Wednesday | 20 May 2020

Co-driver week: the route to the top

Imagine sitting in a tumble drier while reading the newspaper out loud and doing the crossword at the same time.

That’s co-driving. Sort of. The point is, if you have any desire to be a co-driver, you’ll need to be very good at multi-tasking, thinking on your feet and answering questions before they’ve even been asked.

Co-driving at any level demands a specific skillset. On a fundamental level, you must be able to read and write in a moving vehicle. That’s not for everybody. Give it a try. But not on a motorway, wait until you’re on the bumpiest of roads. Then turn off the air conditioning, turn the heater up and get writing.

A solid sense of direction allied to a deep love of cartography (that’s the art of map-making, not fancy handwriting) are also really important.

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Granted, maps aren’t used as much as they once were in rallies, but if all else fails you still need to be able to fall back on a depth of geographical ability which includes the use of a compass and an understanding that the blue lines on the map aren’t really an option.

The best way to get involved in co-driving is to join a local motor club and start out by helping organise rallies. It’s an ideal and cost-effective way to introduce yourself to the sort of regulations you’ll be expected to know inside-out once you’re in the car and competing.

And once you do get into a car, you’ll need to develop an utterly calm exterior, regardless of how you’re feeling on the inside. The world’s best co-drivers exude absolute confidence and authority in the car. Your voice needs to be clear, stable and devoid of emotion. Get that sorted and you’ll start to build the driver / co-driver trust vital for a partnership to flourish.

Adding times is a handy skill too. Granted, there are watches that will do all of that for you, as will a handy app on your smartphone, but don’t be caught out relying on such things.

Co-drivers must be ready to tackle jobs outside the car as well as inside

Leading co-drivers will wear a watch on each wrist for fear of one failing and they’ll have a brain that is wired to immediately compute the total of 34min 56.8sec and 15min 22.6sec, before subtracting that from 52min 54.9sec.

Your fancy app is all well and good, but don’t forget rallies tend to head well and truly off the beaten track to places where a 4G signal remains something of a mythical force.

Beyond all of this, you’ll also need a solid grasp of rudimentary rally car engineering and a willingness to get your hands dirty when it comes to changing wheels, tyres, brakes and suspension.

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2020 magazine

Get all that right and there’s no greater feeling than being in absolute sync when you’re calling the notes and flying from corner to corner with perfect precision and to-the-second timing.

If you’re still trying to work it out, the answer is 2min 35.5sec. And maybe co-driving’s not for you!