Long story short: “It is like stepping to another dimension of events that you have not had an imagination of before.”
The co-driver experience
On 30th of June 2019 Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja took part of a public event for the rally fans in Estonia – Delfi Rally Day in Tallinn. Two lucky rally fans were picked through contest to have a co-driver experience with Ott Tänak in Martin Järveoja’s seat in their Toyota Yaris WRC car.
This is a jackpot for any rally fan and I was the lucky one to win the seat.
Chronological order of events
- 26.06. I got an e-mail saying I’d won and agreed to participate
- 27.06. I received tickets for the family to the event
- 30.06. 13:10 we were at the long queue that looked like 1 hour until entrance
- 13:15 we entered via organizer’s gate with family
- 13:30 first instructions and fitting in the rally car (did a video of the exterior as filming the interior was not advised)
- 13:45-15:45 enjoyed other attractions in the event area and returned to service park with a special code word to get past the security
- 15:50 dressed up in the rally suit, helmet and neck support alongside with encouragement from the team like “did you eat before”? Or “make sure you don’t throw up” to intensify things. They also say that Nublu (previous experiencer) ran away pretty quickly after the drive and didn’t look back. We have a laugh. But the excitement has reached it’s peak now.
- 16:00 I am seated in the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC rally car and staff keep my conversation going. When I speak, I can hear my own words in the headphones inside the helmet.
The car is started
- 16:05 the car is started by the mechanics (cool thing it runs on idle around 2200 rpm) and left running
- 16:10 Ott Tänak arrives and sits in. I can’t look to the left very much as I’m tightly tied in but still I reach my hand out for a greeting handshake. He throws in a soul brother handshake.
- 16:11 He plugs in the intercom, now we can talk. I ask “Hi, how’s it going?” He replies with his laugh “Hi, it goes as much as you push.” I reply “ok, let’s push it.”
- 16:12 Small conversation – I ask whether it gets bumpy, Tänak says not really, and can’t really do much more than donuts here.
- 16:13 we are driving out. I look at all the people behind the fence of the service park who would like to be on my place. Driving really slowly. I wave to people, they wave back. We stop at the startlane.
Stop & Go!
- THE START: the engine roars as I am pulled back in to the seat. The car’s nose is pointing towards the sky. I am sitting quite low, visibility is not the greatest, but the feeling is. The first brake and the first chicane, amazing. Immediately followed by a handbrake and a series of donuts very close to the people. We are in a cloud of tyre smoke. But the driver knows which way to drive.
- UP THE HILL full throttle, screaming car, full brake, handbrake 180. I am feeling very small, lacking any control of the situation, but full of trust.
- DOWN THE HILL back at the donuts, then back to the main straight and in front the people at main stage to do some more donuts. We are in tyre smoke and it’s also in the car. This drive is also in Ott Tänak’s official Instagram feed.
View this post on Instagram
- The car is stopped. I ask what now, he says he will go out for a sec. So he went on the roof of the car to wave at the audience. I also waved from my seat. He comes back in and pushes out the dent from the roof he pushed in. People later said Ott’s comment at this point was “the co-driver is a bit silent” which I probably was indeed. But the mind was loud.
- From here on we went on another round of donuts in front of people with a lot of tyre smoke, car nose towards the sky and towards the ground when braking.
- When we took the final straight when starting to leave for service area was for me the most impressive bit. He pushed, the road was (well maybe it seemed to me) really narrow but still we got speed at the straight, approached the “easy left into corner right” with significant speed and the car was dancing a bit, but still Ott took the sequence very precisely and we slided through the corner right so that “a newspaper would have only fitted between the track borders and car”.
- From there full throttle, full brake, left 180 (handbrake). Somewhere here I let out some sounds of astonishments (like “Hell yea!”).
- And short full throttle again and then brakes and slowly to the service park.
- He asked how was it, I reply it was astonishing. He says again that not much can be done here (giving hints it could be much better).
- I thank, we throw another soul brother handshake and he leaves the car.
- The team untangles me from the mic and the seatbelts which takes a while.
I was a bit puzzled and over excited when I stepped out I think but definitely I was quiet (but still – the mind was racing). Went inside, gave back the helmet and now that the head was getting clearer asked for a picture from one of the team members which I had totally forgotten to take in full gear in the car.
Conclusion of the drive
It is like stepping to another dimension of events that you have not had an imagination of before. It’s fierce – the car pulls, screams, throws, dances, tilts, slides, squeels, vibrates, shakes etc. It’s a powerful and emotional experience and I did not have any other thoughts while sitting in and driving. Totally clears the head.
I am proud to have been awarded such an experience. Here is a selfie with Martin Järveoja who’s seat I was allowed to drive in.
Best of all wishes to the whole team!