Having co-driven for some years, I’ve had a chance to learn from mistakes of my own, and those of other co-drivers. I’ve presented some tips herein to make your co-driving easier. If you’ve got further questions about co-driving, drop me a line, and I’ll add my answers here.

  Preparation for the event

The first tip I can give is about pre-event organization. There is nothing you can do which gives the same return on investment as thorough preparation for the event.

Most events these days have gone to a single-service format, where the service crew goes to one location and remains there for the day, and the rally car returns there each time to service.  This event format has made preparing for events much easier, and reduced the necessity of producing multiple copies of each map.  However, map marking is still a useful skill to possess.

To begin, get some 1:50,000 scale maps of the area you will be competing in. In the US, I recommend the DeLorme Gazeteer, available for every state, and in
the UK, I recommend the Ordnance Survey LandRanger series. You will need at minimum, two of each map, one for use in the competition vehicle, and one for use by your crew.

Once you receive your routebook, and have your maps in hand, be sure to mark your maps. Using either a highlighter or pencil, mark the route of each leg, indicating special stages and transits, as well as service locations, fuel stops, and any other points of interest. Also mark the location of the shakedown, the recce route, and any stops for the service vehicles during the recce.  On the competitive legs, it can be helpful to mark the approximate times you expect to be at service and major junctions, to coordinate with your crew. Also mark any junctions that are not as they appear on the map with NAM (not as map), and describe them to your service crew. Be sure that your marks are consistent across all copies of the maps.

Additionally, if you will be navigating in a city, obtain a detail city street atlas for the city. When you arrive at the event, take notice of any roads that have been made one-way for the event, and mark them on this map.

You will find that having these maps will make coordination with the crew a much easier task, and they will provide invaluable should you ever encounter a traffic jam or accident on the way to a time control.

  Movement/Service/Recce Schedules

On International events, the organizers will generally provide a nice service schedule that you can review with your crew. On national-level events, you’ll generally be on your own when it comes to creating a movement schedule and service schedule for the crews.

I generally create a movement schedule that begins when the first member of the crew leaves home, and ends when the last member of the crew leaves the competition site. It lists the travel details for the team and every major event and movement required, by both competition vehicle and service vehicles, as well as the communication details for all parties, and an incident plan.  
Here is a very simple movement planI created for a single car, amateur team, running in the US national series. You should be able to create a plan like this for any event in about 45 minutes.  Bigger teams obviously have different requirements for their movement schedules.

I also generally produce a service plan, which lists the service times and durations. It also lists the standard services needed at each service stop, as well as special requirements, such as the fitting of lights.  The service plan should also include the amount of fuel you need at each service.

If the event has reconnaissance of the stages, then I recommend that you create a similar set of schedules for the recce.

 Safety Equipment

As a co-driver, you’re regularly putting your safety in the hands of another person. Trust your driver, but invest wisely in safety equipment.
It's my experience that most of the safety equipment out there will do a decent job of protecting you in an incident, but the more expensive stuff pays dividends in comfort and ease-of-use.  Besides, you're a co-driver, without any car to buy or maintain, so splurge on safety equipment. Your mom will appreciate it.  

Currently, I wear a Sparco WTT-JH helmet, an Alpinestars GP Pro LM driving suit, Sparco underwear, DC Shoes driving shoes, and a HANS 20MP head and neck support system.  Previously, I've used a Peltor G77 helmet, which I liked a great deal, and Sparco, OMP, and Stand21 driving suits, which were also quite good, though not as well-fitted as the Alpinestars suit I currently wear.

I like and recommend the Recaro ProRacer SPG/SPA HANS seat that I've been using since 2003.   It is comfortable for 12 hours or more, is available in a standard and wide width, and has side-impact head protection bolsters.  

 Co-Driver Bag & Equipment

Happily, co-driving is more about skills than it is equipment, and you can get by with a backpack, a #2 pencil, and an analog watch, but the right tools do make the job easier.

I use an OMP Co-driver bag.  It has lots of pockets and four external pencil slots, which allow you to grab a pencil even when strapped in. It is significantly better than any other co-driver bag currently on the market.
For co-driver specific equipment, I recommend the following:

Pencils: Staedler Mars 780 2mm leadholders (4) with 1 dozen 2B leads.  Use B leads in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius. These allow for making thick, dark lines on a map or in a pacenote book, and since they’re 2mm, they will not break, no matter what abuse they are subjected to.

Eraser/Rubber: Staedler Mars Plastic or Tombow Mono (2) These are the perfect erasers, able to cleanly erase from a map without damaging the paper or leaving a smudge.

Watches: AST CoPilote or Timex Ironman (2). The Copilote has every function that a co-driver could want, but at the price, you can buy 6 Ironmans. If you’re using a Coralba rally computer (especially the C-Giant), a lot of the features of the Co-Pilote are duplicated in the Coralba, and you can save some money on your watch.  I use 2 Ironmans.

Pacenote Books: I’ve used both the TRW Sabelt and Pacenote.com books. Both are excellent, and it is a matter of personal choice. I find the Sabelt books a little easier to handle, due to their smaller size, but the spine of the Pacenote.com books is slightly superior. I find the Competitor’s Times notebook from Pacenote.com to be excellent. If you run on a privateer team, get the Team Manager version; you can track more cars on your own that way.

Torches/Flashlights: I use a Mini Maglite and an Black Diamond Moonlight LED headlamp. The headlamp is ideal for use when adjusting tire pressures or looking under the hood on a dark night. The Maglite is good for use as a spare should both your co-driving lights go out, or if you have alternator problems.

Tire Pressure Gauge: The Michelin Vigil gauge is sturdy and easy to read (even drivers can do it) and has the added advantage of small size and a dual scale readout.

The following equipment is also valuable to keep in your co-driver bag.

- The relevant rulebook
- Highlighters
- Spare key for the rally car and service vehicle
- Service card  to make service notes
- Headache medicine
- Earplugs (this can be critical in a normally aspirated car)
- Mechanic’s gloves
- Goggles or protective glasses for both driver and co-driver
- Hat & rainproof jacket
- Spare batteries for all equipment, especially a 9v for the intercom
- Calculator or Palmtop computer
- Rally computer manual or quick-reference sheet
- $200 cash and one credit card

Lastly, it must be said that you should be very familiar with the rally computer you are using.  If you have a choice, you simply must get the Coralba C-Giant or C-Rally computers.  The automatic special stage functions reduce the co-driver workload significantly, and they're a pleasure to use.  Designed by a co-driver (Arne Johansson), naturally.


As co-driver, it’s your responsibility to ensure that communication between the competition vehicle and service crew is efficient. You have basically three options for communication: mobile phones, satellite phones, and radio communication.  If you're approaching the sport seriously, communication between the rally car and service vehicle should be a primary priority.  If you have an accident and need repairs, being able to alert your crew so that they have all the parts available prior to your arriving can save you 5 minutes or more in a service.

Unless you’re competing on a professional team, satellite phones are usually prohibitively expensive, though prices are coming down all the time.  In Europe, especially the UK and Scandinavia, mobile phones are usually sufficient. Try to get a fairly standard model, like the Nokia 3390, and you can connect it directly to your Peltor intercom.

In the US, due to inadequate mobile phone coverage, radio communication is generally required. If you are an amateur team, and both the co-driver and a service crew member are licensed amateur radio operators, amateur radio can be used. With a good 50w system and antenna in both vehicles, range of 25 miles or more can be had in flat terrain. If you’re running a professional team, amateur radio use is proscribed by the FCC (US) and RA (UK). In this case, I recommend hiring business band radio equipment for the duration of the event.  


I hope this has been helpful in furthering your co-driving skills. I welcome questions, comments, or additions to this list. Please write me at the below address.


Email: Christian