What makes a good co-driver?


As you might have noticed I like co-drivers. I asked a few co-drivers what makes a good one. Of course, I did not ask drivers, because I wanted intelligent answers. 🙂 Co-drivers can not only read (notes), but they can also write (in a general sense). Drivers only look ahead with their unblinking eyes and shout: “NEXT!” or “GO!” or profanities.

I will not write anything about the co-drivers’ accomplishments (NOBODY ever seems to do it), but I think you could recognize some of them. And I will post only one answer each day – because they deserve the space.
So, here we go:

What makes a great co-driver? Obviously preparation is key, but I’d say calmness and adaptability are most important. Rallying is easy when everything is going well and you and your driver are in sync, the car is running strong, the crew sails through what amount to basic service tasks… It’s when things AREN’T going that well that your ability to adapt to the situation and remain calm (as well as projecting that calmness to your driver) will make all the difference.

If I had to design a rally logo I would only write “Rally is fun”. And, it appears that I am not the only one who would do so. Ferd’s answer is one of such “making it fun” answers. But as you will see in the future, his is also a valid one. Just wait a day what another co-driver with a plenty of experience thinks about the topic. Ferd also never cut out 1:10 from the video he attached – perhaps to prove his point. 🙂

Retired – everything has expired, licence, medical, First-Aid, enthusiasm… Best advice — don’t puke. Or if you do, first move microphone boom out of the way. 🙂
(and when I asked him to find a video to prove his point)
I probably have video evidence somewhere, with full stereo sound. It’s in one of my many puking videos from Tall Pines, can’t remember which, there were so many, eh. This highlight video from Baie des Chaleurs 2013 is pretty good though, it even has some puking in it too.

What makes a good co-driver:
– Composure.
– An iron stomach.
– A sense of adventure.
– A brain that can process a whole lot of information at high speed, and sort out the signal from the noise.
– Being organized enough to have a plan, and open minded enough to ignore it.
– A caffeine addiction.
– Sacrificing personal safety, days off work, disposable income, “normal” holidays.
– Understanding that it’s not about you. The driver is the rock star, and (in big teams) the shop needs good results to keep sponsors happy.
Someone described co-driving as doing calculus while falling out of an airplane. It’s about right.

Here at ORSC we do not distinguish between female or male co-drivers. We only distinguish between co-drivers and the ones that moved to the dark side and became drivers. 🙂

Here is another co-driving at speed and this time after you finish reading Nathalie Richard answer watch her delivery on the attached two videos. Now compare these two videos and tell me what is the most interesting thing that makes Nathalie so good.
What makes a good co-driver:
A multitude of factors play into being a good co-driver. Some of the personality traits include being uber-organized and pedantic yet adaptable, assertive, calm under stress, competitive, pro-active, ambitious, somewhat fearless, have the ability to quickly assess situations, little bit of a psychologist, and perhaps have a slight maternal instinct (yes, guys too). It doesn’t hurt to be light-weight and mechanically inclined as well but if you have the natural qualities mentioned above, losing weight and learning mechanics can always be achieved along the way!
(My notes: Let me repeat and repeat and repeat what I said in (Part 1) of this series: I will not write anything about the co-drivers’ accomplishments (NOBODY ever seems to do it :)). Also, the “slight maternal instinct” makes a lot of sense to me as not all drivers are extremely emotionally stable on the stages…)

At about this time Leanne Junnila should be back from the snow banks at Big White Rally. So, without further ado:

What makes a good co-driver?
Ability to constantly problem-solve. You don’t always have to know all the answers, but you need to know where to find them, whether that means working through a mechanical problem by consulting the crew chief for advice, getting more information from an official, interpreting the rulebook, asking friends, or thinking through a problem yourself, you always need to solve things.

No comment – I take the fifth! 🙂 🙂 🙂

What makes a good co-driver?
Co-drivers can lose rally’s but they can’t win them. Check your math then check it again – coming in early will negate an awesome stage. Co- drivers cajole drivers to focus saying things like to finish first, first you have to finish. Rally is special, drivers & co-drivers are the absolute definition of a team, you have to earn the others trust as you depend on each other literally for each other’s safety in order to make it to the end faster and faster each time. Like all teams you will find what works for you, I always thought a little excitement in my voice encouraged the drivers I was with – it was real. Learn to talk fast but don’t be offended when your driver says next – it means you’re too slow and he needs to know what to do next – see you are in control. Try not to get lost, on the road or in your notes – but tell your driver when you are lost, he’ll know anyways cause the road doesn’t drive like what you are calling – remember that’s how your driver will trust you when you say it’s sharper or deceptive but it doesn’t look like it. Each driver I’ve ridden with was different but finding what worked between us was part of the fun. Not one of them got mad at me for making a mistake and I tried to reciprocate, and there will be mistakes, and if you’re lucky you will just end up on top of a snow bank or losing a wheel. Having in-car video might occasionally be consulted to clarify if the note came on time 🙂 . Try sitting in the other persons seat, it will give you a whole new perspective, if you can reach the pedals, it’s hard to drive the car to scrutineering when your driver is a foot taller than you and racing seats don’t adjust. But don’t be intimidated, I know one driver who had trouble keeping co-drivers because he made it look so easy they all wanted to be drivers, or maybe they were thinking if this guy can do it so can I 🙂 Well that’s my next challenge, to finish my car and see if I can do it like he did.

A perhaps slightly different, but very useful practical view from one of the most experienced co-drivers around. You can google the other co-drivers, but Peter’s co-driving career started before Google was around 🙂 and carried on in the Google times too:

What makes a good co-driver?
Was asked to add something about good co-drivers so I thought I’d take a different approach. To be a good co-driver, I believe the first thing is to have a high level of commitment. (Same for a driver as well.) When you say you will co-drive for someone, move heaven and earth to be there (one excellent reason to back out is a funeral – your own! 😜.) Commitment goes a lot further as well. If you want to be a co-driver be prepared to make some investments in the preparation as well. Sure, if it is a one off to say you’ve done it, borrow the equipment. Helmets and HANS systems are expensive but necessary. They do retain some value though should you choose to sell them, but most can be borrowed. Fancy suits and boots make you look fast in service, but aren’t necessary for Rally Sprint.

Take some time to learn about rally computers. Manuals are all available on line. This is just like studying for a test but an often neglected aspect. Read the rule book. Again, not as glamorous as standing around the bar explaining to the admiring hoards how fast you were going when the driver crashed, snatching that WRC contract from your hands, but an important preparatory step none the less. The rule book will explain how the timing works, what control zone procedures are to be followed, what the sign boards mean. Ask others experienced competitors what to do and how they do it. One of the most important aspect, I believe, is: NEVER LEAVE A CONTROL WITHOUT THANKING THE WORKERS! It takes many events to develop skills as a driver or a co-driver. You won’t be perfect on your first or second event, but as a team, you and your driver can develop complementary skill sets that make the sport an excellent way to get an incredible adrenaline rush in a safe controlled manner. There is so much more that develops over time. The longest journey starts with the first step.

Our little series is over (or almost over – there can be an odd co-driver’s opinion on what makes co-driver good in the future – who knows…).
Karen (https://www.facebook.com/jankowskikaren/) is giving us a longer version of the answer. And you can, if you want, try to extract any common thread among all of the co-drivers’ answers. Or, perhaps, you say: “Different people = different approaches”.

I just think that all of the co-drivers are pretty awesome and they CAN help you to win or lose a rally. A lot.

What makes a good co-driver?
– Flexibility and patience. Things constantly change sometimes good sometimes bad and often everything in between so going with the flow is important. There are so many things that happen you can’t control so being flexible and patient is important. The rally could be the most disorganized mess ever but your teammate will never know because you have it all handled.
– Being organized and pro-active. As a co-driver you manage a ton of complexity and things change all the time even with the most thorough planning. The better organized you are the easier things are and the better prepared you are when things go to crap.
– Good under pressure. One of things I love the most about rallying is no two days are the same. We see a hundred different comers instead of one corner a hundred different times like track racing. Reading notes while going fast on a bumpy, twisty road with jumps a lot of people can do; however, it is the timing, scoring, rules, challenges with the car, challenges with an event etc that cause a lot of stress. Being able to stay calm so your teammate and crew remain calm is very important, everything could be falling apart around you but no one will ever know.
– Being a team player. Rallying is unlike most all motorsports because you have two people in the car at the same time. You put your life in someone else’s hands but you also win or lose as a team. It isn’t a solitary sport and how well you gel with your teammate when things are going well, bad and everything in-between is vital. The driver gets most of the press and glory with fans so have to be able to keep ego in check. We are the unsung heroes so if we are good at our jobs your teammate trusts your notes and preparation and will drive more confidently, faster, and win more events.
– Ability to function without a lot of sleep. During a rally co-drivers are often up until the wee morning preparing the notes/routebook, reviewing in-car videos, and getting ready for the next day.
– Passion to learn. Rallying is a constantly evolving sport so it is important to keep learning and keep honing your craft. I believe having a mentor is very important for both a driver and co-driver because having someone your can pick there brain, who has been there before, and that you can bounce ideas off of is so meaningful. Also volunteering at rally events you aren’t competing in helps so much to learn all aspects of the sport, it really helps you to be a better co-driver. Even better volunteer on the organizing committee for your local event. Just because you compete doesn’t mean you can’t help out, there are lots of jobs putting on a rally that you can do. I have learned so much being on the Oregon Trail Rally organizing committee, just wish I had done it sooner.

Once again, I will take the fifth and let John give you even longer and very practical version:

You asked me what I think makes a good co-driver:
As a starting point the co-driver must be detail oriented, time conscious and not suffer from motion sickness. After that its practice and more practice to get really good.
1/ General
– Read the rules, know the rules.
– Do not suffer from Motion Sickness. Or know how to control it.
– Know how to change a wheel.
– Gear required includes:
Helmet with intercom
Head and Neck Restraint
Race Suit
Co-Driver watch (accurate timing device)
Rally bag for books, paperwork, pencils, eraser and so on
2/ Pre-Rally Prep
Depending upon the team the co-driver can be very involved in the team logistics, travel, accommodation, etc. or possibly none of this…. so find out what is expected of you in this regard.
Prepare for rally weekend by reviewing and gathering together the rules, supps, maps, stage layout, lay of the land, previous years video if available, old stage notes from that driver. Find out if the driver intends to use old notes or write new ones, prep accordingly.
Develop a movement plan, fuels requirements, recce plan, provide to the team early so that they know what will be expected.
Make sure that your gear fits in the drivers car, intercom plug-ins for example.
Get fitted in the car, seat belts, seat position, etc.
Know your way around the car, where is the spare, jack, impact, triangles, first aid kit, tow rope, fire extinguishers and so on.
3/ Rally Weekend Registration
During the weekend you are responsible for time, when this and that happens, where we need to be next and when.
Arrive at registration with a good understanding of the flow of activity expected throughout the weekend and be prepared to incorporate last minute changes that the organizer may have.
Pick up the competitor package and check that everything is included.
Pass along service items to the service crew if applicable.
4/ Rally Weekend Recce
Prior to recce know the recce route, have adequate note books or old notes that will be marked up with changes.
You’ll need a good supply of pencils, erasers and the like.
Must be able to read and write while bouncing along the road in a car.
Once recce is done your day continues, you must clean up the notes so that they are clear and readable during the race.
5/ Rally Weekend Race Day
On Rally day. Timing, navigation and note delivery are the key elements.
Set your rally watch to rally time
Know the timing rules and making sure that your team arrives at the controls on time is crucial.
You must have the ability to read the route book, follow tulip diagrams and not get lost on transit.
On the stage deliver the notes at the right time, with the right emphasis and stay on note. (takes practice)
Stay calm and keep reading.
Discuss service requirements with the driver to make sure he has a full list before getting to service.
If your team has an inquiry, you would be required to write it up, state the rules, state the facts and what you are asking for.
Write down your stage times and check at rally HQ during the day to make sure that the official times are what you expect.
If competing with others, record their times and help the driver know where he stands.
Throughout the day watch the notice board for other teams inquiries, in case they involve you.
After the rally is finished review the notice board for provisional results to make sure they are what you expected.
Have fun.. rally is a blast