If you’re a rally fan, you’ll know rally drivers are some of the hardest working in motorsport – spending long days behind the wheel covering huge chunks of some of the world’s toughest roads, and in a variety of challenging conditions.
They do, though, also have one of the best jobs going around, getting paid to drive fast cars on fast stages, all while someone in the passenger seat tells them exactly which way to go.
But just how hard is it learning to drive to pace notes? Well, as it turns out, it’s a wee bit trickier than your average WRC combination makes it look.
NOTE: Video at bottom of article.
In Coffs Harbour for Rally Australia – the final round of the 2017 World Rally Championship – RallySport Magazine got the opportunity to not only drive a close-to-finished pre-production version of Hyundai’s first-ever genuine hot-hatch, the 2018 Hyundai i30 N, but also get a lesson in understanding pace notes from Australian rally driver – and rally school instructor – Brendan Reeves.
So what exactly are pacenotes, and how do they work?
“Pacenotes are the driver’s description of the road,” Reeves explains.
“They tell a story and help you best read the road to drive faster and safer.”
Reeves says pacenotes tell the story of the road ahead.
Rather than any said ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’, ‘Brendo’ tells us that different teams and drivers use the system that works best for them.
“Pacenotes are very personal,” Reeves says.
“Most European drivers use degrees or descriptive words. I use the 1-10 system because numbers are easy to say and relate to.
“So, like on Colin McRae Rally, I start with one being a hairpin corner and go all the way up to a 10, which is a very slight corner that you take flat out.”
Usually called two to three corners in advance – allowing drivers to effectively paint a picture in their mind of the road ahead – distances, crests, inclines, and potential hazards are other details you’ll often hear included in pacenotes.
"I'm trying to say the line I want to take as well,” Reeves continues.
“So, I might say 'cut', so I know to get in really tight, and I might say 'wide', so then I can get on the throttle early.
“It’s important to get enough information into your notes so you can best describe the road, but not too much that it becomes confusing or the co-driver can’t keep up.
“On the first pass of recce, I drive smooth and call out the corners, distances, and crests. On the second pass I drive a bit quicker, and as the co-driver calls the notes, I add more descriptions about the characteristics of the road.”
Brendan Reeves uses a 1-10 pacenote system.
With Brendo already completing several recce laps of our supplied test track – the 1.1-kilometre Raleigh International Raceway in Coffs Harbour – he hops in the passenger seat of the Hyundai i30 N for my first-ever attempt at driving to pacenotes.
Although most professional pacenotes would be considered rather sophisticated and intricate, Brendo keeps things fairly basic for us on this occasion… Thankfully too, because driving to pacenotes is significantly harder than it looks.
Undoubtedly a cool experience, learning to drive to pace notes is not easy. It takes trust and communication between driver and co-driver, but more, it takes genuine effort to not ignore someone talking at you from the passenger seat.
And to improve, you really need to learn to let go of ‘thinking’ about the corners coming up, and simply embrace the concept of pacenotes and the advantages that come with them.
In the end, the process started sinking in and my pace definitely increased – even if the level of concentration required, far exceeded my expectations.
As for the i30 N, while we never pushed the car to its absolute limits, cleared any massive jumps, or clipped trees at 200km/h, the pre-production car we got to sample was properly impressive.
The brand-new turbocharged Hyundai i30 N is bred from their motorsport endeavours.
Due to launch locally in March 2018 in two guises – a 184kW ‘base’ i30 N and a 202kW ‘Performance Package’ – the South Korean brand’s Megane RS/Golf GTI rival is no gimmick.
With its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine sending 353Nm of torque to the front wheels only (and up to 378Nm on ‘overboost’), the i30 N teams a short-throw six-speed manual transmission with a unique 'N Power Sense' front axle, adjustable dampers, and an electronically-controlled mechanical limited-slip front differential.
It’s amply quick too, with Hyundai claiming 6.4 seconds 0-100km/h for the base car and 6.1 seconds for the flagship Performance Package, with both capable of hitting 250km/h.
From quality steering and excellent brakes, to plenty of aural delights from the variable valve dual-exit exhaust system, when it launches early next year, the Hyundai i30 N will be a serious contender in the Australian hot-hatch market – although pricing is still yet to be announced.
Regardless though, look out Renault Megane RS, look out Volkswagen Golf GTI, and look out Honda Civic Type R…
By clicking "Subscribe Now" you agree to receive news, offers and updates on RallySport Magazine.
If you do not wish to receive marketing communications, you can update your preferences in My Account.
We will commence charging your payment method after the 7 day free trial expires.
If you cancel after expiry of your trial, cancellation will take effect from the end of your current monthly subscription period.
You will not be refunded any fees paid to RallySport Magazine unless otherwise set out in the terms and conditions.
Welcome to RallySport Magazine VIP Membership.
Get ready for your rally news experience to completely transform.
Start browsing news, exclusive VIP content or check out your account.