DirtFish’s secret co-driver: Hot rallies

Our secret co-driver details the difficulties of riding shotgun in the heat

The Secret Co-Driver

All that talk about Sardinia and how hot it could get in the car got me thinking. And once I’d been thinking, I knew it was time for another column. Here’s something for you… Italy’s not hot.

If you wanted hot in the car, you should have tried a proper mid-summer Acropolis in a Lancia Stratos. Or something in the Middle East, now they could be hot rallies. The good thing about the Middle East is that you usually had some decent straight bits in the stages to get some air flowing through the car. On the Acropolis – and the same in places like Cyprus – the stages were so twisty, there was nothing coming in.

And what was coming in was hot air – it was like reading notes in a sauna with somebody blowing a hairdryer in your face.

I remember when roof vents were introduced and we tested them for the first time. My driver was quite impressed. I, on the other hand, was pretty p****d off. The engineers had brought one pipe in from the roof and directed it straight at the driver.

I asked the engineer about this and he just looked a little bit confused.

“He’s the driver, he has to drive…” he said, scratching his head.

But I’m human too! I have a job to do, I can’t just sit and be cooked all day while the bloke next to me gets a breath of fresh-ish air. They split the pipe and gave me a bit too after that.

The Secret Co-Driver

There’s nothing worse than sweating into your own pacenote book!

We’ve seen teams take a shot at air conditioning in rally cars. Trouble is, it saps a lot of power from the engine and that’s a bad thing, according to the engineers…

Walking around the service park last year, I heard Hyundai was having a go at something like this. Certainly, there was some pipework coming from around the back of the seats on some of the hotter events – but it didn’t seem to come to anything. From talking to some of my more contemporary colleagues, it offered a bit of a blast of cooler air while you were sitting waiting to go into the stage, but that was all.

It’s always nice to get to the end of a stage on these really hot events – especially when the friendly marshal has a bottle of water on offer. Can you imagine my frustration when I was about to crack open my bottle and quench my thirst – a thirst built up after talking for more than half an hour in near-70 degree heat with an overwhelming smell of fuel and tyres – only to have the bottle snatched away by my driver. He wasn’t being selfish. It’s just the car needed it more.

Brakes. Not engine. The team had devised this cool spray adaptor which could be fitted to plastic bottles of water and that allowed us to cover the calipers in a fine and cool mist. We always had to do this when there was a short road section between stages.

On the upside, back in the day, we could compete in shorts and t-shirts…