I was recently invited to a rallycross clinic organized by a fellow motoring journalist named Anjo Perez. The event, called the Rally Driving Immersion Project (RDIP), is meant to pass on the Filipino rallycross spirit to the younger motoring media, thus continuing a long history of rallying in the Philippines. Crucial to this rallycross clinic is, of course, a car that’s more than capable of handling the rough terrain at high speeds. While people would normally think of a beefed-up 4×4 or a rally-tuned passenger car, we were handed to the keys to a (mostly) stock Isuzu Mu-X and D-Max.
Rallycross is a lot different compared to circuit racing. Apart from the (usual) presence of a navigator, the sport is mainly done on dirt tracks which create a whole new level of excitement to motorsports fans and aspiring rallycross drivers. Whereas driving around a circuit eventually becomes muscle memory due to its paved surfaces, a rallycross track constantly changes as cars drive around it. Therefore, a corner is never treated the same lap after lap.
Rallycross tracks often have varying road surfaces, switching from tarmac to dirt, mud, just to name a few. The changing grip levels can affect a car’s handling balance when not treated cautiously. As we went through our exercises, we were reminded by these constantly changing road conditions. We applied all the things we learned, such as never letting go of the steering wheel and let it self center when exiting a turn, as well as always keeping the car smooth around a turn as to maintain its handling balance. Suffice to say, car control is a lot more different in the dirt. The challenges brought by the constantly changing road conditions and grip levels meant that you can never memorize how the car performs through each turn. In short, the added challenges somehow make rallycross a subjectively more fun motoring experience.
What I really felt surprised were the vehicles. The Isuzu D-Max and Mu-X provided to us were almost bone stock. Only the tires and wheels, which were provided by Nitto and Black Rhino, respectively, were the aftermarket add-ons. This is a testament to how well-designed and well-built the Isuzu D-Max and Mu-X are the moment they come out of the factory. The two vehicles performed excellently on the track, with the D-Max being the more fun of the two for me due to its tail-happy nature. Do note as well that the D-Max and Mu-X that were provided aren’t powered by the newer generation 3.0-liter 4JJ1-TCX turbo diesel engines with BluePower technology, so it’d be interesting how the newer, more powerful engines perform on the rallycross track. One thing is for sure though. I have never expected an all-stock Isuzu to perform excellently here in Pradera Verde with merely just a tire change.