It’s the ultimate test of faith. You know there’s ice in a corner. There’s been ice there since the recce a few days ago. But one man’s telling you the ice will be gone when you get there. He’s telling you to take a slick tyre and not to brake for a corner you’d pictured on studded tyres and quarter throttle.
As a driver, you put your trust in them. Your life in their hands. That’s the relationship between a crew competing in the World Rally Championship and their safety crew.
Formerly known as the ice or gravel-note crews, these are the men and women who are up and out earlier than anybody else in the service park. On the Tarmac rounds of the championship, the safety crews will go through each and every stage looking for changes in the road surface or, if it’s been raining, for standing water which could cause aquaplaning.
But one event stands out for the safety crews: Rallye Monte-Carlo.
If there’s one event that’s going to keep Simon Jean-Joseph awake at night, it’s this one.
Jean-Joseph is the man telling Sébastien Ogier – the most successful driver in the history of the Monte – to keep his foot in when he might have considered a lift.
Jean-Joseph and Ogier come from different times in the sport, but their competitive careers did cross when they were both with Citroën in 2008. Ogier replaced his senior team-mate for the 2008 Ulster Rally, when Simon was supposed to drive the C2-R2 Max in Northern Ireland.
They’ve since become firm friends. But on asphalt WRC rounds, they’re way more than that.
Jean-Joseph is the man masterminding Ogier’s approach and his angle of attack. Arguably, the Martinique driver represents the most important person you’ve never heard of in the service park.
Except you will have heard of him. As a driver in his own right, Jean-Joseph drove for both the Ford and Subaru factory squads in the late 1990s and early noughties. As a native French speaker, he and co-driver Jack Boyere make the perfect team with Ogier and Julien Ingrassia.
The fact that his safety crew have competed at the sport’s highest level only makes them more valuable. Jean-Joseph understands the pressures of top-level competition, making him a fine confidant for the seven-time champion.
But the most important thing the 52-year-old brings is an inherent understanding of Ogier’s notes. He knows that making a change to the braking area for one corner will change the car’s attitude in the bend that follows. He can envisage and understand that situation and tweak the notes accordingly.
Basically, when it comes to the Tarmac, Ogier and Jean-Joseph are completely synced. And that’s how Team Ogier has won every WRC round with a sniff of asphalt since Spain 2019.
Simon Jean-Joseph predicts Sébastien Ogier’s future. And he does it better than anybody else in the world.