Backstage Rally Portugal.

Staying on course for success.

The Portuguese know a thing or two about navigation, having historically departed from their diminutive country on the Atlantic to become a great seafaring nation in the process. Famous explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan sailed the world’s seas in the 15th and 16th centuries, and conquered colonies and key trade routes. To stay on course, these navigators made use of compasses, the stars and the position of the sun. They had plenty of time to navigate their way around, as sailing ships travelled at a relatively slow pace back then.

 

There’s therefore no comparison with the hectic situation in the rally car cockpit: when the WRC cars pelt across the gravel tracks at up to 180 km/h, the co-drivers have to deliver a quick succession of instructions – and they have to be precise too, of course. A compass is of little use here, and if they were to try looking for the stars for guidance, they would undoubtedly end up in a ditch beside the road.

 

The tool of choice here is the co-driver’s pace notes, which describe the route to be driven down to the very last detail. The co-drivers note not only the distance between a straight and the next corner, but also the corner radii and the width and irregularities of the rally tracks. The illustration below is based on some pace notes written by Miikka Anttila and shows what this can look like in practice.