The stickers on their cars give them the unremarkable title of ‘Ouvreur’. In English, though, they are known as the safety crew or the ice note crew – and these ‘ice spies’, as they are also commonly called, are the drivers’ most important helpers in Rally Monte Carlo. The ice note crew is allowed to drive each special stage at the latest 70 minutes before the official start.
In practice, they usually do this around two hours before the stage gets under way. Their job is to take note of any changes in the road conditions since training was completed, usually in a copy of their charge’s pace notes. The notes they take are then passed on to the driver shortly before the start of a stage, sometimes by phone.
In the case of Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver Sébastien Ogier, his ice spy is the former French champion Nicolas Vouilloz, while the former Ford and Suzuki driver Toni Gardemeister hits the road for Ogier’s teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. And the young Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen relies on the experience of the Austrian David Doppelreiter.