What’s the most important attribute for a co-driver? Timekeeping. I know. So it’s a bit of a concern that I promised these words to the DirtFish team about a week ago.
Actually, make that two weeks. It looks like I might have gone OTL before I’ve even got started. Or let’s just pretend I arrived at this control on my home event, found a marshal from my car club and… hey presto: what lateness?
It happens. We all know it happens. I remember one of my early events in the seat without the wheel, I told the driver to pull forward into the start control. We watched the car in front leave the line and I told him it would be 60 seconds to our start time. He looked over and smiled.
“Don’t worry about this one,” he said.
The marshal leaned in my window, reached across me to shake hands with my driver and said: “Whenever you’re ready…”
My driver didn’t take it too far, but suffice to say we were 10 seconds up by the time we got to the first corner!
All that talk about me being late with these words, I’ve forgotten to introduce myself properly. I’m… Well, I’m not going to tell you who I am. I’m DirtFish’s new Secret Co-driver.
You’ve seen me out and about and, once we’re done with this COVID-19 business, you’ll see me out and about again.
My brief is a simple one: no names, but plenty of stories from behind the closed doors of rally cars and a small light into the dark arts of co-driving.
I’m looking forward to it. I’ll bring you the lowdown on the highlights of team orders; it’s quite incredible how, even to this day, the same sentence from a team principal can be comprehended and actioned in two completely different ways.
And, of course, there are those slightly shifty moments when the telephone rings in the car and the co-ordination wants a word about a rather delicate issue that needs to be dealt with somewhere out of sight.
Just before I go, I’ll leave you with a classic from one of my first trips to the Monte Carlo Rally. We were coming back out of the Alps on the annual Route Napoleon Grand Prix – this was quite a few years ago before speed cameras and camera phones – and we started to get an oil warning light. My driver knocked his speed down to warp factor 10 and got on the phone, once we got some service.
Next thing, I was given a very precise location just south of Grasse. One of us was told to look like we were making use of the non-existent facilities and then, when there was a brief lull in the race to early check-in, whip the bonnet up and top the oil up.
“We’re not carrying any,” I said. “Remember, we used the bottle before the last stage.”
I was told to look behind the gatepost. Sure enough, there, behind the gatepost, were a couple of litre bottles of oil.
They were and are. And now I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. On the proviso, of course, that none of this goes any further…