Contrary to many, rallying is a team sport. Drivers steal the limelight, but their success and speed would not be possible without the support from a highly capable team and rally drivers will be first to declare this even.
Engineers, mechanics and assistants prepare and maintain the rally car during a rally, keeping the machine at its most potent. Wheels and tyres are changed, broken parts are replaced and car settings are advanced for various stages to optimize the car’s grip and power to suit the driver’s needs and style.
Once the driver pulls on his helmet and slips on his gloves, he is not alone when he climbs into the race seat of his machine. Sitting alongside him (or her), is the co-driver. The role the co-driver plays is hugely understated in motorsport media, and reading the pace notes is not only a safety measure but also increases the speed and confidence in the car for the driver. Finding a co-driver to suit a driver’s needs and style is no easy task. As the speed increases as the driver enters new Classes, so the style of the pace notes needs to be adjusted. Not only are the challenges to be met by drivers, but by co-drivers too.
For 2012, Team Total’s Jean-Pierre Damseaux has selected Grant Martin to sit alongside him. Martin moves from Mohammed Moosa’s sister Team Total Toyota Auris S2000, while Andre Vermeulen joins Moosa for the season.
Damseaux, who finished the 2011 South African Rally Championship in tenth overall, narrowly missed podium results on two occasions and crashed out of the Total Tara Rally in Namibia while leading the testing two-day event. His new co-driver, Martin (34) lives in East London and is a software support specialist. He has competed as part of Team Total for four seasons in his relatively short rallying career. His worth as a co-driver has been identified by team bosses and sponsors alike.
Says Martin: “2012 is probably the most unpredictable season in many years with a lot of fast and new cars coming into the fray. J-P. is one of the most experienced and fastest drivers around, and I predict we will consistently run in the top ten and continue to chase podium positions as he has in recent years.“
Moosa’s new co-driver is familiar to rallying in South Africa and Team Total. Andre Vermeulen (42) lives in Centurion where he is a used car salesman. He has been involved with rallying since 1990, and first joined Team Total in 2004 as co-driver to Etienne Lourens. He then switched to the role of Team Manager for two seasons before shifting to the South African National Off-Road Racing Championship for three seasons. His return to rallying with Moosa in 2012 will see Vermeulen looking to bring Moosa more stage wins and top ten overall results that he enjoyed in 2011 with Martin.
“I am glad to be back in rallying,” said Vermeulen. “This is where I belong and where I have the most fun in the cars. It will not be easy this season as the competition in Class S2000 is so fierce. Crews are pushing their limits, and to go just a bit quicker crews need to take big risks.”
“I haven’t been in a Class S2000 machine for three years, but after our first session I will be back up to speed. Rallying is a tough sport, and anything can happen. I look forward to the Total Rally 2012 next month!”
The Total Rally kicks off the 2012 South African Rally Championship on 23 – 24 March. For more information on the Total Rally and Team Total, please visit http://www.total.co.za. Follow Total South Africa on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TotalSouthAfrica and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TotalSAfrica.