is the most popular form of motorsport in Britain, perhaps because
it involves ordinary-looking cars. It involves two people working
together, a driver and co-driver. Each car usually starts at at
one-minute intervals, competing against the clock rather than
directly against each other. Whilst very specialised cars are
required for top level special stage rallying, unmodified, everyday
cars can be used for simple road events, making this one of the
cheapest forms of motorsport available.
essence of this type of event is to maintain a time schedule through
a series of control points by following route instructions which
often put the emphasis on navigation. These events take place
on normal public roads, almost always at night.
basis of events such as Rally GB - the special stage - is a stretch
of road closed to all other traffic, which must be covered at high
average speed. In most of Great Britain - exceptions are Northern
Ireland, Isle of Man, Isle of Mull, Channel Islands and the roads
used on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally - public highways are not available
for this purpose, so special stage events use private land, frequently
Forestry Commission roads or disused airfields.
DO RALLY CREWS FIND THEIR WAY?
how do rally drivers manage to hurtle through forests or over unmade
roads at terrifying speeds without becoming entangled in the scenery
before they've travelled two hundred yards?
answer lies in the cool head and clear instructions of the second
person in the car - the co-driver (or navigator, but never call
her/him a passenger).
some rallies prior to the start the crews are not aware of the route
they are to follow. They follow instructions in a Road Book which
give them a sequence of distances between junctions (road or forest
tracks), and what to do at those junctions. These often have to
be put onto large scale Ordnance Survey maps by the co-driver who
then has to "read the road" back to the driver.
other rallies crews are allowed to look at the special stages beforehand,
and prepare Pace Notes. This is what you hear the co-driver reading
on in-car shots on television, with a string of apparently unrelated
words of verbal shorthand "...square left don't cut - 60 -
caution square right over bridge K left - 40 flat crest - 100..."
giving the driver advance information, and therefore confidence,
about the road she/he can't yet see.
no mistake about how important those words are. When Marko Martin's
bonnet flew up against the windscreen on stage in the recent Acropolis
Rally his co-driver continued to read the pace notes they had prepared,
they successfully completed the stage losing only a few seconds,
and went on to win that round of the World Rally Championship.
through a road book is easy in an armchair; it becomes much more
mentally challenging when you're strapped into a bouncing rally
car travelling sideways at well over 80 miles an hour; the noise
is so loud that if it wasn't for the crash helmet you'd have to
wear hearing protection or risk hearing damage; and when the intercom
doesn't work, shouting becomes futile, and you have to resort to
impromptu hand signals. Teamwork is the name of the game.
we're on the subject of teamwork let's not forget the service crews
who perform heroic tasks in muddy fields or on the roadside, at
all times of the day or night, in order to keep the car and crew
in the rally.
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