January 23, 2020

In the old days of rally racing, rallies were held over long distances and run with minimal information. Teams would race without the advantage of modern pace notes and reconnaissance laps, using only using a routebook to get from point A to B. This routebook would only contain directions for intersections and distances between them, ensuring teams could follow the route without getting lost, but in no way helping them with information for driving at speed. This means that rally drivers would have to read the road ahead and mentally gather as much information as possible, driving only what they can see at high speeds for long distances.

Rally races were often short one or two day events, but could range up to a week long and beyond, with rallies such as the Paris to Peking, the London to Cape Town, and the London to Sydney at the extreme long end of the spectrum. 

The key to driving expeditiously on unfamiliar terrain is to practice reading the road ahead. Becoming instinctive with eye placement feeds your brain the critical information it needs to make real-time decisions concerning your speed, driving line, and techniques to be used for corners and obstacles. Looking as far ahead as possible is critical, but instead of focusing directly at the surface of the road, it is advantageous to keep your eyes up on the horizon and scan for useful indicators or the corners and terrain ahead. 

Treelines are particularly useful for driving on unfamiliar terrain, as the treeline on the outside of an upcoming corner is often exactly the same angle as the corner itself. As you approach blind turns and crests, that treeline is your best indicator of the direction of the road ahead. Any other indicators on the horizon are hugely useful. Power lines, fences, walls and buildings, earth bankings, hedges, anything on the outside of the road ahead should be considered a useful clue for guessing the direction of the road ahead. 

This is of course only a rough outline of the skills necessary for driving on unfamiliar terrain, and gives only introductory information for those looking to begin training for this kind of driving. These skills are applicable and beneficial for street driving and can be used at any speed; they also translate directly to motorcycle riding, ATVs and UTVs, and many other sports that require traveling through terrain quickly and safely.