Stages Rally 2012 – A Clubmans Point of View

The Build-Up to a Rally – The Inside Story

A clubman’s Point of View by Justin Ryan

Weeks and months leading up to a rally isn’t all fun and games for competitors. Unfortunately, we as drivers don’t just show up on a Sunday step into the car and drive it hard as we can; if only it was that easy!

The build up to a rally typically starts about 6 weeks beforehand, when you send an entry form away in the post to the motor club along with the expensive entry fee that you have scraped together. Then the work really begins as you start to get the car ready for the event. This could involve anything from putting in a new engine or gearbox to setting up the suspension. Depending on what happened during your last rally, new parts may need to be bought or sometimes new body panels! Safety is something that is paramount in our sport and it is improving every year. The downside is that making the car safer usually costs the competitor money, as new regulations come out every year from Motorsport Ireland.

It could mean you need to add something like an extra bar into the roll cage or buy a new type of harness. All these things cost money and time on the lead up to an event.

In between getting the car ready, you try to round up a couple of sponsors, make sure you have a service crew to help you on the day and double check you have your suit, helmet, balaclava etc. All the while you are in constant contact with your navigator discussing everything about the upcoming event.

The week of the rally brings more headaches and stress. Along with going about your daily routine of work or college you are constantly thinking of the weekend ahead, often making a list and double checking everything on it. It’s an early start on the Saturday morning as you meet your navigator at rally headquarters and set off to do reconnaissance (or recce as we normally call it). This is where you get to see the stages that you will be rallying on the next day for the first time, as you drive them at low speed in your road car. This is possibly the most tiresome part of the weekend as you are allowed to make 3 passes through the stages to make your pacenotes, which takes huge concentration from both driver and navigator. Normally, you are exhausted after making “notes” but you have face scrutiny next, where all the cars are checked by officials to ensure they are safe enough to rally. This is another stressful time, as you anxiously await the verdict of the scrutineers. Although most of the time you know the car is ready and safe, something in the back of your mind always asks “Did I forget something?” The relief of getting the thumbs up is quickly followed by a fast meal, quick chat and straight to bed just as the nerves begin to kick in. A restless night’s sleep later and you find yourself back at rally HQ for driver’s safety briefing and then to parc ferme where your car was guarded safely with the 150 others for the night. But then finally, all the late nights, stress, worrying, phone calls, texts, nerves and anxiousness is all worth it a few minutes later when you’re suited up on the start line ready to tear down that first stage, as your navigator calls 5….4….3….2….1….GO!!