From the Right Seat: Riding Shotgun with Pat Richard

Posted on 27. Mar, 2008 by in Features, From The Right Seat

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By Alan Ockwell

I was fortunate to be invited to a winter test session with two-time Canadian and Rally America champion Patrick Richard.  Following the successful test, we ran the Perce-Neige rally, the first event in the 2008 Canadian rally championship.

So what's it like to run with one of the very best drivers in North America?

- Pat is totally in tune with the car.  We would go out on a 5km shakedown run and come back with a half-dozen setup changes.  Another run and three or four more changes.  A third run and a few more fine adjustments.  We would keep going until things were as perfect as could be.  The impressive thing was that every change was correct, and we rarely undid anything we had altered before.

- While Pat's in tune with the car, he's also in total command.  The car never pushes him around; he's always telling it what to do.  Rally cars can be temperamental but he always has it on a short leash.

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- He makes car noises when he's bored.

- He's *very* particular about his notes.  On recce, Pat makes notes that are highly detailed and he builds a library of notes to be refined from year to year.  On stage, he has very specific requirements about delivery.  It's tough to get it right but the effort pays off in the end – we can fully commit.

- At then end of a stage, Pat can guess how much time we made/lost pretty accurately.

- He can build a car in two weeks, go without sleep for days, subsist on coffee and cigarettes, and still finish on the podium in his first full rally in 2.5 years.

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- Pat sees problems way before they actually happen.  At both the test session and the rally, there were a couple of occasions where I heard "OH SHIT HANG ON!!!" through the intercom.  When I looked up, we were going through a corner totally calmly, without a hint of drama.  He's able to anticipate the sheet ice and make the necessary adjustments before we even reach the corner.  Either that or he's just making sure I'm still awake.

Many drivers show a lot of talent as they move up through the ranks but fall a little bit short of becoming a champion.  It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it takes, but there are a few common characteristics: quick reflexes, decent physical conditioning, experience, etc.  But it takes something special for a driver to truly excel.

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In Pat's case, I think one of his main strengths is that he can process a huge amount of information in an extremely short amount of time.  He can listen to notes (and he only hears them once – he doesn't like repeats), observe the car's behaviour, make a mental checklist of what needs to be tweaked, adapt to changing road conditions, analyze his driving and adjust his own tempo to suit his strategy – while bombing along a stage.  This is what impressed me the most about riding shotgun for him.  He's always in total control and thinking a few steps ahead, even on stage.

It will be really impressive to watch when we get into our first gravel stages of the year – I can't wait!

[Alan is quickly making a name for himself as the "go-to" man for the top teams in North America.  He'll be writing for FOC throughout the season, giving readers a first-hand perspective on co-driving.]

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2 Responses to “From the Right Seat: Riding Shotgun with Pat Richard”

  1. Warren Currie

    27. Mar, 2008

    Great article.
    You are 100% in stating that Pat is always in control of the car.
    I was fortunate to have a ride along with him once and his ability to put the car EXACTLY where he wants it on the road is amazing!

  2. christopher

    28. Mar, 2008

    he makes care noise?….. i laughed sooo much…

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