Pace Notes - All You Need to Know

From Chris Biewer [ 13/10/2002 ].
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Why do rally drivers need pace notes? No, they are not dumber than circuit racing drivers at all. Rallying is entirely different to any other form of motorsport. Despite the way the WRC seems to go, rallying takes place in nature, not on purpose built race tracks. And they don’t go round and round the same 3km piece of track for hundreds of laps per weekend. It is rather a variation of start-finish tracks and it is only the competitor vs the clock. Further, all this being in nature, not only are rally drivers competing on a selection of stages per event, but there are dangers and conditions rarely found in any other form of motorsport.

While the F1 driver finds himself behind a slow pace car as soon as a dog has peed on the track, rally drivers have to skilfully handle water splashes, jumps, hidden mud, ice, the whole variation you can possibly find anywhere in nature.

To the point, it is impossible for the best human brain to remember every single hazard and every tiny unforeseeable condition throughout a competition on 400km of mostly different stages. Yet you are competing over these stages. You don’t want to lose out to the opposition, yet you don’t want to take stupid risks. So you have a co-driver, or more appropriately as well called navigator. He does the “office”, taking care of the timing, stamping time cards at control points, but as well guiding the driver along the right lines and turns from the map or the note book = navigate.

Here's an example:

This is what the driver sees approaching a crest. So, where does the road go? Well, maybe you slow down, prepare for the worst and than you find this....:

....So now you have lost a lot of time to your opposition who went flat out and carries a lot more speed all along that straight. But if you decide to go flat out, you may as well find this....:

....Ouch, that hurt! Did you spot the difference? Incredibly these 3 photos are all taken from the very same crest, the difference being that the last photo was going in the opposite direction to the first 2! (The last photo was taken about half way between crest and this curve to give a clearer idea and thanks to the sun. However all three photos were indeed taken from within 20 metres.) Approaching this crest looks exactly the same from both directions. This proves how essential it can be to have the according information up front – and not just by memory!

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