With the recces done, there is no rest for these souped up road cars as they are handed over to the gravel crews. Their job is to drive each stage before it commences, trying to get through as close to the point where it closes to non-race traffic as possible. The crews will take notes on where conditions may have changed, which corners have iced, which are now dry, and then pace notes are updated to match. The drivers are entirely reliant on the quality of these additions, as without them it’s all too easy to hurtle into a corner blind expecting it to be clear, only to hit sheet ice and barrel off into the scenery.
Anyone who has been on roads around a rally will notice that the gravel crews don’t hang about, they must get from stage to stage as quickly as possible, bending whatever road rules they might have to in the process. They are unsung heroes of rallying, and their unassuming steeds get hammered over a far greater distance than the competition machinery, while having just as important a role in success as their glamorous competition stablemates.
There are of course armies of other personnel making sure the WRC heroes can keep the hammer down with confidence, for example, the last line of defence against changing conditions (which can switch from dry to ice in minutes over the Monte’s cols) are team members stationed at remote points with a mobile phone, giving minute by minute updates. You’ll see them sometimes, an unassuming team jacket dotted in amongst the spectators, notepad in hand providing indispensable intelligence.
After watching the two greatest rally drivers of the last twenty years do battle, it is worth sparing a thought for the grunt work below the surface and the team effort needed to create such success.