02 Dec 08
Fancy yourself as a WRC driver? Well here's some career advice from a man at the sharp end...
1: Drive. Drive. Drive. There's nothing to replace experience. Start competing as early as you can. If you're too young to get a licence, see if you can't go testing on private land somewhere - or even try and get out to Latvia, where I believe you can compete from age 15. As well as that, don't forget karting and quad biking - both of those can give you some great first experience of sliding and getting the right line. Once you've got your licence, get out every week. Don't worry about having the best, fastest or most expensive car, take the cheapest option and drive it till it drops, competing in all conditions. Experience isn't everything in this sport, but it's worth a heck of a lot.
2: Make notes. You don't need to be competing to do this. Try and make sure you and your co-driver live reasonably close together and then get out every night after work and make notes. Take your road car into the lanes and - where laws permit - drive at recce speeds (no more than 80kp/h) to make notes. Then go back and check them again and again. Doing this will allow you to familiarise yourself with the whole process help you chose between a numerical or descriptive system. Fit a trip meter into your road car and you can constantly practice getting distances right between the corners. Then, when it comes to competing, the recce and making notes will second nature.
3: Practice. Get out to as many world rallies as you can. Do it on the cheap, sleep in a tent if you have to, but watch the rallies then get your hands on a road book and drive the stages straight after the rally. Ninety per cent of the WRC is run on open roads, so you can do this after the rally has passed and it won't cost you a penny. Drive the stages as much as you can, making notes and looking at the cuts and lines which have been taken. Those lines change quite a bit from the start to the finish of the event.
4: Fitness. This is one of the few things you can do for free in the World Rally Championship, but it's absolutely vital. Being physically fit is an absolute given and it shows the rest of the world that you're completely serious and totally committed to what you're doing. You won't believe just how physically demanding some of the longer stages in places like Greece, Turkey and Cyprus can be - and in these cars, at these speeds, your fitness will give you complete concentration. The sauna is always good training for the really hot rallies. It's not just physical fitness, either. Having your mind in the right place is also really crucial, too. You need to get everything planned perfectly, the recce, everything and then set your goals before the start - you don't want to be worrying about this kind of thing during events.