Timing is everything
Four of the stages on next week’s Lotos 71st Rally Poland will be held in neighbouring Lithuania, a country that has a different time zone – one hour ahead of Poland.
Although Rally Poland organisers have taken the decision to run the entire rally on ‘Polish time’ to avoid confusion, the co-driver’s job inside the rally car cockpit is still a difficult one. It’s not all about reading pace notes and recording stage times. It’s also about accurate time keeping.
“The time card that you carry inside the car dictates everything you do,” Barritt said. “The organisers issue a unique time card to every competitor at the start of the rally and you have to do everything at the time you’re given. If you don’t, you get time penalties.”
The schedule that the rally organisers set is very precise. But it should allow enough time for the crews to navigate their way around the rally route.
“If you’re starting a stage at 12 o’clock, you may get one hour to get to the next one. So within that time, you have to plan how many kilometres you have to drive on the road section and how much downtime you may have when you get to the next stage,” Barritt explained. “That’s useful time for changing tyres, checking tyre pressures, checking helmets and repairing the car if necessary.”
But if the crew has a problem in a stage and drops time, they are immediately faced with the prospect of being late to the start of the next test. That creates added pressure that the co-driver has to deal with quickly and efficiently.
Barritt, who has been competing in the co-driver’s seat since 1996, said: “Time management is key. You always have to be on top of the job so that if something does go wrong, you can think on your feet. Problems mean you’re playing catch up and that brings a lot of pressure.”
The co-drivers in the M-Sport World Rally Team will typically start their rally preparations up to six weeks before a rally starts but will really focus on the route and timing requirements in the 10 days immediately before the first stage gets underway.
“You have got to have a firm plan in place before you get to the rally,” Barritt explained. “Your time at home before the rally starts is when you decide where you will have enough time to change the tyres on your car. It’s that precise. My strategy is about being ahead of the game and planning everything before it happens.”