Information systems in WRC

Shake n Bake
4 min readMar 29, 2021

Hi its Hugo again. In this blog I have decided to to look at IS in the high octane fast paced world of stage rally. Stage rally is an inherently dangerous motor sport discipline there are very few safety features and IS that stand between its competitors and catastrophe. In this blog I will delve into arguable the most crucial IS in the safety of the rally teams

In the World Rally Championships information system play a huge role in the performance of the cars. Sensors and computes form an IS that manages every aspect of the cars mechanical and electrical functions and data alike. These information systems control torque vectoring, throttle response, brake intensity, fire suppression system and gear selection to name but a few. These IS are integral to the performance of the car throughout the race as without them the car would grind to a screeching and possibly fiery halt however these are not the most important IS in place in the WRC cars.

WRC car navigating treacherous roads in a rally stage

The most critical IS to a WRC driver comes in the form of rudimentary hand written pace notes that they had previously made about the specific rally stage that they are driving. These pace notes are as old as stage rally itself. It is the job of these note to keep the rally team safe throughout the drive by informing the driver about the road ahead

WRC pace notes

In order to create the notes the driver and their co-driver do a reconnaissance drive the night prior to driving the rally stage. This drive is as serious as it sounds. The driver and the co-driver discuss every aspect of each bump bend and dip that lies ahead of them. Using a series of letters, numbers and symbols the driver and the co-driver create a detailed code that denotes the surface, severity, position of the apex, width of the road ahead and direction of each bend on the track. The letters, numbers and symbols used is individual to each driver co-driver combination. This code that they create forms a map that will keep the driver and co-driver safe as they navigate their way through the dangerous bends and surface changes of the rally stage. As the driver cannot memorize the pace notes and drive to this high level it is the job of their co-driver to complete the IS and relay the notes to the driver at a rapid pace so the driver knows how to take the bends ahead. This system relies strongly on the driver trusting the co-driver to relay the information accurately, promptly and decisively. The shear speed and clarity with which the co-driver can relay these notes while hurtling down a dirt track at 160kmph is mesmerizing and leaves you under no illusion why this IS has changed so little over time.

Co-driver relaying pace notes to the driver

Due to the noise intensities 130 decibels or more experienced from the high octane engines fitted in the WRC cars the driver and co-driver must have a reliable form of communication so the driver doesn't make a mistake due to the IS failing due to lack of pace notes. This problem is overcome by adding technology to this rudimentary but effective IS. The driver and the co-drivers helmets are fitted with headphones and microphones as seen in the picture above. These microphones and headphones cancel ambient noise and allow the pairing to communicate with each other without the fear of misunderstanding due to noise interference. This use of technology is the only change that has been carried out in this IS since the creation of pace notes in stage rally.

While this IS is not the most complex or intricate IS involved in WRC stage rally it is by far the most important as it allows the driver to preform to an optimal level on roads that they have very little experience driving on. And as we know sometimes the most reliable IS are the most basic and when it comes to an IS that is integral to the safety of the driving team reliability is what is desired.

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