Sunday 18 December 2022

Rally - Navigator or Co-driver?

Long, long ago when leather helmets were regarded as sufficient protection in a car accident, the co-driver was just that - a spare driver who helped out the 'star' name in the driving seat. Often a riding mechanic, his or her job was to fix the car when it broke or change a wheel when a tyre punctured whilst also providing some relief driving when the poor soul in the hot seat was knackered - no power steering, hydraulic brakes or clutches.

As sporting trials grew in length and complexity a degree of navigational ability was also required but this was well before OS maps and Tulip diagrams. All the crew had to go on were road signs and mile posts.

Although OS maps have been around since the early 1800s it wasn't till the early 1900s that road maps became popular, and necessary, as motoring as a means of personal transport gained wider public popularity. That also led to motor racing becoming more confined to purpose built race circuits for safety reasons, with rallying emerging as a separate sport, although it too evolved separately into a speed sport which used private land for timed 'special stages' and road rallying which relied less on driving skill and more on the sharp and analytical mind (in some cases!) of a navigator.

The post-war availability of 'one inch to one mile' OS maps in the later 1940s created new opportunities within the sport. That was followed and improved upon by the 'invention' of Tulip diagrams and Roadbooks in the early1950s which changed the sport dramatically, especially stage rallying, although navigational skills were still required.

In those early days there was all sorts of skullduggery going on. Some navigators would purloin Forestry Commission maps so that they could 'read' the road to their drivers whilst others tried to read the read the road from those sections of forest which had been 'mapped' by the OS teams - but perhaps not to the same degree of accuracy as public roads!

At a Jim Clark Rally in the mid 1970s I 'happened' to notice a few of the front running crews using six inch to the mile military maps to read the roads through Otterburn! There were also tales of co-drivers taking (or borrowing) their 'dogs for a walk' through various forests right across the UK and marking up their own maps ahead of local and national events right up to the Lombard RAC Rally.

That reached the stage whereby a professional navigator for a 'works' team would be dispatched ahead of a major event to walk the various routes through all the forests which were to be used and mark up a set of maps accordingly. When the organisers of the event published the route, these co-drivers would transfer as much information as possible to sets of maps which were then carried by the works teams.

That opened up a whole new world of Route Notes and Pace Notes. However that all took time, but even as late as the mid 70s, rally paperwork was still pretty basic. A personal example was the 1976 Allerdale Derwent Stages Rally in Cumbria where crews were handed a single sheet of foolscap paper. On it were listed a series of OS map references and times. That was it. Stage Starts and Finishes were highlighted whilst navigators had to direct their driver from one stage finish to the next stage start by following a series of map references and all within the allotted time schedule.

Anyway, the pics show some typical info - from the 1982 Mogil Motors Stages Rally. Follow that - if you can.



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