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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Inside Hyundai’s rally-meets-Nurburgring problem

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‘Three left minus, lengthy, bumpy’, could resemble an abnormal rally pacenote. However that is how a World Rally Championship driver sees one in all motorsport’s most well-known corners – the Karussell on the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Sure, you’ve gotten learn that appropriately. You may be forgiven to query ‘what sort of fever dream am I about to learn?’ That’s a very legitimate response, however this was under no circumstances a dream. To check its WRC title-leading crew Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport set a singular rally-meets-race circuit problem.

The pair had been tasked to drive the 73-turn Nurburgring Nordschleife however to pacenotes, as if it had been a rally stage, behind the wheel of a TCR-spec race-prepared touring automobile. Autosport was invited to comply with the crews and witness the artwork of pacenote making first-hand for an perception into how a rally crew operates exterior their consolation zone.

The undulating and relentless 20.8-kilometre ribbon of asphalt nestled in Germany’s Eifel mountains is probably the one famend everlasting circuit that may mimic a rally stage, barring Australia’s Mount Panorama and even Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps.

The latter has even featured as a part of a WRC occasion – the 2021 Ypres Rally – which marked the primary of seven rally wins thus far since Neuville and Wydaeghe joined forces. However Spa and Monza – the latter showing on the calendar through the WRC’s 2020 and 2021 COVID-19-affected seasons – are the one world-famous circuits to have graced the WRC calendar in recent times. Taking up the Nurburgring as a rally stage is due to this fact an uncommon activity.

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“[The Nordschleife] is without doubt one of the most difficult circuits, a bit like Rally Finland however on Tarmac,” Neuville tells Autosport. “That’s what I can evaluate it to. There are similarities within the pacenotes too!”

Two days after ending third on Croatia’s WRC asphalt phases, Neuville and Wydaeghe swapped the slender roads for the expanses of the Nurburgring and traded their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 automobile for a Hyundai i30 N TCR. For Neuville, the Nordscheife is a venue that holds childhood trackside recollections watching the Nurburgring 24 Hours. However tackling the Inexperienced Hell as if it’s a WRC rally stage was an altogether new expertise.

Hyundai’s rally crew handled their Nurburgring pacenotes as they’d for any rally stage

Picture by: Hyundai Motorsport

How do you make pacenotes for the Nordschleife?

Whereas navigating the Nordschleife’s 73 turns is kind of faraway from belting via a Finnish forest, Neuville and Wydaeghe handled it precisely as they’d a WRC rally stage. In consequence, the primary activity is to bear a recce.

For these unaware of the method driver and co-driver undertake earlier than any rally, a recce options the crews piloting a highway automobile via the stage at highway velocity. It’s right here the place pacenotes are made; these decide the velocity and angle of a nook, in addition to any further info the co-driver can alert to the driving force to assist the pair cross via a stage on the quickest velocity doable.

PLUS: Behind the scenes on the WRC’s 80km/h rodeo

“The recce is without doubt one of the most vital components of our job,” says Neuville. “We’re allowed to run a stage twice through the recce to make our pacenotes, which is principally our description of the highway we’re going to drive. This is essential info that the drivers belief from the co-driver that’s giving the pacenotes. As you possibly can think about, if the pacenotes are too sluggish or too quick, it is vitally arduous to seek out confidence and it is vitally arduous to go quick.

“At asphalt rallies we’re driving to tenths so the pacenotes are the important thing issue to go quick”
Thierry Neuville

“Rallies like Finland the place we’re restricted to 70km/h [on the recce] and within the rally itself, you might be driving near 200km/h for more often than not, it makes it very tough to evaluate the velocity you possibly can go; relying on the angle of the nook and the variation of grip, or whether it is over a crest or via a dip, or the nook is hanging a bit to the skin or the within.

“All these parameters have an enormous affect on the precise velocity you possibly can go. That is solely doable [to achieve] with plenty of coaching, and you must know your automobile actually.”

For this recce, Autosport joined Neuville and Wydaeghe perched on the again seat of a road-going Hyundai i30 N to see how they go in regards to the activity of constructing pacenotes. The primary facet that’s made abundantly clear is the extent of teamwork required.

The onus is on Neuville to immediately learn the highway and talk that to Wydaeghe, who scribbles down the knowledge, in pencil, right into a pacenote guide. The usage of pencil is vital because it permits adjustments to be made if required when all of this info is analysed and in contrast in opposition to onboard movies of the stage – a course of that’s normally performed within the evenings earlier than the stage is run.

Neuville's memory proves a key element in his pacenotes

Neuville’s reminiscence proves a key ingredient in his pacenotes

Picture by: Hyundai Motorsport

So as to add an additional stage of complexity, the pair had been utilizing English pacenotes as an alternative of their normal French as Wydaeghe explains whereas Neuville sweeps via Flugplatz: “Usually we’re utilizing a system within the French language, however that’s arduous for everybody to know, so at this time we’re making pacenotes in English. It’s a fundamental system that everybody is aware of from the rally laptop video games. We’re utilizing a 1-6 system the place six is the quickest, so we’ve the variety of the nook, the course left or proper and the size of the nook.

“We usually have a really particular system, and we’re the one ones utilizing this method within the WRC. It’s a system of 10-170 primarily based on velocity really. We even have the size of the nook constructed into the pacenotes, so for instance this [corner we are approaching] might be left 130, tightens 80 for instance. So it’s a left that goes kind of at 130kph over 30 metres and tightens to 80kph.”

Neuville interjects: “[The system] was one thing I developed in 2013; principally I got here up with a unique system. Going from slower to quicker vehicles, I wanted one thing easier. Speaking about velocity is the simplest for everybody to know.”

Wydaeghe continues the reason: “He [Thierry] has an excellent reminiscence by the best way. Thierry tries to think about at what velocity he can cross. It’s actually vital to put in writing all the things down as fast as doable, so Thierry can stick with it his velocity through the recce. If I can’t comply with and we have to decelerate on a regular basis, we’re breaking our personal recce velocity. It’s then tough for him to proceed to think about the velocity of the following corners.”

Witnessing this course of in motion, it is fairly clear that it is a science that takes years to excellent. If a recce doesn’t go to plan, it could possibly fairly simply have an adversarial impact on a crew’s efficiency at a rally.

In order for you discover out extra about Thierry and Martijn, hearken to a particular version of the Gravel Notes podcast the place the duo talk about their first rally recollections, how they work collectively as driver and co-driver and the way they unwind away from the phases.

 

“If the recce is finished flawed and I come to a nook the place it’s a three and I’ve put a one, then I might drive the nook a lot quicker,” Neuville confirms. “After that, my stage time can be dangerous. At asphalt rallies, we’re driving to tenths, so the pacenotes are the important thing issue to go quick.”

As we attain the tip of the lap, the enduring banked Karussell is navigated. Neuville definitively calls one in all motor racing’s most well-known corners as a 3 left minus, lengthy, bumpy. As the ultimate straight comes into view, Wydaeghe places his pencil down. The lap is full. Nonetheless, that is solely the beginning of the method to organize for a rally stage. However first, what’s it like for a co-driver to make pacenotes across the Nordschleife?

Autosport got a first-hand view of how pacenotes are constructed

Autosport obtained a first-hand view of how pacenotes are constructed

Picture by: Hyundai Motorsport

“The highway may be very easy and really extensive, so it is vitally comfy for me to take a seat on this recce automobile to put in writing pacenotes,” explains Wydaeghe. “For instance, in Kenya, it is vitally bumpy and my pacenote guide is difficult to learn as you might be transferring round so much. Right this moment was a simple sport!

“However nonetheless, you’ve gotten some good profiles going up and down and typically you’ve gotten some extra twisty components the place there’s a nook into one other nook, after which one other nook. It’s fairly extensive, however that is one thing you possibly can have in Rally de Catalunya for instance.”

Pacenotes written, the crew now has to analyse them alongside the onboard video recorded from GoPro cameras connected to the automobile. This course of is generally performed in a lodge room, however at this time it’s a swift journey to Nurburgring’s Satan’s Diner that overlooks the circuit, the place a laptop computer is whipped out and evaluation begins. That is the place any adjustments to the notes could be made within the pursuit of perfection that may end up in beneficial tenths of seconds.

“After recce we watch the movies, and we attempt to optimise [the pacenotes],” confirms Neuville. “Typically we’ll take out some info we don’t want, or whether it is an excessive amount of info, we simplify the notes. Typically we modify the angle and the velocity of the nook.

“I realised after I stepped into the WRC and the velocity is so excessive and on bumpy roads, it’s simple to get misplaced within the notes. So, I write huge”
Martijn Wydaeghe

“With solely two recce passes typically, it’s arduous to make the proper word and you will need to do the fine-tuning to seek out the little changes, which lets you go quicker.”

Wydaeghe continues: “We analyse our first cross on the video to get it to perfection for the second cross to seek out some further velocity right here and there. The second cross via phases could be fully completely different, with stones coming via the highway and so forth, so we have to add this into the pacenotes as properly. In case you don’t write them with pencil, it might be a large number to learn all the things.

“Earlier than I used to be with Thierry, I used to be doing rallies in slower vehicles and I used to be writing a lot smaller. However then I realised after I stepped into the WRC and the velocity is so excessive and on bumpy roads, it’s simple to get misplaced within the notes. So, I write huge – however it’s nonetheless a problem to get it proper on a regular basis.”

Time to sort out the Nordschleife at velocity

Now it is time for Neuville and Wydaeghe to place all their work into motion as they climb aboard the race-prepared 350 horsepower i30 N TCR, a vehicle Neuville raced in TCR Germany in 2019.

Neuville and Wydaeghe tackle the Nurburgring aboard a 350hp Hyundai TCR car

Neuville and Wydaeghe sort out the Nurburgring aboard a 350hp Hyundai TCR automobile

Picture by: Hyundai Motorsport

Whereas it is a downgrade when it comes to energy in comparison with their extra acquainted 500 horsepower i20 N WRC Rally1 automobile, driving to pacenotes at ten-tenths across the Nordschleife’s 73 turns can by no means be underestimated. A day’s work finally boils all the way down to roughly eight minutes as Neuville and Wydaeghe don their open-face helmets, plug of their intercom and full a flying lap of the Nurburgring within the model of a rally.

“It’s been an exquisite expertise,” says Neuville. “I used to be trusting my reminiscence and counting on the pacenotes within the locations I used to be not 100% positive, and it really works. I’m positive it’ll assist me bear in mind the observe even higher as a result of I’m not a specialist right here. It was an awesome expertise to be again within the TCR automobile even when it was just for a couple of laps right here is one thing particular. I’ll do extra as soon as I retire from rallying.”

From the co-driver seat, Wydaeghe says: “It was way more comfy than being in a gravel stage within the WRC, it was actually easy and you’ve got plenty of lengthy corners and plenty of distance in between the corners as properly in comparison with the traditional rally phases. In case you evaluate with the Tarmac rallies on the WRC like Monte Carlo and Japan, there it’s nook into nook, it was a bit extra relaxed for me let’s say. It was simply magic to do one thing like this on this circuit.”

Whereas Neuville and Wydaeghe took this problem of their stride, the pair impressed Nurburgring 24 Hours veteran Marcus Willhardt. He is performed hundreds of laps across the revered asphalt as a driving teacher, however by no means to pacenotes and admits he discovered himself “questioning if they will belief in it”.

“I might not be comfy after two recce laps, that may be very unusual for me,” Willhardt tells Autosport. “I believe they’ve the toughest job. I really like racing however I might by no means go on a rally stage, I might be too afraid. These guys are completely loopy. The arrogance they’ve and the belief they’ve of their automobile and themselves is wonderful.”

The Nordschleife is unlikely to hitch a spherical of the WRC as a stage anytime quickly, however this experiment as soon as once more outlines the enormity of labor undertaken by rally crews earlier than any stage could be tackled at tempo. It’s a meticulous, albeit extremely vital course of to unlock the important tenths of seconds that finally determine rallies.

1000’s of petrolheads make the pilgrimage to the Nordschleife to check their mettle round its well-known curves and little doubt they’d most undoubtedly profit from pacenotes. Maybe Wydaeghe might have inadvertently stumbled upon a enterprise alternative?

“That’s a good suggestion really [selling the notes], you [Autosport] can take a 5% minimize,” Wydaeghe jokes.

Being able to see much more of the road ahead of him than normal was a welcome change for Wydaeghe

With the ability to see way more of the highway forward of him than regular was a welcome change for Wydaeghe

Picture by: Hyundai Motorsport



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