What does a rally co-driver do?


Well after my experiences Co-Driving with Valentin Ivanitski and Roger Matthews this year at Pikes Peak and Lands end it has become a definite desire to continue this effort. I have always been a fan of rally and now is a good time to take the opportunity to try it out. I knew there was a lot more to Co-Driving in stage rallys than meets the eye so I started looking into it. I like to be organized and show up with my a-game when I am doing new things and try to start things at an “intermediate” level so research and practice are going to be the key to making this happen. You will be able to keep track of the Rally Jetta soon on Wild Hare Racings new site, but you will have to check back to get the link. I know you have watched countless in car rally videos and you have heard the codriver speaking incoherent sentences to the driver but what does a codriver really do? Turns out it is a lot more than you think. A driver can win a rally, but a codriver can easily lose a rally! So lets break it down.


Before the race. A codriver must know and pay attention to all rules and is also responsible for all movement plans for the race car as well as the pit crew. (check out Christian Edstrom’s movement plan examples here) Rally is a very time sensitive sport. Time clocks at checkpoints often called controls can make or break your race. The rules are different than nearly any other type of racing and knowing the ins and outs of the rulebook is critical so you do not cost yourself a time penalty. In addition, unlike most racing, the pit is mobile. There are various pit locations and your crew needs to know not only where the pits are, but when they need to be there and what service is allowed to be performed at each service location. Larger teams will have a specific logistics person, but the majority of teams rely on the Co-Driver to plan all of this. The Co-Driver needs to be highly organized and keep everyone on track. If you would like to read more about timing controls click here.

During the race the codriver syncs to the official race time in order to keep the team on schedule. They check the team in at controls at precise times, typically with a margin of error of only a minute. In addition to checking in, they must keep time and make sure that the time they are provided at the control is correct. During stages the codriver does what they are most known for. They call notes to the driver. Depending on the rally these notes could be provided by the organization and run mostly blind or they could be written by the driver and codriver during a recce run. (there are also some combination of these two as well) All drivers prefer a certain amount of time before a turn that they want a note called. This can be even a few turns out if the driver is comfortable with that. The tricky thing for a codriver is to read the road as they read the notes. It is easy to look down for a second at the next line only to look up and not know if this is the next r3 or the last r3. Being calm, patient and organized helps keep this from happening. In addition working with a driver and becoming comfortable with their style is also very important and putting all of this together from the creation of the notes to the delivery of the notes is an art of cooperation and the key to success.

So what are these notes that the co-driver is rambling off anyhow. What is an r3 or a “r5 /cr 500 !! R2”? This is shorthand for road descriptions and to confuse things even more there are multiple methods this can be written. To start r5 /cr 500 !! R2 is read: right 5 over crest, 500 double caution right 2. So what does that mean? Right five is high speed, the number has a loose relation to the gear you could be in. So you are going fast and the road is bending to the right. There is a small rise called a crest. At this speed you are likely to get off the ground! Now your wheels are going to touch down and you have 500 meters before your next call. This is quite a way and you can really gain a lot of speed, but the next call is a right 2! This is really tight after such a long straightaway so a warning is given so the driver doesn’t over cook the turn. Often the co-driver will read the whole line in one breath then pause and identify a few of the more notable corners for the driver to keep them oriented. If you want to learn what all the symbols mean there is a great resource here for you to Check out.
Of course there are several systems that people use for calling notes. Descriptive notes that tell the corner based on how you should drive through it. FR+ Instead of saying you should be in 6th gear on a slight right, this says: Flat out to the right. There is the system listed above, there is another system that uses the first number as a degree, so R3 means Right 30 degrees. This system typically goes to 9. Another system rates the corners saying 1 for the fastest and 6 for the slowest. Check out some other notes here.

Check out this video with a Recce Run and pace notes being called.

Where do these notes come from? Well, it depends! Rally in the US is sometimes blind using computer generated notes from a system called jemba. This system generates notes that describe the course from a vehicle mounted system using accelerometers. The vehicle drives a set speed on a stage and the computer prints out the forces it feels. This system can register a lot more than what a driver would ever care to hear about so it can be a bit too much information. Other rally’s provide an opportunity to recce. This means you are able to drive the road, often in a line of cars. You are provided a brief slow drive of the road and you note every important turn, distance and condition. This is an art by itself. Getting accurate notes, in order without any missing details is critical since you will surely regret it when you discover an inaccurate note at speed!

Check out this video on Collin McCray talking about pace notes

In addition to these tasks the Co-driver shares responsibilities on the vehicle. When allotted only 5 minutes for a tire change the driver and codriver must work together and get tasks done fast and efficiently in order to eliminate additional time penalties. When the driver is frazzled by a bad corner or a scary moment the codriver needs to calm their nerves to make sure that pace is maintained safely and only experience of working together is going to help the team know how to identify and solve these types of problems. I have been told that the calm clear delivery that I have used in my experiences helps keep the driver focused and calm as well, however I have seen videos that the codriver is very quick, snappy and aggressive and I suspect that there are drivers that require that style to help drive them to push the car harder through the stage.

I hope that you find this to be helpful. I have been doing research and I find writing these posts helps and motivates me to learn more as I go. I know I am not a pro and I can assure you that with more experience I will probably revise or even start over on a new post on this stuff, however here are a few more links and a great video to check out if you are interested in learning more.

Andrew Bargery’s website
Christian Edstrom’s Website
Subaru Drive Performance

CORE with the Kern’s

It’s all part of building a race car. Nothing works perfectly the first time around. Ask Rhys Millen. They built a million dollar car for Pikes Peak last year and without enough testing they had issues with the wing, the transmission and on and on. Well, for the Kern’s it isn’t that different. Each test has revealed a problem. The first showed some issues with the diff. The second test showed some issues with the suspension and between those tests we had some issue with the oil pump.

Yesterday we headed out to CORE and we tested again. 11-2:30 with only a few stops that were each under about 10 minutes. About 3 hours of running at 80-100% (except when I was driving that was probably more like 50%!) This thing is proving itself! The engine runs strong, very strong! The transmission is working nicely and the suspension is nearly dialed. One more switch around with valving and possibly a bit of a change on the rear spring rate and this thing should be ready for whatever you can throw at it.

Check out some video from the day and don’t forget to check out RaceKern.com for updates from the Kerns

Georgetown Ice Racing

Another weekend in Georgetown and another fun time. We headed up there to compete on the ice with the Our Gang Ice Racing club and had a blast!


I always feel as though I finally have the course dialed about 2 hours after my race. But I love going out there and doing lap after lap to go play on the ice. I am also glad that I haven’t gone out in the first round yet this year which at least gets me a second run. Hopefully at some point I will have some familiarity with their course setup and be able to start visualizing the fast way a bit sooner so I can be more competitive!


It has been great getting to know these guys too. It is a bunch of people who are basically just looking to have fun. I can appreciate that because that is my whole motivation for going out there. I just want to have fun! Sideways action and “fast” speeds always bring a smile to my face!


This time I made another video. I am fortunate to have a friend in the film world. I chatted with him last week and he gave me a few process ideas, pointers from a guy who uses Final Cut Pro for his job. “Naw, don’t use that format, use this format,” was how the conversation went. Use this format, do it like this, it will turn out awesome. So I did and I did a bit more research in color correction in FCP and a few other things and I am really psyched with the progress. I love making these videos because they all help me learn the program and the motivate me because I am so excited to actually work with this video. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this weeks installment on Youtube.

Georgetown Ice Racing 2010

New years day was the first real day of playing this winter. I got a call from Jon Coln to go play on the ice with him. The plan was to head up to Georgetown and partake in the Our Gang Ice Racing test and tune day. We met up and piled into his car then headed up. Jon has a self proclaimed tire fetish and got his hands on a set of WRC rally tires that are studded for Ice racing. We knew this was going to be a new experience, but we also weren’t exactly sure what we were signing up for.


We arrived in Georgetown and went through tech. The tires were out on display and many people were stopping by to check them out. We mounted them up and rolled out on the ice. The sound of each stud tearing away at the ice was incredible. Not only that but the ability to stop on a dime on ice that you can barely stand inspired some child like giggles from both of us throughout the day!

There wasn’t really a lot of categorization during the initial hour of the Test and tune, whoever you were lined up next to was who you raced. We lined up next to a car with no studs, the flag dropped and we caught him before he got around the first corner. We stopped and waited, but at that moment a new course opened up for studs only! So we got to go play with the big guys!

We headed over and started lining up only with studs. The typical racers that frequent the ice are custom built jeeps. These are typically lowered with small block chevy motors often times. They are pumping out some serious horsepower through megaphone exhaust that just rattles you when you are nearby. We were in a Subaru Legacy station wagon with a roof rack box on the top and leather heated seats. When you line up next to a jeep that has been custom built specifically for racing, not only just on ice, but on Ice at Georgetown lake 6 times a year…well you feel a bit inferior. However the suby was swift! Once jon got a feel for the studs we began to beat these custom built creations! One after another we began to cross the finishline first! At one point we pulled up in line and several jeeps pulled out of the way. We rolled down the window and they said “you’re racin’ Jimmy.”

We found our way up to Jimmy. Turns out this is Jimmy Olson, if you check out Our Gang’s website (www.ourgangiceracing.com) you will notice his name at the top of the list pretty frequently! So this was a test. If we can beat Jimmy, these guys were either going to be impressed or they were going to lynch us…we weren’t entirely sure just yet which way this was going to go.

Jimmy lined up and we lined up. Thumbs up from both drivers were signaled and finally an arm drop started the race. Jimmy’s engine roared and we took off as fast as possible. The track was fast and fairly oval in shape (they call it a peanut) with huge drifting turns on the ends. We couldn’t see Jimmy till the first drift, we were facing him and we were still in line with him! He hadn’t lost us yet. We squeezed through the first set of cones and wound around the center chicane and I looked over…we were still in line with Jimmy! We swung around the final drifting corner and, like a scene from a movie, we were perfectly in line with Jimmy! As we crossed the finishline it was close, I mean really close. I suspect that Jimmy took us by a hair, but it was close. As we pulled away, both of us giggling in the car because of how fun it was…we looked over and that same row of jeeps that pulled over to get us in line with jimmy…they were pointing and clapping or giving us the thumbs up! Apparently there wasn’t going to be any lynching today!

Jon and I both have a bit of an “AV nerd” side. So of course we were going to come up with video and photo capabilities as well…right? That’s right. Besides the video quality I think that this clip came out pretty good!

A few weeks later, after Jons obsession gained momentum and his self control was pushed aside, he ended up with 16 ice racing tires with 3 sets on wheels. Of course, one set just happened to fit my car… So up we went on Feb 6th to race one another, both on rally studs and both in Subarus. I was using a set of Continental Ice Racing tires made for Canadian rally. He was using a set of Yokohama tires made for WRC rally. The difference is the size and number of studs that are in the tires. The Continentals have 3 17mm studs per lug and the Yokohamas have 6 20mm studs per lug.

We were able to race two races, one was an AWD event of Subaru’s and Audi’s primarily and the other was the Our Gang Competition class. The competition class is the fastest class that Our Gang runs. I was unfortunate enough to have 2 practice runs before racing, which meant I hardly had a grasp on the tires before I had to go against a nice fast Jeep! Jon kept pace however finishing 5th.

We also got one of my co-workers out to the ice in his BMW 325ix. this is the cleanest 20+ year old car you have ever seen and Stephen has never really pushed it to its limits. He had a blast out there and I was glad to see him come out and test out his skills on the ice!

We will surely be going up again in the near future to get some more time on the ice but so far this has been one of the best driving experiences I have had in a long time!