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Rock’n To The Top

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.Rocky & Lisa Hudson. Photo by Bruce Jury

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.

Deane Buist & Rocky at Otago RallyIn 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 the car!”

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 agree.

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.Wayne Muckle & Rocky - Photo by Bruce Jury

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 this becomes.”

Deane Buist & Rocky at Nelson RallyThe 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.Deane & Rocky.

Sara.

December 2002

Article is copyright Psychotic Motorsport. Thanks to Bruce Jury for his photos.

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