Watch Team O’Neil Explain Rally Pace Notes

Ever wondered what all that gobbledygook coming from the rally co-driver means? Team O’Neil is here to explain.

byJames Gilboy|
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If you have ever seen cockpit footage from a rally car, the constant stream of mystifying information spewed from the co-driver to the driver probably confused you, but nevertheless left the impression that what was being said was somehow important. If that is what you assumed, then you were right— you were hearing the co-driver reading from a notebook known as pace notes (or stage notes, depending on where you are in the world.) These communicate to the driver what to expect from the upcoming parts of the road that they cannot see, but even if you knew this already, the lingo and shorthand used in rally may still prevent you from understanding what is being said. New Hampshire-based Team O'Neil Rally School has posted a video to their YouTube channel, TeamONeilRally, detailing what exactly the string of numbers and terms mean to the driver, and it is worth watching for anyone who fancies blasting down the muddy backroads of the world.

The first question most will have will be something along the lines of, the numbers, Mason, what do they mean? Well, the numbers, which range from one to six, dictate the severity of an upcoming corner, with the lowest numbers meaning sharper corners, and the highest numbers denoting something as little as a kink that can be taken flat. One way to look at it is this: the lower the corner, the slower the corner is taken. The corners are further differentiated with plus and minus designations, with a two plus corner being faster than a two minus. This gives drivers a better understanding of what exactly lays ahead of them.

There are further numbers, designations, and advisories that come through in pace notes. Obviously, left and right are paired with a severity number to indicate direction. Crest, dip, short, long, numbers describing the length of a straight, advice to stay inside or outside, changes in surface, and visibility, among other things, are also described by the co-driver to the driver, but rather than read a summary of what is said, why not set aside a half hour if you have both the time and curiosity to watch the video yourself?

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