Why do rally drivers need co-drivers?

May 10, 2023
Landon McRally
Why do rally drivers need co-drivers?

The Importance of Teamwork in Rally Racing

Rally racing is a thrilling and adrenaline-pumping sport that requires intense focus, skill, and teamwork. One of the key factors that separates rally racing from other types of motorsports is the essential role that co-drivers play in the team's success. In this article, we will discuss the various reasons why rally drivers need co-drivers, and how their partnership contributes to the success of the team.

The Role of a Co-Driver

A co-driver is an indispensable member of the rally team who sits in the passenger seat and provides critical information to the driver about the course ahead. They are responsible for reading detailed pace notes, which are essentially a set of instructions describing every twist, turn, and potential hazard on the route. This enables the driver to anticipate and respond to the road ahead, ensuring optimal performance and safety. The co-driver's ability to accurately and quickly relay this information to the driver is crucial for the team's success.

Navigating Complex Terrain

Rally races take place on various types of terrain, from winding mountain roads to muddy forest tracks. These conditions can be challenging and unpredictable, making it difficult for the driver to rely solely on their own instincts and experience. A co-driver's knowledge of the route, combined with their ability to interpret pace notes, allows them to guide the driver through the course with precision and confidence. This partnership is essential in ensuring the team navigates the complex terrain safely and efficiently.

Managing Race Strategy and Timing

In addition to providing navigational support, co-drivers are also responsible for managing the team's race strategy and timing. Rally races are often won or lost by mere seconds, so it is crucial for teams to have a well-planned and executed strategy. The co-driver keeps track of the team's progress, monitors split times, and communicates any necessary adjustments to the driver. This enables the team to make informed decisions about their pace, tire choice, and overall race strategy.

Handling Technical and Mechanical Issues

Rally cars are subjected to extreme stress and wear during races, making mechanical issues and breakdowns a common occurrence. Co-drivers are often trained in basic car maintenance and repair, allowing them to address minor issues that may arise during the race. This can be the difference between finishing a stage or being forced to retire from the race. By quickly identifying and addressing any technical issues, co-drivers help to ensure the team's continued progress and success.

Providing Emotional Support and Encouragement

Rally racing is an incredibly demanding and high-pressure sport, with drivers often experiencing intense physical and mental fatigue during long races. Co-drivers play a vital role in providing emotional support and encouragement to their drivers, helping to maintain focus and morale. The bond between driver and co-driver is often one of deep trust and camaraderie, as they rely on each other to perform at their best and overcome challenges together.

Ensuring Safety and Compliance

Lastly, co-drivers play an essential role in ensuring the safety of their team and compliance with race regulations. They are responsible for monitoring the driver's speed during transit sections, where strict speed limits apply. Co-drivers also help to ensure that the team abides by all rules and regulations during the race, such as checking in at time controls and accurately completing the required paperwork. This helps to maintain the integrity of the sport and ensure a fair competition for all teams involved.


In the high-speed world of rally racing, co-drivers are an essential component of a successful team. From providing critical navigational support and managing race strategy to handling technical issues and ensuring safety, co-drivers play a vital role in the team's performance and overall success. Without the valuable contributions of co-drivers, rally drivers would not be able to compete at the highest levels of the sport and achieve the incredible feats of skill and endurance that make rally racing so captivating to watch.