On-board with a champion

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At last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed I was lucky enough to catch a ride with Sébastien Loeb around the Forest Rally Stage. The word lucky doesn’t really cut it – if you were going to get a ride-along with any rally driver he’d be at or near the top of anyone’s list. It wasn’t just any car either, it was a 2014-spec Citroën DS3 WRC.

Sitting there waiting for the start signal, I was unsure where to look. Straight ahead? Or do I look at his feet and watch them dance over the pedals? I hadn’t made my mind up by the time he dropped the clutch but the acceleration sorted that out for me by sending my head flying back into the seat. That’ll teach me to stop paying attention.

There’s one aspect of a modern rally car that I wasn’t prepared for: the grip. Watching from the outside they look like they’re gliding lightly over the gravel, but the forces on the inside are pretty impressive. Sitting in Daniel Elena’s usual spot, my admiration for WRC co-drivers grew massively. How they keep it together and read their notes in the chaos of a stage is beyond me. As much as it was a demonstration of Loeb’s skill, it was a reminder that there are two people in the car; neither job is a walk in the park.

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