Nicky Grist’s expert advice to Neuville’s new navigator

Writing exclusively for DirtFish, the co-driving legend outlines what Martijn Wydaeghe needs for his 11th-hour job

Tamara Molinaro

Nicky Grist knows co-driving like the back of his hand, and he also know what it’s like to be called up at late notice for navigational duties on a World Rally Championship round. He shares his insight on what Martijn Wydaeghe requires when he sits next to Thierry Neuville for the first time

There’s in at the deep end and there’s this. Jumping in to co-drive Thierry Neuville at the Monte Carlo Rally is a big ask of Martijn Wydaeghe and the best advice I could offer him is to back himself.

Self-confidence is really important in sport, but it’s vital for a co-driver at the sport’s highest level. I know Martijn has been with some quick drivers like Craig [Breen] and he did the Monza Rally in 2019 in a World Rally Car, so he will have some idea of what it’s like to go quickly in one of these cars.

But it’s a different story when you go to an event like Monte Carlo at that level for the first time. And, don’t forget, he’s going there with the guy defending his Monte win from last year.

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Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

I remember my first one – I was with Malcolm Wilson as part of Q8 Team Ford in 1991. It was a big deal. Funnily enough I found the onboards from that event recently and was watching the first stage, a short version of the Col de Turini again. I was sounding pretty chirpy, there was definitely some nerves in there!

Fortunately for me, I’d had the chance to test with Malcolm on the kind of stages we were going to be using, but Martijn’s first time in the i20 Coupe WRC on these stages will be at SS1 – don’t forget there’s no shakedown in Monte. Fortunately for him, he’s done the event a couple of times before.

It’s tough. Thierry will need to work with him a little bit just to calm things down in the car; he will be very nervous.

The first 10 kilometers or so are going to be crucial for them. If the lad can get through those first few kilometers without any late notes, then that’ll settle his nerves a bit and then the confidence will just continue to grow and grow as the event progresses.

If he comes out of the Monte OK, then he’ll be fine – there’s no doubt that’s the toughest one.

As well as learning a new style of pacenotes, you’ve also got to incorporate the ice notes and all the additional stuff that comes with co-driving on this event.

There’s always a lot going on – and there will be in terms of weather when you look at the longer-range forecast – but I’m sure the team will put an arm around him and look after him.


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

There’s no doubt when you sit on that startline for the first time, you ask yourself the question. It was the same when Colin [McRae] and I had that big, big shunt in Corsica in 2000. When we got to the first stage of the following event in Sanremo, I think Col and I both asked ourselves: “****… can we still do this?”

Within a kilometer, the first few corners, everything was back into the usual routine and we were away. It clicked.

When it clicks, everything works and everything becomes second nature and for that to happen he will need to take some inner confidence. He’s in that position for a reason. Thierry and the team believe in him and he has to believe in himself.

Good luck Martijn.

Thierry Neuville