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She may not be as well known as Coral Taylor, John McCarthy or Dale Moscatt, but Kate Catford is one of Australia’s leading co-drivers. Having won Targa Tasmania this year, and being Glen Raymond’s note caller, Kate is at the top of her game and switches seamlessly between tarmac and gravel rallies. Matt Whitten caught up with the South Australian to see what drives her, and what makes her tick. * * * * * RSM: Firstly, not many people around the rally community would know a lot about you. How would you describe yourself? Kate Catford: I am a country girl at heart, raised on my family’s mixed grain and sheep farm in the mid north of SA. This may explain why I love exploring the outdoors, and why I am rather happy rallying on a gravel surface. I have always had a love for sports and fitness. These days I enjoy hitting the gym, running, biking or hiking. Professionally, I am a Registered Nurse and specialised in Theatre Nursing, so otherwise seen in scrubs handing instruments to surgeons. Orthopaedics has always been the speciality I enjoy the most. Currently, you’re the co-driver for Glen Raymond, and are leading the NSW Rally Championship. What is Glen like to navigate for? I really enjoy navigating for Glen. We have a lot of laughs and fun in the rally car. I can tell the rally car is Glen’s natural happy place, so he is really relaxed and nothing seems to faze him. When we first started rallying together, he would like to tell jokes or try and make me laugh mid stage. We have since worked to tone that down so I can keep my pace note flow up to his fast pace.

Catford and Glen Raymond in a round of the NSW Rally Championship earlier this year. Photo: Wishart Media

You’ve been sitting beside Glen for a lot of events and championships now, including being Victorian Rally Champions, and gathering podiums at ARC rounds. What have been your greatest rallying memories with Glen? Winning the VRC in 2017 was a great achievement for us both, so that is a great memory. Glen and I travelled to the Forest Rally in WA in 2018, to drive Pete Schey’s new WRX at the ARC round. I have great memories from that rally as it was a real challenge to arrive and drive a new car on stage for the first time, with no testing. Glen was impressive from the start. He has a natural ability to adapt quickly to a car, and I enjoyed the experience of being apart of it. Recently, we had a similar experience when driving the Bergmann’s Subaru Legacy, an old car of Glen’s. Driving something like the Legacy for a once off event is a real adventure, great times! Ultimately though, I have several great memories of Glen saying something funny or completely random over the intercom, all while going flat out, mid stage. State championships use both pace-noted and route charted events. How difficult is it to alter between the two? I think in many ways pace noted versus route chart navigating requires a totally different approach and skill set, meaning it’s not difficult altering between the two. It’s just a very different event experience from the get-go. Both forms of navigating take time to learn and develop, and I think it depends on your past rally experience as to which one you feel more comfortable with. Personally, I enjoy the pace noted events a lot more, as I feel there is a stronger element of team work required. I enjoy being able to do recce and know what the stages look like, with no surprises. Many underestimate the work a navigator puts in at rallies. What does a typical rally weekend look like for you? (From arriving, recce, podium and the main bits in between.) Well, to be honest, rally prep usually starts long before arriving for a rally weekend. It’s important to be prepared. As part of my role as a co-driver, I have to be ‘the oracle of all information’ regarding logistics, recce and the the rally schedule. A fair bit of study on the computer at home happens before heading to the actual event. I will go over the supplementary regulations, event series regulations, stage maps, pace note books new or old if available, and event documentation as it comes to light. I’ll make recce plans, schedules, and sometimes fuel plans etc. Once arriving at a rally destination, I may need to help set up at the service park, do final rally car prep or help get the car through scrutiny. I may need to fill in the service crew on any information or documentation they need for the event logistics.

Glen Raymond and Kate Catford have formed a successful partnership.

Then, event documentation is usually high on my priority list, in order to get the road book ahead of recce, and to complete final preparations before the event starts. Most of the time, recce will be scheduled for the day or two prior to the rally. These are big days. Up early at first light to get out to the stages when they are first open. For both gravel and tarmac events, maximising the amount of time available for recce is vital. Recce all day, a quick dinner is break time and maybe an event briefing before heading back to the room, to go over pace notes for cleaning and final preparations to the notes. Usually, I will be the last team member to bed the night before a rally, cleaning notes late into the night. The day of the rally, it’s business as usual and literally clock work, being on top your due in times and the time card becomes my big responsibly. Obviously as well as call the notes how the driver specifically wants them, follow the road book on transport, and answer the drivers usual multiple questions on transport like “check the stage times, how did we do?”, “How far to the next stage?”, “How many minutes?“. Usually, as the co-driver, I am the communication link to the service crew during the rally, making sure they know what needs doing to the car at service. If it all works out and you make it to the finish or podium, great! But you never know what your going to get on a rally day! Expect the unexpected. Be prepared, as anything and everything can happen. Switching to tarmac, you have also had great success in tarmac rallying, winning this year’s Targa Tasmania with Paul Stockell. Is this your greatest overall achievement in motorsport? Yes, this was my greatest achievement in motorsport to date. I first started rallying on tarmac in 2010. Naturally, the ultimate tarmac rally - Targa Tasmania went straight to the top of my dream big bucket list. But, to be honest, I often thought it was well out of reach and truly a dream too big. I know first hand how hard it is just to finish the rally. In 2014, I actually finished second at Targa Tasmania alongside Tony Quinn, and feeling so close yet so far away from the title, that just ignites the competitive fire! So, I was truly stoked and I am still pinching myself to have won Targa Tasmania this year alongside Paul Stokell. It really was a dream come true.

Kate Catford prepares her pace notes before an event.

At Targa, it is a week-long event. Does this extended event take a toll on a navigator’s tiredness and performance? Yes, it’s a long endurance event. Usually, you have fitted in a jam-packed recce schedule with late nights on the pace note cleaning the week prior to starting the event. I believe physical fitness and being in good health gives you the best chance of maintaining focus and performance for endurance events. I make sure I am as prepared as I can be going into the event, both physically with rest and hydration, and technically with pace notes and rally plans. They are big days in the rally car during the event, so it is tiring. I personally find I have to be very disciplined with my time during the event, my routine is paramount. Get to bed as early as practically possible every night during the rally. If you are feeling tired or under the weather, it could affect your performance. I take every stage with importance to switch back on mentally before the start line and deliver what is needed. It is at the end of the last day when it hits you how tired you really are! How much does navigating on tarmac differ to navigating on gravel? In essence, the theory of delivering pace notes and navigating is very much the same between tarmac and gravel, hence a lot of co-drivers do both disciplines. But the physical racing sensations and experience from the navigator’s seat can be very different and can take time adjusting between the two. The main variance is the speed. On a tarmac road, you are achieving higher speeds, especially the cornering speeds. Tarmac stages tend to flow, as it’s about maximising racing lines, so the delivery of notes is often high paced. Then you jump into a gravel car and the first noticeable difference is that it’s noisy due the gravel surface spraying the underbody of the car. You are always adapting to varying speeds, depending on surface and grip levels. There is more potential to be sliding around the corners, and this just takes adjustment with varying sensations between the two. The burning question, which do you prefer, tarmac or gravel?  I knew this question was coming! Can I sit on the fence? I started on tarmac, so it feels very familiar to me and I was lucky to start in some fast paced cars, so I am grateful for that, as it set me up well to tackle any navigating experience that comes my way. I enjoy tarmac, but it is intense and very serious rallying, as the average speeds are higher. The truth is, as soon as I started rallying it was gravel where I aspired to be competitively, because it is so much fun sliding around a gravel corner. I don’t know if it is my country upbringing, but I love nothing more than rallying in a forest or remote countryside on a gravel road.
  • Matt Whitten
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