5 right into tight left, 50, blind brow
straightens, 30, Caution - 3 right do not cut, (smash, bang, crash)
arrgh bugger, I told you not to cut! Would you put your life in the
hands of another, while you’re flung from corner to corner,
riding banks, splashing through fords and bouncing over rough and
rugged roads. If the car gets stuck in mud, you have to get out and
push, if the driver gets lost it’s your fault, if the driver
crashes ‘must be your bad calls’. Rolling over hills and
bridges, crashing into banks and bushes, holding on tightly while
your driver tries to make you lose your lunch. Just the driver, the
car and you battling it out with lady luck. What a job, not a job
the average nana would undertake.
A good co-driver is an essential requirement
in order for a driver to succeed in rallying. They must not only keep
their driver relaxed, motivated and informed but stay calm themselves
under intense pressure and demands. Such a co-driver is the top 2002
Mainland Series co-driver, Roger (aka Rocky) Hudson of Christchurch.
Rocky co-drives for Deane Buist – the 2002 Mainland Series and
New Zealand Club Rally 2WD Champion, and 2nd overall driver in the
Mainland Rally Series Championship to Blenheim's Hugh Owen.
15 years ago Rocky started his involvement
in rallying, like a lot of people, by helping out at events. There
he met his future wife and inspiration – Lisa, who Rocky says
has taught him everything he knows about co-driving, “She’s
awesome”. He moved to driving in 1997, and with Lisa in the
co-driver’s seat, they finished fifth overall in the 1999 Group
N NZ Rally Championship. The year 2000 brought even higher achievements
by finishing an impressive second overall in the NZ Group N class,
while driving a Subaru WRX - his favourite brand of car.
The Catlins Coast Rally is an event
Rocky really enjoys, having competed in and driven the event for the
last six years. His best result was second overall in 1999, then in
2000, suffering his first non-finish in an incredible 35 rallies,
rolling out of the event after losing control on a slippery bridge.
In 2001 he finished seventh overall, and in 2002 was forced to retire
after stage three with gearbox problems.
the 1999 Rally of Nelson, Rocky had his first co-driving experience
with Fred Merkin, later co-driving for Deane Buist in the 2001 Rally
of Nelson, turning to a full season of co-driving in 2002.
Rocky says one of the biggest buzzes
so far in his career is riding with Deane – “it’s
just amazing, Deane is extremely talented. He’s fast, smooth,
doesn’t crash and is as safe as houses – wait until he
gets into a 4WD! I’ve had a heap of laughs with him, but most
of those can’t be repeated. What goes on in the car, stays in
However, Deane is not quite so reticent
about divulging what goes on – “at first we (the crew
and I) decided that Rocky was different, however over the period of
the year he has proven himself to be slightly more normal than our
first impressions.” Deane chuckles about one of the famous quotes
Rocky has come out with – “it was when we were talking
about a road, Roger was explaining that it would make an OK sprint
road, when I asked him to describe his answer: it's straights with
corners! Probably covers most roads I think.”
Co-driving for Kerry Evans in the 2002
Rally of New Zealand was another high for the modest achiever. However,
it also provided his biggest low - being forced to retire towards
the end of the first day with engine failure. Rocky is very much looking
forward to having another go at the demanding rally early next year.
“We had a camera in the car for Rally NZ, and Alex – Kerry
Evans’ son – thought my note ‘delivery’ was
better than Nicky Grist’s.” Possibly Colin McRae would
Along with Deane, the experienced Wayne
Muckle is one of Rocky’s favourite drivers, having become a
great friend over the years and helping out when Rocky had questions
and needed advice - “He was my ‘mentor’ while I
was driving, giving me driving tips.” At the 2002 Blenheim Rallysprint,
Rocky co-drove Wayne to an impressive second overall, even after losing
20 seconds on the first run with the turbo pipe coming off.
In order for a co-driver to succeed they
need an understanding family - “Lisa is very understanding (having
co-driven and knowing what fun it is) and lets me do what I want.
Whilst setting up my consultancy business early this year I had a
bit of spare time, so was able to co-drive at a lot of rallies –
I’m a co-driving slut. You do need an understanding partner
(and children), because it’s not easy being away so often. Family
events – birthdays, anniversaries etc – take second place
when there’s a rally on.”
To be a top co-driver, not only does
it take guts and determination but you’ve got to be organised,
intelligent and be able to hold on tight. Having been a top driver,
Rocky finds the driving experience helps when it comes to delivery
of pace notes to Deane. Timing is crucial to ensure the driver is
able to react and respond to the call. With his experience in the
driver’s seat, Rocky is able to feel when the calls are appropriate
and so help Deane drive at his maximum.
The feeling of jetting through a forest,
over a blind brow is what does it for Rocky. He say’s that as
far as the speed and actual racing goes, its just you and the elements
– if you make a mistake, or have an off, it’s your fault
and nobody else’s. He says another big attraction of the sport
is all the wonderful people involved, “We have made some great
friends through rallying and the older you get, the more important
advice this humble legend would give to someone new to co-driving
- “if you’re lost say so, seriously, just get out there
and enjoy it. Keep asking questions, and keep learning things.”
When asked who Rocky would most compare
his co-driver temperament to, he said – “My Grandmother!
I’m an old woman – when I started driving my nickname
was ‘Nana’. Those international guys are all reasonably
relaxed and I think you’ve got to be. I try and learn from their
(and Robert Ryan’s) in-car shots."
Will Rocky drive again? He’d love
to – depending on money, time and family – but can’t
really see it happening again soon. “I think my future is in
co-driving and I am really enjoying it.”
With firm support from wife Lisa, Rocky
has set full focus on the future with plans to co-drive again for
Deane next year, competing in the new ‘Kiwi’ Class. He
really enjoys rallying and thinks it’s a great sport, with a
fun bunch of people. With the 2002 rally season over, Rocky wants
to rev it out in top gear next year, with new goals and aspirations.
It’s not likely that this nana
will stop any time soon to ask for directions.
Article is copyright Psychotic Motorsport.
Thanks to Bruce Jury for his photos.
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