A DISCIPLINE TO BE RESPECTED
It’s often said that rally drivers are a different breed, and from my one experience of rallying in 1987, I’ll admit that I fall very much into that camp. I did the Lakeland Stages in heavy fog, and as I changed from fourth to third over the brow of a hill, I was informed by my co-driver, Colin Wilson, that his regular partner would have gone from fourth to fifth there. The phrase stays in my mind – and it’s over 30 years ago!
The profile goes to the racing drivers, but those in the know have a great appreciation for rallying, and if you look back far enough to Jim Clark doing the RAC Rally in the Cortina, or Graham Hill on the Monte Carlo in a Ford Falcon, they always have done.
There was a time when the Monte Carlo Rally was as important as the Indy
500, Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. There were major blockbuster films like Monte Carlo Or
Bust because the event had real glamour about it. Rallying carried such a natural affinity for everyone in racing and, although it doesn’t have quite the same profile now, I think it’s still the same today with people I talk to that voice their interest in having a go. They have big respect for what rally drivers do and there’s a fascination for it that comes with an appreciation for the danger involved.
Robert Kubica went rallying with the intention of broadening his skillset, and found the experience of driving in such vastly changeable conditions improved his confidence in a Formula 1 car. Carlos Sainz Jr will have grown up watching his father competing on rallies and has a stage near his house in Spain that he practices on, but he will have only properly understood it for himself when he turned up to drive the course car on the Monte Carlo this year without doing a recce first.
As he discovered, rallying is a dramatic experience. There’s so much you have to take into consideration; the violence of the car, the noise and the trees that brush you, the rocks coming up from the surface of the road. It’s a challenging discipline and definitely broadens your horizons as a driver.
Kubica was drawn to rallying to improve his sensitivity to grip changes