The challenge of the clock, fighting against it to the last hundredth of a second, isn’t just a part of pure speed races. There is a different kind of speed that lovers of historic (and sometimes even modern) cars feel just as intensely when they are in the pursuit of a perfect of a zero-penalty pass. Great concentration, maniacal preparation for every aspect of the competition, and a lot, A LOT, of adrenaline.
Concentration above all
Concentration, rigorous preparation for the race and adrenaline make up the cocktail from which the final performance arises. Extended at times over several days, over 1,000 kilometers traveled on roads of all kinds, day and night, with any and all climates, and sometimes over 100 chronometric measurements. Those moments are made unforgettable by that challenge of the stopwatch, the pressure switch, or the recorded hourly average measured against which we race. Yet in this challenge we are not alone -- the role of the navigator is fundamental -- they who literally guide the driver and share their emotions moment by moment, second by second.
A challenge against yourself
Classic regularity rallying is really an amazing challenge, first of all against yourself and your “internal clock”, and then against your opponents. A challenge brought to extreme complications, but also enjoyment, by the car driven. Is it a supercar, or a fascinating classic, or even a "pre-war" model? Two completely different ways of dealing with penalties measured to the hundredth of a second. With super cars that are often so low as to make it impossible to see the signs that tell of the pressure switches presence, or pre-war cars that are often a whole different kind of challenge to handle, so slow are their responses to your touch and will. After our first victory in the 2011 Mille Miglia, obtained in a pre-war 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans, I’ve always raced alongside Stefania, my wife. We have faced races on all continents, with different cars and different regulations every time, but always with the pleasure of accepting the challenge of time, even when, especially abroad, we’re emboldened by the need to drive as “sportily” as possible to stay within the set times.
Tuning with the car
When winning or losing a race is a matter of two or three hundredths of a second, perfect tuning and knowledge of the car becomes essential. In time trials, it is necessary to know exactly where the front axle is, even without seeing it, since the times are measured on the center of the front wheel, and it is essential to know how to predict how the accelerator and brake will respond in every situation, to stay high in the final rankings, test checkpoint after test checkpoint, kilometer after kilometer. As in the tests where average run time is the metric, speed is often fundamental in order to stay within the set times, managed wisely, especially in very winding stretches of road. The passage times, in fact, are measured precisely in the most difficult points and only a few pilots are able to respect, with absolute precision, the deadlines imposed.
Concentration in those crucial, pinnacle moments of the race is very high. Even a minimal distraction, almost imperceptible, is enough to ruin the result and the entire event. In the most important moments of the race, even regularity rallies, you wait to be seized by those tremors in the legs that announce the arrival of the total adrenaline rush -- the flow state.
The key role of the navigator
I mentioned the co-dependence between driver and navigator: it is of fundamental importance, as is the harmony that comes from having lived through many races together and having overcome the countless unforeseen events that materialize during a race -- as a pair, as a team. The navigator has the difficult role of managing times and simultaneously imparting driving instructions by interpreting the Road Book, all the while reading stopwatches and odometers. The navigator also has a key role in managing the route outside the timed trials, ensuring that the crew shows up at the time control points at the right moments, as dictated by the race organization. Considering all the unexpected events and the stop times, refueling and refreshments, it’s a daunting and precision-demanding task. All things told, the navigator plays a major role in the final result.
This is what regularity rallying is -- a passionate team work carried out in absolute harmony, especially in difficult moments, by both members of the crew, combined with driving on often new routes against other competitors, with the added privilege of driving a 'classic car’. Altogether, a way of offering unlimited emotions and adrenaline with no filter.