** GRAB A BREW AND A LOT OF BISCUITS **
Firstly I must apologise for the length of this post, I hope Admin don't mind. I've written this long-winded article thinking that it might just give a little insight into how I see rally co-driving.
For those that can be bothered reading it, please feel free to throw in your amendments in comments.
Ok so here are my thoughts...
Having been out of rallying for about 15 years, and out of the passenger seat for even longer, I was a tad daunted by the prospect of 'sitting in' again, especially in the International (call it what you like, it's the International to me!). More especially when I got the call from Chris Heyes only 2 weeks before RIOM, asking if I was free. It helped momentarily when Chris said we would simply be going out for a laugh, aiming merely to get to the finish - oh and by the way he'd won the class in the National in May and won the Chris Kelly overall - no pressure then!!!
Immediately I got in touch with a few people for hints and tips... Best piece of advice I received but didn't heed - don't stay up too late during recce (thanks Rob). I really wish I'd had more time to prepare the notes the way I wanted but with recce being so close to the event, and having a (dare I say it) reasonably successful business to run during the day, I had no choice but to burn the midnight oil.
I'll list a few tips that might help and I'll elaborate on each one a bit - as my hgv pupils will tell you, I tend to waffle on a bit so bear with me.
Ok so my personal prep barely involved 'the team'. Thankfully Chris and the MAD Motorsport boys prepared the car, in fact I didn't sit in it until Scrute! Not ideal but being the same sort of height/build as Howard (Chris's usual co-driver) we guessed no seat adjustments would be needed... We were right. I made sure I was aware of where the fire extinguisher, power and horn switches were located as well as the temp, oil and fuel gauges.
I gave a lot of thought to the job I was being asked to do. Each team member will say that they're the most important part of the crew - and they're not wrong! Apart from the fact that YOU (the co-driver) are the most important part but we'll keep that to ourselves. The thing is everyone has a crucial part to play and it's YOUR job to ensure that they do it properly!
Whether it's ensuring that the service crew know where and when they'll be needed, that the team is properly fed and watered (especially you and the driver), or that the nominated official knows where and when to sign on (you might even need to arrange their transport!), or maybe where/when you'll be refuelling during the rally, will you need a light pod fitting, who is responsible for which jobs and so on... It's up to you to ensure it's all in hand.
Then on the event itself your job is mostly to make sure you are at the right place at the right time. You'll need to keep a very close eye on the clock all day/night. You must keep track of which timing system is being used, where and when your next stage arrival is, where/when service is happening and for how long.
Make sure the service team know how long it'll be before you're wanting to leave. The little jobs are often as important as the big ones... Cleaning the windows, checking the fluid levels, checking tyre pressures (including the spare), checking wheel nuts - all important 'bits' that shouldn't be overlooked!
It's well worth setting up a group text between you, the driver and each team member (include your marshal - he's just as important to the team as anyone else, face it, without him/her you wouldn't be able to compete!!!) It's crucial to be able to relay important information about your service requirements, but it can also be used to keep everyone updated... "Clear of SS4, she's flying after those suspension changes boys!" can be a real morale boost for the crew, sat in a cold wet service.
It can also be used for a bit of light relief - on the morning of day 2 on RIOM I sent a message to the group as if I was delivering a co-pilot's greeting from the cockpit of a jet liner "Please take your seats, put down your porno mags, stow away your tables, buckle up and prepare for take off". It was just a giggle and gave me the opportunity to have a bit of banter with the boys, and for them to respond. All good fun. After the rally the same group can be used to send your 'thank you' messages, to send any photos around and to tell the co-driver what an amazing job he did... etc.
Remember you're in charge of the admin for the team - that's you two sat in the car, as well as the crew, your nominated official, even your mates that will be out spectating. They all want to be kept informed!
PRIOR TO THE RALLY
In preparation and during the event, assume nothing, double-check everything!
Be aware of the regs. You are in charge of the entry (usually done online these days), ensuring the info given is correct. It's normal for the co-driver to pay the entry fee. Doing this will give YOU the power to take charge! You'll feel very much more committed to the event knowing that you've invested a chunk of your hard earned cash into it.
Make sure you're aware of the specifics - you can only recce on certain days, where/when you should present the car for sound test and scrutineering, documentation and signing on, stickers, etc.
Be prepared. On the event your driver will want to know where and when 'this or that' will happen. Consider putting together a 'Movement plan'. This would list the movements of CAR 1, as per the road book. Then whoever is reading it (yourself included) just needs to add the appropriate amount of time for where YOU are running. E.G. On RIOM we were running No. 58 so our timings for leg 1 were 58 mins behind car 1... It's not rocket science!
The movement plan can then be given to the crew so that they know when to expect you in service, how long each service will be, which stages you'll be on and when. Remember your crew are rally fans too - they'll want to get out on the stages and cheer you through. I gave a copy of the movement plan to the wife so she knew approximately where we'd be and when.
Kit; make sure you have everything you'll need. Make sure the car is taxed, insured, MSA log booked (or has the vehicle passport), etc. Ensure you and the driver have your MSA licences and club memberships. Inspect both suits, boots, helmets, hans devices and so on. Make sure the officials won't find any defects. You don't necessarily need to purchase all the kit - I rent my helmet and hans from hirefit.co.uk (through Chris Heyes) - great value and excellent kit.
ON THE RALLY
You'll need a few bits of kit with you. I strap my goodie bag to the roll cage beside my leg so in the unlikely event of the sky being underneath us (!) the bag won't hit us in the face.
In my bag I carry a few small tools (adjustable spanner, interchangeable screw driver, cable ties, fuses, elec tape, torch, etc), my pace notes (I get them ring bound at the Copy Shop on Bucks Road), the road book, spare battery for the intercom, spare pens, some mints, choc bars and bottled water. Kitchen sink won't be required
In the helmet box I keep a beanie hat and a lightweight jacket in a bin liner, in case we're stood around for any length of time. If they get wet, take them off and put them in the bin liner before getting back in the car - stops the windows steaming up
Make sure you've sussed out a plan if you need to change a tyre on the stage. Who will be doing what and where you will find the tools. Maybe even practice it in the garage - you could save a minute or three, might be difference between winning the class or not!
Make sure you know where the emergency triangle is, the spill kit and first aid kit.
At the start of the rally, make sure you 'arm' the in-board fire extinguisher by pulling out the safety pin. This will ensure that if (heaven forbid) the external or internal chords are pulled, the extinguisher will operate properly. At the end of the rally don't forget to replace the pin!
A good piece of advice for the event - especially if you're new to rallying - do not be afraid to ask around. On RIOM I was approached by the co-drivers around me (who were vastly more experienced), asking what time I expected to be at this control or that - they were just double checking they'd got their timings right and it's not a problem. If you're even a little bit unsure, speak to the car in front or behind! We became pretty good 'mates' with them too - build your network of like minded people!
At the first control, set your watch to match the timekeepers. Theirs is what matters as all rally clocks will be set to the 'same second'.
If you get to an arrival early, be prepared to get out of the car and wander up to the timekeeper. Do not allow your driver/car to enter the arrival area, unless you are beckoned forward by the timekeeper. They may ask you what time you'd like (to be written on your time card) - make sure you know the answer and it's worth checking they have given you what you asked for. Many timekeepers will only give you the time you want on that very minute (keeping you stood there in a queue), this is fine - don't get frustrated because once you've been given your arrival minute, you're in 'dead time' - during which you can ensure you're fully strapped in, hans and helmet secured, ready to go live!
GOING ON STAGE
Ok so now you're ready to smash up the stages. Your Pace notes should contain as many 'margin notes' as you can muster. It's also well worth mentioning these to your driver occasionally, so he/she knows that you're aware of where you are. Also try to deliver them in a 'conversational manner'.
Simply saying something like "You'll see a salt bin on your right, then after 50 yards there's a 4 left" is so much better than just shouting "50 4 left at bin, 100, 5 left, 50 4 right, 50 Hairpin right" (etc) as this can really become very monotonous... Unless this is specifically what your driver wants. You'll work this out between you during the recce.
Don't be afraid to have a laugh on the stages! Look it's meant to be fun right? So if you had 'a moment' on a stage that's then repeated later, as you approach it next time make light of it - thereby highlighting that there was a problem. On RIOM we had a HUGE sideways moment on Staarvey which Chris recovered in fine style - on our second pass I just said "You might wanna try a slightly different line at this jump".
You might be surprised how much time you've got to have these chats! BUT you must control any conversation - don't let your driver talk over you when you have an important call to deliver. Can you imagine if you omit a 'Hairpin' or a 'Don't cut' call because you don't want to interrupt him. Don't be afraid to tell him to shut up and listen... You won't fall out over it!
At the top of each page, make a note of the previous few calls - if you've turned the page and your driver needs you to repeat a call, it's right there in front of you! Also, at the bottom of each page, make a note of the forthcoming call - it'll help you if you turn 2 pages by mistake (etc).
It can be quite difficult to read small text on a bumpy stage... Especially (as I found) when you're the wrong side of 50 and your eyes aren't what they used to be in the dark!!! Make the print comfortably big enough to read! Paper is cheap, don't try to put too many notes on one page.
As well as the stage info, add as much info as you can to the pages of the notes. Consider putting the road route from one stage to the next or to service - and how long that service will be, in case you have to relay that to the crew.
You could include the roads closing/opening times so if there are delays, you'll be able to prepare in case the organisers need to go to 30 seconds, or if they may have to cancel a stage due to running out of time.
Drivers will always want to improve their times on a repeated stage. So consider writing in the stage time at the end of each set of notes. That way you can compare immediately and feed this back to the driver.
As you reach the end of the rally, shake your driver's hand - he/she got you through it, often in one piece!
At the end of the event you will need to complete and sign the Damage Declaration. It's an important document so think very carefully about it before handing it over. If you think you may have caused some damage to the beautiful Manx scenery, you really should mention it on the 'Dec'. If you don't mention something which is later proved to be your responsibility, you'll be dragged over the coals by the club/organisers and possibly the MSA. Also remember that we of course want future events to run and the sections of the public that are NOT rally friendly would use any opportunity to publicise anything negative, such as unreported damage.
You may also need to return transponders, radios or anything else as per the regs.
Remember it's supposed to be fun, make sure you enjoy it.
Hopefully a little bit of this will help in some small way. Here's to safe and enjoyable rallying. See you out there.
If anyone wants to contact me directly with input, questions, criticism or donations
my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for allowing us to share this further than just a local group on facebook Rick. Here is a video of what we thought on 1st time co-driving