The decision on who to take as a Co-Pilot must be taken seriously, as it may be the decision that eventually results in your own death, or at the very least, an uncomfortable and unsanitary two week, 3rd world, bloody mint green, floral-sheeted hospital experience as they wait for your condition to stabilize enough to transport you back to your country of origin and insurance. There is a certain relief in referring to oneself as ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ but please don’t take this decision lightly. There are a few factors you have to consider and then there is a general consideration about the enormous amount of downtime you must spend with this navigator. Often a new comer to a race will hire a local that knows the roads and the race. A local will give you a competitive edge and for the most part erase the frustration of looking for the right way as the clock ticks.
A Navigator is more than just a person that “looks at the map”. The level of input from a Navigator fluctuates between the type of racing your involved in. A rally Co-Pilot will give you intensive pace notes that read something like this off the page. L5/Cr 100 R4+ into Cr 60 and this will be called out as “left five over crest one hundred into right four opens into crest sixty”. Basically the next turn is going to be a quick left. Not flat out which would be a six but instead a comfortable five. Over crest means the car will be either leaving the ground or the weight of the car will now be moved skyward. One hundred means the distance in feet to the next turn or obstacle which in this case is a slightly slower right turn- a four, but what’s nice is that this turn opens i.e. the radius of the turn increases and knowing this in advanced means that you don’t have to wait for your line of sight through the turn to allow you to get on the throttle.... and so it goes on. Most road rally racing is far less comprehensive when it comes to navigation and is more to keep the car moving, over thousands of miles, in the correct direction.
A navigator is the brains of the operation. He is the thinker and the planner. He is responsible for all time keeping and for making sure the team stays in contact with race central from the moment you arrive in the city where the race will start. He or she must make sure you're registered and know when and where the car will be scrutinized. There is a long list of duties - mostly tedious if you're not of the engineer frame of mind. But for some, they have acknowledged that they don’t have the skill to be competitive but they still want to share in the thrill of victory or defeat. For others it's a good way to introduce oneself to racing to see how it all works.
I have decided that the social aspect will be an all important one on this journey as we are not setting out to necessarily win but to compete. I want the person in the car with me to share in the journey of a lifetime.
I have decided on the infamous Alex Roy. I’ve know Alex from an established distance from participating in the Gumball (or arsehole) 3000 car rallies. From a distance it was determined that this was not company I was interested in keeping. A gas bag grandstander. A swell headed trumpeter of his own accomplishment. But I must admit I have given over to the idea there is more than meets the eye and that age and his successes have brought on a new perspective. Part Hunter S., part-Rodney Dangerfield...this is a well mannered lunatic that fun follows everywhere. To many he is a legend, and walking down the street with him you feel the people recognize the illegal street racer who famously piloted his specially prepped M5 BMW from New York to Los Angeles in just over 31 hours, beating a long-standing 32:07...a record most thought would never be trumped by modern speeding technology. But Alex did it, and it’s the planning and the attention to details that have convinced me that what he lacks in local knowledge he will make up for in planning, merriment and high jinx.
Alex, like me, is a driver, but he has surrendered his seat for this journey in order to focus on the task at hand and learn as much as he can so that one day he will join me as a competitor.