EVERY ONE AN EXPERT
When I started out making the notes, the problem was that I got the training but everyone else but me, became experts – which is not unusual for South Africans at all – we are used to being world champions in every possible thing – until someone bothers to look at the scoreboard.
Very few drivers or navigators realised that every person’s perspective of every corner and speed differ and the most common mistake made by teams was to change what I wrote to what they “saw” or thought it should be, instead of looking at my calls and especially the combination of calls and then adapt what were written to what they “saw”. In other words change “their” 6 to what I called a “6” and then change only calls where I was inconsistent.
No matter who did what, accidents were far and in between and repair costs came down dramatically where drivers did not decide to do what I warned against.
The biggest cause of accidents could be attributed to the white liquid in a small bottle –known as Tippex.
There were many places where the competitors simply changed the notes without thinking. They took out what they could not see on video or even later during their recce runs.
I did not necessary enjoy seeing things like “possible rocks” being “tippexed” out on corners where I knew the leading cars would pull rocks from next to the road into the road to entertain those behind them.
When the serious Tippex brigade came out of a stage after they deleted my warnings with a flat wheel or two, they did not even think back to the initial warning that was covered under a white stripe.
It was fun to see how “water” that was not there on the recce run suddenly appeared in the “water warning” spots after a bit of rain – then it was actually very funny to see navigators of teams who tippexed out the “water warnings” trying to look into the sun through the Tippex to make out what was written before they blanked the warning out.
When making notes in wet conditions I marked the “excessive” or exceptional water spots. Those places where I knew the water would take longest to evaporate after the rain and would gather the water fastest again even during light rain.
Then there was the real brave hearts who chose to write off a rally car or three to be exact by changing my “extreme danger” calls into “a walk in the park” – serious, serious damage after I for instance warned on video at a double jump by saying “don’t even think of it!” I do understand that they were irritated listening to my voice for a few hours before events – so they did not listen to some good tips – even if I have to say so myself.
On two occasions “double jumps” destroyed cars – because the drivers were a lot better than me in anticipating car behaviour relative to speed and approach at the point and also how far a car would jump after hitting the first of two, and in one case, three jumps.
What I “enjoyed” somewhat to be honest, were cases where my calls were changed and after specifically after one incident … no let me tell you what happened.
During the 10 years or so while I made the notes for all the National Championship rallies I will never forget on one rally there was a short section near the end of a stage where the roads were all but washed away and I could not make proper notes for that specific section during my four runs through the stages, two weeks before the rally as the road lay filled with heaps of gravel for the required repairs.
The video showed me driving through the section at about 30km/h.
My comments for those who wanted to listen was that the road would be different on rally day – and I mentioned that I believed repairs would be completed during the two weeks to the rally.
Then on my final check through the stages, a day before the event, even I could not believe the fact that the work was still not finished and I wrote on the changes that “you are on your own over the next 150 or so meters” as it was impossible to predict if the work would be finished within the next day or not.
Next day I went through that section once again before the rally and the deviations, heaps of gravel and everything else were gone, the road was smooth and wide! Highway material!
Notes at 30km/h into if I remember correctly a “Left 7 tightens” now had a wide entry – it looked super-fast but the problem was that it still tightened on the exit and I knew there was going to be problems.
The eye would tell a different story to what the navigator would say and unfortunately most drivers still drive on what they see instead of what they hear from the navigator.
I knew that a brave attack on that beautiful piece of road would cause some problems.
The worse part of this problem was that it started to rain on Friday night and the roads were now suddenly also slippery and there was no way that I could get the information to everyone before they started the event.
I stood at the end of the stage and Enzo Kuun came out of there looking very bleak and upset to say the least – he had a very narrow escape and only just made it and filled with adrenaline he crapped over me a bit for not “declaring it a wet rally so they could go out on wet tyres”. I did not say that I suggested that, but that it did not happen. In this game you learn to keep quiet sometimes!
Those days the S2000’s could still use “wet” compound tyres after a rally was declared wet.
That rule changed later on and the S2000 competitors had to use dry weather tyres no matter what the conditions. One of a number of stupid rules that exists in the sport. This normally happens when the rule makers never saw the other side of sixty in a modern rally car and thought that one run in an old forked up 1974 model rally car was a rally career.
Anyway – when I heard Enzo only just made it – I knew one or even more guys would go off – Big Time!
Notwithstanding having covered myself by saying “you are on your own over this piece” I was very worried about the teams and the expenses.
Then it happened.
A rather prominent driver did indeed go off on the exit of the corner where it tightened.
Of course it was and the hysterical part of all this was that the driver walked around taking pictures of the corner from angles that made that corner look like a “tight 8” never mind a “seven tightens”.
What he did not show was the changes in his pace notes where he decided my call of a “7 tightens” was no more than an “easy Left 4” – that was done before they even went through the stage, based on what they thought they saw on the Video.
This meant that he would arrive at speed and after seeing the now wide and clear corner – or what seemed like that, keep on accelerating through the corner absolute flat out in whichever gear he was. Problem was that in this case it would be the highest gear!
That corner was not made to be taken as hard as the S2000 could run, although on dry surface there was a chance that one would make it on the back of a prayer.
I think by now you understand the problems I had.
I could not afford leaving out a single aspect, not a single little bump or dip or rock – nothing, as that may cause an accident and goodness help me if I did not note such.
The problem was that the “excessive” detail irritated some and the instruction to navigator actually became irritated habit rather than err on the safe side and get to the end.
At first they took out the “ones” which was 10 degree corners – which of course can hardly be seen as a challenging corner – but they also took out the “two’s” which were the 20 degree corners and almost every “three” and up to “five” became “flat out”.
In some cases a slight corner – no matter how easy serves as a “marker” for a distance to something substantially more serious.
These were also lost and I personally saw a number of unnecessary over-shoots happen.
Because of the speed of the cars “into” calls that meant approximately 20m became “is” which simply means that the one “is” right at the next one and the changed definite “ands” which were 50m to “into’s” – again causing erratic braking.
I often saw drivers having to accelerate to a corner after braking too hard too soon. This of course caused that standard problem situation where a driver would then arrive too fast or powerful at a corner and truly make a 3 second mess of it.
After braking too soon, most of them would accelerate too fast into a corner and that was when the fun began.
When I had a chance to go and stand next to the route to watch if the teams used my notes I often saw a few teams who must have forgotten theirs at home.
The exceptional heroes however were the crowd pleasers.
Those teams who arrived like a bank robber’s getaway car in a Sylvester Stalone movie.
The crowd would first stand around looking eager for more action.
If a driver is known for his shenanigans through corners you would hear his name – like the rugby crowds do that “Beast” thing.
Then Andretti and family arrives!
You hear the engine screaming, wheels locking, car understeering with wheels fully turned. The he nails the handbrake and often do a 360 and a bit.
By now the crowd is running – those with specs completely blind as the flying rock hit everything made from plastic or glass. The R300K special set of Tom Cruise front teeth looking like a set made for a Hill Billy. Camera lenses cracked and children crying.
The car is as unbalanced as Uncle Schalk Lourens from Mafeking Road. The navigator tries to get the driver to follow the road and you only see and open hole and arms flying.
Behind the steering Andretti is breaking every possible rule for driving fast. The easy corner now suddenly changes into something with at least four turning points and eventually after what looks like a fresh American declaration of war – eventually the team gets out of the corner – usually accelerating away in a screaming first – on their way to the next.
The crowd now being mesmerised by the noise and flying objects would bend down in an armless salaam and say together “Juss that Andretti can drive a car heh?”
The next driver comes up – brakes smoothly, selects the correct gear, go into the corner, wait patiently and then having made the exit easy, accelerated effortlessly away from the not so impressed crowd. No one says a word – until you point out that Andretti was exactly 5 seconds down on Smooth as Silk.
This same perception is found inside rally cars. The noise gives a false impression of speed while a slightly labouring engine sounds as slow as hell – until you get to the end of the stage and watch the score board. May, many times, what felt slow, is quick and what felt like a hell of a stage is a total cock up!
Next time understanding each other – the essential part of a rally team.