sunnuntai 10. heinäkuuta 2011

Co-drivers. Those guys filling the extra seat next to the driver...

So what are those co-driver guys doing? Aren't they just filling the vacant seat just because the regulations in rallying say there has to be two people in the car? Well the regulations do say there has to be two people in the car, but there is more than that.

Thinking from a perspective that you race as a hobby. Even as a hobby the co-driver usually is responsible for the following tasks:

Before the rally:
- Plan with the driver/team which rallies to participate
- Enter the team to the rally, pay the entering fee to the organizers
- Read the rally rules carefully in case of some special features unique to the rally, inform others in the team
- Plan the schedule for the event, who goes where and when
- Calculate fuel consumption for the rally car
- Reserve accommodation for the team. Make sure there is enough parking space for the truck/trailer. 
-Check that you have your personal equipment, suit, helmet, maps, pace note books, pens, watches, incar camera, batteries, flashlight, electrical tape or similar and so on...
- Check the weather and plan accordingly. Will the sun be shining, will there be rain, is it going to be -30 Celsius. If you retire on a stage would be good to have a rain coat if it's raining or something warm to wear if it's freezing. Notify others in the team what kind of weather to expect during the rally.

During recce:
- Make sure you have something to eat and drink in the car if the recce schedule is going to be tight. Keep the energy levels up for the duration of the day.
- Keep the driver aware that you have everything under control. Helps to keep the driver concentrating the subject at hand -> making the pace notes.
- Comment the pace notes if there is a place you might not fully agree. Discussion is OK, but the driver makes the final call for the notes.
- Check the pace notes at the hotel after the recce. Clean them if necessary so that they are easy to read during the rally.

During rally day:
-KEEP THE DRIVER CALM AT ALL TIMES! Of course drivers are individuals, but in most cases they have a tendency to have ants in their pants before the start. Even if they look calm they might be like a duck on a pond. On the surface everything is calm, but below the surface the  flippers are working like crazy. Co-drivers job is to be the guy who keeps the general atmosphere in control at all times.
- Double check your watches are on correct time.
- Double check you are everywhere in the right time. Being early or late for time control and getting penalized is a sure way to flush the rally down the toilet. Organizers mark these times to a time card which is with the car crew at all times during the rally. Co-driver calculates the times for each time control points and makes sure to get there during the correct minute.
- Instruct the driver to the start, stages, services, finish. People in many times think that this is done by using a map, but actually the organizers have provided very detailed road books where all the relevant junctions, road signs and  distances are marked.
- At the start of the stage start the stopwatch so that you can check after the stage that the people in time control mark the correct time on your time card for the special stage. If the time is wrong make a formal objection immediately otherwise your stuck with the incorrect time without the possibility to appeal.
- Start the incar/onboard camera to get something to watch at home or to put into the internet.
- Read the pace notes to the driver. Generally everybody thinks it's OK for the driver to make an error and crash the car, but co-drivers are expected not to make mistakes when reading the pace notes to the driver. If you're not 100% sure you are reading the correct note notify the driver IMMEDIATELY since his supposed to trust that the bend is exactly the one you are reading to him.

Above there are already a couple of tasks for the co-driver and this is just a point when your having a laugh with your friends during the weekend and enjoying rallying. Added to this all the work the driver and the mechanics do...

lauantai 2. heinäkuuta 2011

How did I become a co-driver?

Short answer is that my brother had been rallying for a few years, needed a co-driver and asked if was interested. Of course I said yes! Some people end up being a co-driver if they have an enthusiastic friend who wants to drive his/hers first rally and just needs someone to sit on the passenger seat. I would say that my path was a little bit longer than that.

I don't have any relatives or friends who have been rallying or racing cars. Although I have had the chance to drive snow mobiles and dirt bikes when I was young. I also spent lots of hours watching Finland's WRC rallies from the 80's or UK's WRC rallies from the same era on video tapes as a kid. One might say that I was quite interested in motor racing, but I didn't think I would have a chance to actually try rallying. In 2007 my brother had been rallying as a hobby for a few years and when I started working after university he asked if I was interested in co-driving. He needed someone who would take the co-driver duties seriously so that he could focus taking care of the car and I would take care of the other tasks when preparing for a rally. Imatra rally in 2007 with a BMW 325 was our first rally together and that's how my rally "career" began. Since then I have been co-driving for four other drivers, but mostly for my brother. You can find info about driving with my brother from Heikkinen Racing Here in the blog I will also cover other topics than just driving with my brother.