Interview with Timo Rautiainen: 'The right-hand man--' From Sweden to Mexico, from Argentina to Japan-- in fact wherever the WRC chooses to go, Timo Rautiainen is Marcus GrÃ¶nholm's indispensable accomplice inside the 307 WRC. He talks here...
Interview with Timo Rautiainen: 'The right-hand man--'
From Sweden to Mexico, from Argentina to Japan-- in fact wherever the WRC chooses to go, Timo Rautiainen is Marcus Grönholm's indispensable accomplice inside the 307 WRC. He talks here about his role as a modern-day rally co-driver--
Q: In Mexico, one of the new regulations introduced by the FIA will be put into practice for the first time, namely a day less for recce. What is your opinion about this?
TR: "Amongst the governing body's most recent decisions, this is by far the worst from the co-driver's angle. My job implies a big workload and I totally accept that, but it's becoming a difficult to do for incoherent reasons. The amount of time available for recce has been cut to an absolute minimum. The working day will be too long and the fact that we will still be on the move after sunset is a concern. The reduction in the number of passes we are allowed to do has led to us to make video recordings of the stages, but any pictures taken in darkness will be unusable. Driving on gravel in the light of our headlights and in the dust of preceding cars will not allow us to work properly and taking notes hastily could prove dangerous. We might underestimate a difficulty if time is short and that could come back at us afterwards during the event, especially now that gravel note crews have been banned."
Q: Is it not possible to adapt your speed in order to build in a bigger safety margin?
TR: "I think that is difficult because today's rallies are more like sprints. The increasingly tighter programme we face is at times going to be impossible to meet. I believe we are heading towards a reduction in rally distances and that is going to amplify the phenomenon further still. There won't be a tenth of a second to waste."
Q: The timing for recce has become as tight as the timing of the rally itself--
TR: "That's especially true for me since I always try to profit from any down time during recce to correct my notes, in the car, so as to have less to do in the evening back at the hotel. In an all-new rally such as Mexico, I am already expecting a certain sleep deficit. But I have no regrets because it's always exciting to discover new venues."
Q: Is it easier to prepare a rally that you know inside out like Sweden than an-all new fixture such as Mexico?
TR: "It all depends on how many new stages there are. In Sweden, of the 19% of the route that was different from 2003, certain portions had in fact been used in previous years. But we have changed our notes system since 2000, so I was only able to refer back to my notes from the events that took place between 2001 and 2003. To sift through them and then knock them into shape required five hours of work, at home, before leaving for Sweden. And the Swedish was an easy event compared with somewhere like Greece, for example, where you have to juggle with a multitude of little bits of road used for different stages over the years. Now that gets the brain cells working! This isn't a problem we will have in Mexico where the only important thing will be to turn up with enough new notepads--"
Q: What about the calculations concerning service time, road sections and a general feel for the terrain?
TR: "Surprisingly, perhaps, you have a bigger chance of making a mistake on an event you know well. A time control that has been in the same place for years may change position, or may have to be approached from the opposite direction, for example. When it comes to this sort of preparation, you have to consider each rally as new and check absolutely everything systematically. In the case of a brand new event like Mexico, however, you have effectively got to carefully calculate how much time you will have between each time control or between a stage and service, etc., using the information you have before you leave. Once out there, it is necessary to use recce to check that the time you are allowed is in fact coherent given that you sometimes need to check tyre pressures, switch tyres or even work on the car-- The knowledge gained by the team when Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietilainen went to Mexico two years ago will come in very useful to get a good idea of the average stage speeds, the altitude to which we climb, the type of terrain, as well as a number of other considerations which mean this event won't be completely unknown territory for us--"