Wednesday | 29 Jul 2015

Flying blind: co-drivers set for bumpy ride

Time in the air’s to be expected at this week’s Neste Oil Rally Finland… unless of course you happen to be a co-driver, when flying time can come as something of a surprise.

Drivers are fine, they’re looking out for the leap and are braced and ready when it comes. And they have a steering wheel to hold on to. For co-drivers, the unexpected take-off and landing can come as quite a shock.

British co-driver Stuart Loudon can testify to that after a particularly painful run through Palsankyla in 2012.

“I was doing the event in a Fiesta with John MacCrone,” said Loudon. “I knew the jump was coming, but we landed really heavy on the nose and when the back of the car came down it completely knocked the wind out of me.”

At race pace, the driver needs to know exactly what’s coming over the next crest or around the next corner.

“I just couldn’t get my breath,” Loudon added. “I was gasping, trying to get the words out. I resorted to hand signals while I tried to get some air back into my lungs. I just about managed to the end, but I’ve never been so glad to see the finish line of a stage.

“The other problem you have is when you fly unexpectedly. Don’t forget, you recce at a much, much lower speed and it can be hard to gauge if the car will go light on the suspension or fly like a bird. The driver knows what’s coming, but we’re reading the notes, so we don’t. The first thing you know is when everything goes quiet…”

It’s not always the co-driver who suffers, though. Last year Craig Breen retired from ninth overall after damaging his back in a heavy landing in Ruuhimaki.

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