coleman

Chief Game Designer of DiRT and Rally Co Driver. Lover of all Motorsports.

View all posts by Paul Coleman

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