SO, CHILE… I’VE GOT TO BE HONEST AND SAY I DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE PLACE. OR, I SHOULD SAY, I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH BEFORE THIS YEAR’S WRC CALENDAR CAME OUT.
Like my colleagues, as soon as Chile was confirmed – even before that, when we saw the candidate rally running – I started my research into this event. I opened my Chile file.
The first thing you start with is the really basic stuff about the region we’re going to be competing in. What’s the culture like? What’s the time difference and what will the weather be like? It’s good to get to know all those fundamental things. It’s about building a picture of the place to try to eliminate any surprises when we get there.
Once the documentation starts to come out from the organisers, I’ll read it all cover to cover. It’s the same with the road book, once we get those I go through every road section and study what look like some of the tricky junctions. Basically, any piece of information we get as a team will be passed onto us co-drivers and it’s gratefully received.
We have a set of the organisers’ videos of the roads which is good to give us an idea of the profile of the stages – this helps in the decision of where the team’s going to test and things like that. But, for Chile, those videos were made in the summer and, from what I understand, the weather will be quite different when we get there next week.
You can never spend too much time on pace notes
Elfyn and I arrive in Concepcion on Friday. Once there we’ll spend the next few days driving some of the road sections – you can do this without going anywhere near the stages – so we have an idea of what to expect during the rally.
I’ll also have a good look around the service park and generally get a feeling for the town and surrounding area. Familiarising yourself with a new environment is so important, co-drivers really don’t like any sort of surprises.
When we get to the recce, we’re obviously going to be writing new pace notes for every stage. Writing notes in a recce car is a skill I’ve learned over the years and my writing’s pretty good now – but I still insist on re-writing every single note into a fresh book. There’s no doubt – doing that makes the days longer, but it’s the way I’ve always done it and I couldn’t imagine doing it any differently now.
Once I’ve written the notes properly, I’ll read through them again before Elfyn and I start working on them with the onboards from the recce. From finishing the recce on Wednesday until the ceremonial start, pretty much every spare moment is focused on the notes, re-reading and double-checking.
When we get to the start and that first control, everything is a little bit more normal and standardised WRC. By then, the prep’s done. We’re in stage mode and ready to get going on a whole new adventure.