Ever tried reading pace notes while you’re being G-force pummeled in the co-driver’s seat of a rally car for five hours?
It’s the toughest job in the motorsport business and absolutely not for the faint hearted or those who feel queasy while reading in the car, which I certainly do.
Behind the wheel is definitely the better place to be in a hardcore rally such as Targa Tasmania.
When I first drove the Hyundai i30 back in 2007, I came away thinking it was the most sorted small car I had driven in years.
Plenty of ‘go’, dynamically sound, stacks of features and a whole lot of fun to drive; the turbo diesel powered CRDi i30 was head and shoulders above its Japanese competition, in every way.
Much has changed in the three and half years since that launch, Australian buyers have mostly got over any hang-ups they had about the Hyundai badge and the i30 is fast becoming Australia’s favourite small car.
In February alone, i30 sales rose sharply to capture an impressive share of the small car segment, while globally, Hyundai racked up sales of over 250,000 sales during that same month.
And it’s not just the i30 that’s doing big numbers. It’s the same story with almost every other model in the company lineup, from the value-for-money Hyundai Getz to the super impressive iLoad, which has clearly become the vehicle of choice for telecommunications companies as well as the vast majority of ‘tradies’ in this country.
Few would ever consider the base model i30 SX a worthy motorsport competitor, but Hyundai Motor Company Australia believes otherwise, and for good reason.
Lining up for the start of this year’s world class Targa Tasmania Rally will be Hyundai’s first factory backed entrant in the event, and apart from a few mandatory features required for competition, this i30 CRDi is the same car as you’ll find at your local Hyundai dealership.
The Targa prepped car still has only 85kW of power and 255Nm of torque, and while consuming just 4.7-litres/100km, the i30 CRDi wins the prize for the most fuel-efficient car in this year’s Targa lineup of over 270 cars. That illustrious company includes a stack of EVO’s, STi’s, GT3’s, Lamborghini’s and a fleet the all-conquering Nissan GT-R’s.
But it’s not the first time that Hyundai’s little hatch has been kitted up for racing. Rally driver, Razvan Vlad and his co-driver Iona Vlad from Perth, drove the i30 CRDi to class victories in two consecutive Targa West rallies in 2008 and 2009.
That’s impressive, when you consider that the i30 rally car had absolutely no engine modifications whatsoever and used the same brake rotors and calipers, which you would find on a standard i30 on the showroom floor.
In fact, the only modifications on the car besides the safety cage are; racing seats with side impact protection, 6-point harnesses, airbags removed, performance front brake pads and lower springs for a slightly lower ride height.
In other words, there are no actual performance modifications on this race car, and the drivetrain is stock standard.
That said open any of the five doors on this particular i30, and you’ll see that this is a serious race car. Full-blown Velo racing seats with 6-point harness for driver and co-driver, Sparco Alcantara steering wheel, safety cage and no rear seats.
There is however a couple of suspended pods for helmets to sit in between the various stages during each leg of Targa.
The tyres are road legal semi slicks, which provide significantly more grip than standard tread road tyres.
Competing in the Showroom Class, Raz is more than confident of the car’s ability when he said recently “I know the car inside and out. It is a very balanced car, with excellent brakes and an advanced Variable Geometry Turbo engine. It has been 100 per cent reliable and I know it won’t disappoint.”
Tomorrow is the first official leg of the rally and I’ll be jumping in the co-driver’s seat of the i30 CRDi, replacing Iona Vlad (that’s a worry given how successful she is in this ‘hot seat’) reading the pace notes for Razvan.
It’s been a crash course in co-driving/navigating for me over the last twenty-four hours although, I drove with Raz on a recce of all 8 stages of this opening leg yesterday, only to end up feeling positively crook with motion sickness and worse still, that was at 50 percent or more off race pace.
Day one will certainly be interesting. I’ll consider it a win, if I can simply hold my breakfast down.
From this moment on, anyone that ever says anything derogatory about the co-driver’s position in my presence, will be promptly strapped into the left hand seat of a rally car on a twisty stage, and told to read 50 pages of pace notes without raising their head. That will be sufficient punishment, I’m certain.
So it stands to reason that most important piece of equipment in my Targa Tasmania kit, besides my helmet and HANS device (Head and Neck Support), is a small supply of Travelcalm tablets, in what I hope is a successful attempt to ward off that dreaded feeling of motion sickness. If it all fails, I’ve got a couple of sick bags as a last resort.
My principal job tomorrow as co-driver, is to read the twenty-three pages of pace notes to Raz through a intercom system, which connects our two helmets, at precisely the right time (not too fast, not too slow), that will allow him to drive the i30 as fast as possible without worrying about what’s ahead over a blind crest, for example.
That’s not all; the co-driver also needs to navigate to the next stage, which on this particular leg can be up to 30 kilometres away from the previous finishing line.
Our start time tomorrow is 8:35:30 and the route takes us from Lilydale to Western Creek.
Stay tuned for an update of the i30’s performance on day one.