TCP: turn, clutch, power. It’s shorthand for how to do a handbrake turn and the letters are going through my head as I approach a tight hairpin, turn in, depress the clutch, feel the back end of my Ford Escort RS2000 come away, and then get back on the power.
The trick is to avoid adding a fourth letter to that initialism: S, for spin. This is my first go against the clock in a rally car and I really don’t want to find myself sitting in a cloud of dust, trying not to stall while I work out which way the car needs to be pointing once the dust clears.
A few minutes earlier, the course had looked so easy sitting alongside rally legend Jimmy McRae, who danced and glided his way around it with the grace and finesse you’d expect of a man with five British Rally Championships to his name.
He’s one of a team that has set out to train me and a few other hacks in the art of rally driving today at the London Rally School, just north of Bicester.
We’re following in the footsteps of movie star Idris Elba, who was also taught the ropes by McRae as part of his new ‘Idris Elba: No Limits’ TV show coming soon on the Discovery Channel.
If any of us had thought that previous circuit racing coaching would make us naturals at this, we’re soon divested of that notion. Within the first few seconds of the briefing, instructor Rob says: “There are no racing lines here.” Ah, best keep my mouth shut and ears open.
Briefing over, it’s time for the first practical session. Thrown in at the deep end, I’m given, somewhat intimidatingly, a Group N-spec Subaru Impreza WRX to take to the gravel course.
I take it slow and steady, with Rob most of the way around telling me to up the power and stop braking in the middle of slides.