Our very own Hayden Paddon is back in action in the World Rally Championship this weekend at Rally Sweden. As motorsport fans are well aware, Paddon is only contesting seven rounds of the WRC in 2018.
This is partly due to Hyundai signing up Andreas Mikkelsen that resulted in four drivers (Mikkelsen, Paddon, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville) not quite fitting into three cars. Paddon’s cause wasn’t quite helped by a mediocre season that saw the Kiwi only on the podium twice, and I reckon the unfortunate demise of a spectator at the opening race in 2017 wouldn’t have helped matters much along with a co-driver change mid season.
Here’s hoping Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall make a better fist of it in 2018 beginning in Sweden and then Portugal in May, Italy in June, Finland in July, Turkey in September, Great Britain in October and Australia in November.
Speaking of co-drivers, I think they are the most under rated people in sport. Most people tend to think they are frustrated drivers who never quite made it and are just there reading. That thought could not be further from the truth.
It takes a special kind of person to be strapped into a metal tin can sitting so low you can’t really see out of the window, and to have the utmost faith the person behind the wheel isn’t going to fire the both of you off a cliff.
I don’t know about you readers, but have you ever tried to read a book while someone else is driving and resist the temptation to look up every now and again? It’s damn hard and if you’re anything like me you’ll end up getting motion sickness anyway.
Rally co-drivers not only have to feed the right information to the driver at the right time, they also have to act as councilors when things go wrong and the driver is having a hissy fit about something.
Making accurate notes for a rally stage is more important than just about anything else. Can you imagine missing out a corner when copying the notes from recce into the race notepad? Almost a guaranteed way to end up in a ditch.
There is an urban myth that during a tarmac rally a driver fired the car up and over a round about causing the co-driver to look up in surprise and ask what the hell that was all about. The driver said, “You told me to go straight over at roundabout, so I did.”
Inside the car the driver just drives and the co-driver does everything else including making sure they get to stage starts on time and getting the card punched at the end of a stage.
So, in a nut shell, a co-driver has to have the ability to think clearly on numerous levels at the same time, remain calm under the ultimate pressure and be the voice of reason. If you can’t multi-task at a rapid rate and like to think of only one thing at a time, you’d probably should be just in charge of the steering wheel.
While watching Rally Sweden spare a thought for the co-driver who really is the one in the car keeping the car on the gravel, despite the driver trying to launch off it.