Americas Rallycross ChampionshipUS Rally

Craig Drew on swapping pace notes for the spotter’s tower

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Credit: Lars Gange/Subaru Rally Team USA

In rallying, the driver may get all the plaudits, but it’s very much a two-man game. Rally drivers are nothing without their co-drivers, and believe it or not, its a similar story in Rallycross.

At the first round of the Americas Rallycross series earlier this year US rally legend David Higgins raced Subaru‘s third entry, but the Subaru WRX STI driven by the multiple champion didn’t have a passenger seat for long-time co-driver Craig Drew.

Instead, Drew served as Higgins’ spotter. While spotters are integral to rallycross, their involvement isn’t as in-depth as that of a co-driver. Drew’s appearance at Silverstone brought about the perfect opportunity to compare both roles back-to-back.

“I think I’m here mainly because I think David misses my voice in the car,” Drew joked. “I’d say it’s a lot more fundamental to the sport being a co-driver because you really do rely just on what you’re hearing whereas here a spotter helps mainly with decision-making rather than actual racecraft.”

“Obviously when the driver’s out on the track, they know where they need to be on the track, especially when they’re out there by themselves, but a spotter obviously is four lines, telling them what’s going on around them – the visibility in a rallycross car is so poor; it’s so different for us because we’re not used to being on a track with other cars, with rallying you’re very-much on your own, you’re destiny is in your own hands for the most part.”

While Higgins has made sporadic rallycross appearances before, Silverstone was his first time racing a more traditional rallycross format, adding another level of difficulty for the pair.

Credit: Lars Gange/Subaru Rally Team USA

“David and I have both been kind of out of our comfort zone to a degree because it’s a new sport to us this year – David hasn’t done rallycross for a while, he hasn’t had a particularly big test in the car as well,” Drew said. “I’m not used to spotting, I’m not a spotter by trade, but I think we’ve coped pretty well.”

“I find this format a lot better because what we’ve done now is move over to the World RX format of qualifying via time rather than position which obviously means that you don’t get all the carnage where everybody has to gain positions,” he added. “So if you’re in a fast heat you just follow the guys ahead and everybody’s out kind of working together to try and get the fastest heat you can.”

“From that point of view, in many ways the spotting becomes a little easier because if you’re in a fast heat you don’t need to tell the guys to keep pushing, keep up with the car ahead,” he said. “You don’t have to tell them to try and make a move, you just have to use your brain mainly and usually you got a strategy before the race starts as to when you’re going to take the joker and when you’re not so I’d say generally this format works a lot better.”

Drew won six-straight US rally titles alongside Higgins, but despite his success on the right side of the car, the Bristol man has no aspirations to jump into the drivers’ seat.

“Never,” he said when asked if he fancied driving at some point in his career. “If anybody sits next to me on the road they’ll realise why I don’t do it.”

“I love driving, I’m into all forms of motorsport, but I think as I’ve sat with higher calibre drivers it’s made me realise the level you need to get to, to be a good driver so I’m more than happy with sitting in the passenger seat for now.”

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Dominik Wilde is a professional motorsport and motoring writer that has covered events in both the UK and USA. His main focus for the Checkered Flag is covering Americas Rallycross and Nitro Rallycross.
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