Why do rally drivers need co-drivers?

Jul 27, 2023
Landon McRally
Why do rally drivers need co-drivers?

The Necessity of Co-drivers in Rally Racing

Have you ever wondered why rally drivers have someone in the passenger seat shouting instructions at them? I mean, do they really need a babysitter telling them where to turn or when to slow down? In fact, yes, they do! The role of the co-driver is way more crucial than you might think, and without them, rally driving would not be possible. Let's dive deep into the world of rally racing and uncover why co-drivers are not just there for company but are an absolute cornerstone of rally racing.

Understanding the Course - No Easy Task

Gone are the days when you could navigate the world with a map and compass. Modern transportation relies heavily on GPS technology. However, in rally racing, the traditional way of navigating is still very much alive and kicking. Co-drivers play a crucial role here, comprehending complex course notes known as "pace notes" and conveying them to the driver. The delivery must be accurate and timely to ensure the driver knows when to brake, when to accelerate, and when to turn. This requires intense concentration and an extraordinary ability to multitask under pressure.

Blood Brothers - The Bond of Trust

In a rally car, the driver and the co-driver aren't a pair; they're practically conjoined twins. The trust between them has to be absolute. I mean, imagine driving at massive speeds on narrow, winding roads, with only the voice of your co-driver guiding you. You can't afford mistrust or doubt. During my early racing days, my co-driver, Joey, and I practiced for hours every day. I learned not only to trust Joey’s directions but to anticipate them, leading to a harmonious driver-co-driver relationship. This bond is vital on and off the track.

Vehicle Maintenance – It’s Not Just About Driving

Should your car suffer a mechanical glitch during the race, taking it to the mechanic is not an option. You are the mechanic! Co-drivers are not only well-versed in navigation, but they are also knowledgeable about car mechanics. They can deal with most mechanical emergencies that may occur during the race. Having replaced a flat tire in under 3 minutes during a race, I can attest that this is no small feat.

Fighting Fatigue and Staying Focused

Rally races can be utterly exhausting, both mentally and physically. Having someone else in the car can help keep the fatigue at bay. Co-drivers also monitor the driver’s fatigue level, reminding them to hydrate and helping them maintain their optimal performance throughout the race. It's basically like having your own personal fitness trainer right there with you in the car.

The Unsung Hero – Managing Time and Strategy

In a rally, the clock is your relentless opponent and managing time is a game all its own. Co-drivers play a crucial role here as well. They manage the strategy, considering variables such as weather conditions, car condition, driver fatigue, and race position to make real-time tactical decisions for the best possible outcome. It's like a high-speed game of chess, where every decision can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Co-drivers - The Indispensable Partner

In conclusion, the co-driver's role in rally racing can't be downplayed. Their responsibilities extend far beyond simply reading out directions. They serve as navigators, engineers, strategists, and, most importantly, as the indispensable partner to the driver. Without them, rally racing wouldn't just be difficult; it would be downright impossible. So, the next time you're watching a thrilling rally race, remember: it's not just the driver barreling down those daunting trails; it's a pair of blood brothers, working and trusting in perfect harmony.