IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL. HERE ARE THE IVY LEAGUES OF SPEED
In the pursuit of his go-fast education, Tim O’Neil has destroyed hundreds of cars. But you don’t have to. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where a teenage O’Neil first taught himself to dodge cops and drive like a moonshine runner, the five-time U.S. and North American rally champion can turn boring drivers into back-road demons—without having to dig your incisors out of the nearest oak tree. It’s called Team O’Neil Rally School, a 560-acre private playground carved from a reclaimed gravel pit.
Rallying is a nuanced art. It takes years of training to get to the level where you can drive an open class car like this Subaru WRX STI with a sequential gearbox and 500 pound feet of torque. But I didn’t have years of training. I had hours. And driving it has warped my brain forever.
Team O’Neil is excited to announce a new partnership with Spyder Active Sports and their new Spyder GT collection – a line of motorsports-inspired, performance apparel for men.
I’m a big fan of old cop and detective shows. One of my favorites is The Rockford Files that aired in the 1970s and starred the legendary James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford. The Rockford Files was famous for the car chase scenes in which Rockford would race down bad guys in his Firebird Esprit. Rockford’s signature car maneuver was the J-Turn in which he would start off in reverse, spin the car 180 degrees and then continue forward in the same direction. Because the move was used so often on the show, the J-turn is often called “The Rockford Turn.”
In late June, at the Subaru-sponsored Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire, an electric racer took part in the event for the first time (and it wasn’t the Subaru Stella EV).
The car is accelerating toward a blind curve. The man in the passenger’s seat waves his hand down, down, down, mimicking the motion of a foot on the gas pedal. If he could be heard, he would be saying “GAS, GAS, GAS, GAS, GAS,” but instead he’s pantomiming for the three people in the car, including himself. The ancient Audi Quattro, roaring like an outraged camel, hogs the conversation.
Ah, the life of a supercar. Take a look around high-roller enclaves like Miami Beach or Malibu and you’ll surely see plenty of brightly colored mid-engine lust buckets idling their way through traffic en route to the restaurant valet stand. It’s a shame, but the cars most capable of astounding feats of speed are the ones most likely to spend their days in traffic purgatory, 95 percent of their performance left in the envelope. I like to sneak the keys to cars like that and break them out of jail, put them to the glorious use that their engineers intended.
The Team O’Neil Rally School is the coolest place in New England that you probably don’t know about. Founded in 1997 by champion rally driver Tim O’Neil, the school is based at a 600-acre campus of gravel roads, carved into the craggy White Mountains not too far from where the Old Man’s face fell off. O’Neil maintains its own fleet of cars—mostly Ford Fiestas, Audi 4000s and the most abused BMWs you’ve ever seen—but today I’m upping the ante with something a little different.