Have you ever wondered what it’s like to ride shotgun in a rally car? Gareth found out.
A galant courageous man of valour.
That accusation is certainly not one that has been regularly levelled at me.
As a child, I was often too afraid to turn off the night light.
A few years older, and I became a little shy around the fairer sex.
Now as a grown man, I took the wobblers on a high ropes course at a friend’s stag do. Yes, I was the only one who refused to leap off a 50 foot ledge with nothing but a ropey chord to control my descent.
And despite my original bravado at an invitation to have a have a go in a rally car, as the day came closer, so did the fear.
Flinging myself round a track at three figure miles per hour in a rust-bucket of an old clapper (they were never going to waste the good car on me) didn’t exactly fill me with any excitement.
And of course, in my head, the track was more akin to a dirt-track on the side of the Himalayas than Silverstone’s smooth raceway.
The lane down into the track didn’t fill me with confidence as to what I might find. Dodging the pot-holes, I hoped this surface wouldn’t be what I was about to be whizzed around on.
Thankfully, I finally arrived at the well tarmacced Nutts Corner Circuit, of course checking both ways for runaway rust-buckets as I revved my Polo over the track to the car-park.
My editor’s words of the “terrifying” ordeal that awaited me still ringing in my ears, I sheepishly took my seat in the waiting room, preferring to neglect the scones and cream for fear of them ending up on the inside of the windscreen.
As I watched the others go off to their fate, my nerves weren’t settled, especially as I was directed towards the “mad” driver, Daniel McKenna.
“How fast does this thing go?” I asked, trying to conceal my nerves and make conversation. “Ah boy, about 130 I’d say.” Great. Daniel went on to confirm we WOULD be getting as close to that as possible between the windy bends of the circuit.
I buckeled myself in, making sure Daniel checked I was secure.
After a brief panic that I hadn’t texted my final goodbyes to my parents, I settled in and as Daniel put the foot down, nerves gave way to adrenaline.
Well, who would have known? The little scaredy-cat was actually enjoying it.
It certainly was a rush and afterwards my only complaint was that it didn’t last long enough.
AS the car accelerated off the start line, I was sucked back into the seat but we coasted round the first corner, sideways of course, and it was just brilliant.
If anything, that smooth course wasn’t bumpy or windy enough to get the full enjoyment. After the first couple of corners, I finally understood what these driver nut-jobs see in it all. And under Daniel’s careful control, I never felt in any danger.
Now my bravado’s back and I’m ready to take on a real rally course with the hills and turns that would bring.
The Circuit of Ireland rally this weekend will certainly be a treat for the thousands of spectators who will descend onto the streets to watch.
And while my rather sanitised afternoon as a co-driver ended with a new-found interest in the sport, make sure you all stay safe, drivers, co-drivers and spectators alike.