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  • Snake Racing 5:43 am on 04/04/2013 Permalink
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    Tough Dog Tuff Truck – 8 days to go 

    DATE: 12TH – 13TH AND 14TH APRIL 2013

    With only 8 days to go and online ticket sales ending this weekend on Sunday 7th April, don’t miss out on receiving 25% off your ticket price. You can purchase at the gate but expect to pay more.

    This year looks to be bigger and better than ever with a huge entrant list and talk is heating up over who’s going to take home the goods.

    Make sure you look out for the boys from Snake Racing and come and say “Hi” and have a chat. We will have one of the Arctic Cat Wildcat vehicles on display that we now sell from our Carlton Showroom in Sydney. Look for us at the top of the hill in the Tough Dog / Snake Racing marquee.

    See you there.


  • Snake Racing 10:11 pm on 20/07/2012 Permalink  

    Snake Racing Tech Talk: Pacenotes 


    Snake Racing, the sponsor of this year’s Coffs Coast Rally, brings you a series of stories that aim to demystify some of the intriguing and difficult to understand aspects of the world of rallying.

    In this first edition we bring you the secrets of pace noting.

    In rallying, pacenotes are the method used to accurately describe the road the rally route follows in extreme detail.

    As well as dictating the route the rally is taking, in terms of turns, junctions, crests, obstacles etc, all notable features of the route which might affect the way it is driven at speed are included.

    These details include the distance between each feature, the degree and severity of bends, adverse camber, crests and jumps, surface types and conditions, potholes and special instructions to the driver, etc.

    In order that the sheer quantity of detail is useful to a rally team, pacenotes are written in a tight shorthand formula which is read out loud by the co-driver as the car travels at speed along the route.

    A number of systems have been devised, and there is no one “standard” for pacenotes, but in practice a number of typical de facto standards are usually used.

    Pacenotes for a typical world-class rally stage might run to many pages, and the road book for the event might be several thick bound volumes.

    On some events, the organisers provide an official set of pacenotes, and often the rules ban reconnaissance, meaning these notes are the only ones to be used. Other events permit crews to use any notes, either supplied to them by others or those they have compiled themselves. Compilation of notes requires access to the course ahead of the event.

    On a Bosch ARC round, recce is run on the Thursday before each round and each crew gets the chance to drive each stage twice to compile the notes and then to confirm they are correct and tuned for the stage.

    The following explanations apply to a typical set of hypothetical notes, and may differ from the systems found in real notes.

    Example notes, distances in metres:
    • Start 100 KL2 100 R2 200 SQL 100 R4 50J!?R2+ (D/C!) 100 SQR 400 F?CR?KL4 100 finish
    • From start, 100 metres straight to a keep left, severity 2, 100 metres, right severity 2, 200 metres square left (90°)100 m, right severity 4
    • 50 metres, Jump (caution!) into immediate right hand bend severity 2 tightens (caution, don’t cut [the corner, due to hazard on the inside]!)
    • 100 m, square right
    • 400 m, flat (maximum speed) into crest into left severity 4
    • 100 m to Main Control 2 (finish)

    This system uses numbers to describe the severity of bends, which is common, though other methods are used. Usually a five-point scale is employed, with one being the gentlest of bends, with five being almost 90 degrees.

    The term “square” is used to indicate a genuine 90 degree bend, and “oversquare” or “square plus” for even sharper.

    Crews will agree a system so that the speed at which a bend can be safely negotiated is understood. A top rally driver will implicitly trust his co-driver, and be fully committed according to the information he is told. Naturally, good notes and good teamwork are essential for this approach to work.

    Variations to this system may reverse the numbering system (one being sharpest, five or six being slightest) and changing the scale to six points.

    Unusual features such as a ford or grid might be written out in full, rather than in shorthand. Other symbols that are not strictly text are also used, such as a pair of narrowing lines to indicate that the route narrows. Crests and bridges are also often indicated symbolically.

    Aids to accurate use of notes such as a calibrated rally trip meter (Halda/Terratrip/rally computer) that is controlled by the co-driver quickly is used. These feature a large readable digital display of the distance travelled, and can be preset to give a countdown of the distance to the next feature.

    When pacenotes are read, the co-driver will not translate into the fully wordy text given above, but instead will keep some abbreviations, such as ‘K’ for bend or keep. Distances are just given, the units are understood. The above notes might be read as:
    100 K left 2, 100 K right 2, 200 square left, 100 right 4, 50 caution Jump into right 2 tightens, don’t cut, 100 square right, 400 flat to crest into left 4, 100 finish.

    The co-driver will read the notes at such a pace that the driver will always have enough to go on, but not so far ahead that he will have forgotten it by the time the feature is encountered. Again, this pacing is something that comes with practice and development of teamwork.

    Often the co-driver will need to “get inside the driver’s head”, and re-read notes that he thinks might have been forgotten, or for emphasis.

    Sometimes the driver might even ask for some notes again. The co-driver must also match up the notes to the actuality of the route being driven – it is easy to lose one’s place, and incorrect notes can be more dangerous than no notes at all. Re-synching the notes with the actual route after a loss can be tricky, depending on the terrain. A good co-driver will always seek to prevent this happening.

    Four times Australia rally champion co-driver Coral Taylor like all co drivers has here own system and a way of communicating with her long time rally partner Neal Bates.

    Coral takes up the story:
    Pacenotes paint a picture of the road ahead. It’s almost like running a little video for the driver of what’s coming up ahead. Essentially the pacenotes describe the road, they describe the severity of every corner and provide other information that will allow the driver to drive each corner as fast as possible.

    Unlike the circuit driver who knows the racetrack intimately, and is familiar with every corner, and knows exactly where he will brake for every corner, the rally driver has to deal with hundreds of kilometres of roads where every corner is different.

    Rallies and stages can be won and lost by seconds, or even fractions of a second, so every corner must be driven as fast as it is possible to drive around them, hence the pacenote information crucial to success. A rally driver must know exactly what each corner entails, even if he can’t see it.

    Essentially the teamwork between a driver and a co-driver is based upon total trust and total commitment. If you are approaching a blind crest, flat out in 5th or 6th gear, and the notes call it a ‘flat crest’, then there’s no backing off, you completely trust the notes and commit to the blind crest at maximum speed without any hesitation. It’s not an understatement to say that the drivers and co-drivers hold each other’s lives in their hands.

    There are many different ways to do pacenotes, and there is no right or wrong way, it’s just whatever works for you. It doesn’t matter whether you use a descriptive or a number system, as long as you understand the method you use. Some drivers like a lot of detail in their notes, and others like to keep them quite simple.

    Neal & I use a 1 to 6 numeric system and we tend to keep our notes as simple as possible. If you consider the clock face, following the big hand from the 12 down to the centre and back up the small hand – it’s easy to understand the 1 to 6 system. A ‘1’ is the tightest corner, a hairpin bend. A ‘3’ is a 90 degree corner. And a six, while not exactly straight like the clockface, is a very slight corner, and one that can be taken without a reduction in speed.

    And whilst the system is simple to understand, it becomes more complex when you start linking the calls together. The timing of the delivery of the pacenotes is very important as the driver needs exactly the right information at exactly the right moment. It’s hard to explain sometimes, and there are no golden rules, you just have to feel it. The pace of delivery will vary many times within any given stage, and some calls need to be linked together with the right amount of emphasis given a the right moment. For example, a very fast approach through a series of 5’s or 6’s down to a tighter corner requires enough notice for the driver to be able to brake sufficiently to make it around the slow corner, remembering that the approach speed can sometimes be up towards 200kph, and at the same time, you don’t want to slow down too early and lose precious seconds.

    People often think the co-driver doesn’t see much of the road, that we are just reading the notes. This is so far from the truth. The co-driver is constantly looking from the road to the notes, from the road to the notes, needing always to know exactly where you are on the road relative to where you are in the pacenotes.

    Honda Rally team’s Glen Weston is acknowledged as one of the best co-drivers going around in Australia sitting alongside the rapid and exciting Eli Evans, Weston is unflappable and calm in the face of ferocisous action and he explains his way of delivering info to his driver.

    Eli and I currently use 1-10 noting system where a 1 is a hairpin and a 10 is a very slight corner that can be taken flat out. A 3 in our notes is a square corner, so that means that our notes are “stacked” towards the top end. Our reasoning behind this is that all cars have to take a tight corner at pretty much the same speed, but if you go through a 5th gear corner in 4th gear then you are going to lose a lot more time.

    To improve the consistency of our notes, we use a graduated dial on the steering column and a pointer on the hub of the steering wheel in our recce car. As you turn a corner, the pointer moves and indicates the grade of the corner. This technique is very useful for identify tightening corners, and it prevents you from writing a wrong note if your eyes are tricked into thinking that a corner is faster or slower than it actually is because of the terrain.

    Setting a good time in a front wheel drive rally car like our Honda Jazz G2 is all about conserving your momentum. If we can carry good speed through the corner then our traction disadvantage compared to the 4wd cars is lessened.

    Consequently, Eli pays particular attention to the length of the corner as you can hustle the car through a short corner much faster.

    I think a lot of drivers when writing their notes tend to focus on how fast they can attack a corner. Eli’s notes are aggressive, however he also gives a lot of thought into where he needs to brake and if a corner needs to be taken slower. We never make the note for a nasty corner tighter than it actually is (eg changing a R5 into R3) but we will add a “slow” or “brake” before a corner to tell Eli that he can’t take that particular corner at the normal speed. This is especially important if there is a hazard or very tight corner following a series of fast corners.

    The black art of co-driving is getting the timing of the calls just right. If I deliver the note too late then Eli can’t react to it, and if I give the note too early then its impact can be lost and a driver will often forget some of the detail. The difficult thing is that the timing of the calls continually varies. If we are on a flowing shire road then I may need to be calling two or three corners ahead because the speed is so high. If the stage then turns off this fast road onto a tighter side road, then I have to recognize this and instantly slow the calls down so I don’t get ahead of where we are.

    On a personal note, I can’t see the point of a co-driver saying extra things that aren’t in the notes, like calling a “right 10” and then adding “It’s flat through here mate”. In my opinion it makes it a lot harder to listen to, and you can lose the detail of the note. I never tell Eli to go faster as he’s the one who can feel the grip level and what the car is doing mechanically. However, I will let Eli know if I think that we are on the ragged edge so he can tidy it up and keep us out of the scenery.

    It’s one thing to be able to call a set of notes, but it’s a completely different thing to be able to write a good set of notes whilst bouncing around on a rough dirt road. Over the years I’ve developed a set of symbols that are easy and fast to write down. Eli can drive down a new stage at 40 – 50 km/h and call the road to me, and I can get it all down on paper without having to ask him to repeat it or slow down. This really lets Eli concentrate on the flow of the road. Our noting system is not set and stone, and it gets constantly tweaked all of the time.

    While there is no one way of doing pace notes and it may appear as a blur of incomprehensible gabble as you watch an on board of a crew tackling a stage it is an essential part of modern rallying increasing crew safety and speed. So now you may have a better handle on what Pace Noting is all about.

    Snake Racing is one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of four wheel drive performance and suspension parts and is based in Sydney, the company is a leading supporter of the Bosch Australian Rally Championship and is the naming rights sponsor of round five of the series, the Snake Racing Rally Coffs on October 12-14

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