5 minutes with … Rhianon Gelsomino
In years to come, she may cut your hair or teach PE to your children, but for now, Rhianon Gelsomino is more than happy reading pace notes.
The USA-based Australian chats to RSM’s Matt Whitten about her career so far.
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Name: Rhianon Gelsomino
How did you get into rallying?
I came from a rallying family. My dad, Mike and brothers Nathan and Brendan (Reeves), are all rally drivers. I first did a go-kart race in 1998, and then started autocross shortly after. I started co-driving at the end of 2005, when I navigated for my brother Nathan.
What is you favourite rally moment you’ve experience?
I have a few! One was winning a Pirelli Star Driver seat for the 2011 WRC Academy, navigating for my brother Brendan. This meant a full season in the WRC set-up, which was a great opportunity.
Another, was being able co-drive for both Petter Solberg and Tommi Makinen at a test. My other notable experience was the chance to co-drive in a WRC car.
What is your favourite rally?
On gravel, my favourite rally is Rally Whangarei in New Zealand, which I have done four times.
On the other surface, tarmac, my favourite rally is Targa Tasmania, which I have done six times.
Who is your favourite driver?
I still think Sebastien Loeb is the best driver ever, however, my favourite driver throughout the years to watch and know is Jari-Matti Latvala. He’s a really nice guy, and always wears his heart on his sleeve. Always fun to watch and talk to at events.
If you were not a rally co-driver, what would you be doing? (Or what do you do when you’re not at a rally?)
I am a fully qualified PE Teacher and Hairdresser, so when I retire from being a professional co-driver, I will do either of these two professions.
What is your go to snack food?
Food – Chocolate
Drink – Coke Zero
You and your husband, Alex, are both world class navigators. Does it ever get competitive about who can land the best driver?
In all honesty, we are both always hoping for the best opportunities for each other every year. We both love the sport, and we love racing.
We are lucky to both share the same passion and love for our job as professional co-drivers. Sometimes I beat Alex, sometimes he beats me, but at the end of the day, what matters is we are both out competing.
Your brother, Brendan, and yourself seem to have a great relationship both inside and outside the car. What is they key to maintaining such a healthy relationship?
Brendan and I are both hard working and as motivated as each other, so this pushes us both to succeed. We always strive to be the best we can be as a team.
We have now competed in over 80 events together, and travelled all over the world rallying. Hopefully we still have many more years of rallying together, and make it to at least 100 rallies as a team. We share so many great memories and experiences.
How does rallying in America compare to that in Australia?
When I first started rallying in the USA, most, if not all rallies were only one pass recce, and it was ‘Jemba’ provided notes. Whereas in Australia, I had always done 2 pass recce, so I felt like rallying in USA was very much behind what I had come from.
However, now in USA most, if not all events in the National Championship, are 2 pass recce, and the events are getting big numbers of entries. I would say the USA is now in line with Australian rallying, with greater numbers of entries in National events.
This is very exciting to think the sport in the USA has progressed so much in the last six years. Like Australia, the USA is a huge country, so competing in the National Championship in either country means lots of long haul travels. The long distances also means very differing climates, so both countries see diversity in the characteristics of events.
Your business, OzRallyPro, provides training for drivers and co-drivers to improve their use of pace notes. Can you give us a brief rundown of what a session involves?
We train both beginners and advanced rally competitors, and tailor our courses around the driver or co-drivers’ specific needs. Our trainings are one-on-one. We offer pacenote training, co-driver training and team training, for both driver and co-driver.
We have now trained nearly 200 students in the past six years in Australia, USA, NZ, Canada and Barbados.
For the driver, we try to teach how to create proper pacenotes that are precise and consistent. We teach the use of accessory notes, that are aimed to make you go faster and help determine the best and most efficient pacenote system.
As we progress stage after stage, we incorporate more in-depth details and discuss more options for the system of pacenotes.
For the co-driver, we teach all important guidelines and procedures that make a consistent and precise co-driver. We start in the classroom and work through rules, regulations etc, pretty much going over the roles and duties of the co-driver.
Then, we move into practical work with recce. Laying down the pacenotes on the page, set up of the pacenotes, timing of reading them to the driver, tricks and tips of staying on the notes during the different scenarios you find in rally stages. And everything else in between.
Finally. Australia or the United States?
I am very lucky to be a citizen of both, and am very proud. I will always rally under the Australian flag.