By co-driver Brian Huntsbarger (Brakim Racing)
Your brain is running at max power, you can dial in the speed, time and distance all in your head even on the transit just to allow a quick bathroom break next to the start of the first stage of the day at a rally. You are set on overdrive, you only think about one thing… GOING FAST. The next thing you see is the countdown timer, everything gets quiet you stop listening to the engine, you stop taking in the beautiful scenery, you know it’s time to go in: 5,4…
We ran in the Magnum Opus Rally for the 3rd time together. The green unsettling feeling was gone we had been here two times before, no excuses we were no longer rookies. The team has coalesced into a well-oiled machine. If we didn’t set records, we had our own standards to uphold. Go faster than last year. Our weekend was cut short by a fatigue in the rear end mount causing us to shear both mounts holding the IRS together causing a downward spiral effect of blowing a half shaft boot and ultimately ending the race barely off stage 2. It happens, “that’s rally” they say. Instant morale killer to be on top and something as small as cast aluminum set you back all that effort.
Unlike any other motorsport out there, there isn’t any comparison to the feeling of sitting in the (silly seat) co-driver’s seat of a rally car. You can’t prepare for how well the driver is on or off, how well the car is going to handle with the proper selection of tires, how well the engine will run. So many variables with so little room for mistakes. A co driver has one focus. Being perfect. I know it sounds like a lot of weight, but it truly is the only thing you think of. I have to be constantly reminded by Matt Brandenburg to take my helmet off, drink water, eat something during a break. “Get out and RELAX” he says! To my exclaim, “nah ill just sit right here and go over my notes and what didn’t go as planned”
Comfort is the farthest thing from my mind when I want to do the best job possible. I know sitting in the driver’s seat has its perks, yeah everyone knows your name, you’re not as expendable, you get to wear cool gloves and shoes… But there is something about the feeling that you experience when you know the level of trust allows for what seems like blindness in a dark wooded forest turns into x-ray vision through the trees and the advantage of the next crazy hairpin or exposure lurking around the bend. You begin to imagine the road before you see it. It almost just helps if you don’t look. I mean it, just keep you head down before you notice how close we were to that tree on stage 2. You begin to see a pattern in your driver’s reaction to your notes and his approval. He’s going faster, you talking faster, were turning crests and small turns into straight-aways, and it feels fast.
3..2..1 and GO! The fresh new BFG’s hook, the new Dog box whines, the car grabs bite and the engine has the familiar straight-six roar. First time out with new 5 speed and it’s a neck snapping experience like being shot from a cannon. The power feels like it has doubled since last time her (it has) and you know, you’re going to double the delivery of pace notes before the 3rd turn. What was a previously familiar cruise through the woods our rookie year in a Dodge Neon has turned into a full on battle for traction, best line’s and going FLAT OUT!