In the moment: Catching air in a WRC Citroen DS3 | CAR Magazine

In the moment: Catching air in a WRC Citroen DS3

Published: 13 September 2016

► Kris Meeke’s guide to jumping a WRC car
► How to deal with getting air at 120mph…
 … and putting a car down withour wrecking it

1) Pre-flight checks

‘There are certain rallies where [jumping] happens more often. You know from doing your recce beforehand where there’s going to be a jump – but there are some that catch you by surprise, and they’re the ones that probably give you the biggest fright. The big thing is knowing what speed you can hit the jump at and get away with it.’

2) Approach

‘The biggest adrenaline rush is that split-second before you take off, because it’s completely blind, you’re jumping into fresh air. You hope you’ve positioned the car correctly – because obviously the steering doesn’t work in mid-air. So once you’ve committed to it, that’s it, you have to stick to what your ambition has said you can do.’

3) Take-off

‘You can change the trajectory of the car on take-off. If you touch the brakes just as you’re going out over the jump the car’ll nosedive and you land heavily on the front. If you brake too early and you accelerate out of the jump the car can nearly wheelie dip down at the rear. The perfect way is to try to get a neutral flight.’

4) Flight time

‘There’s jumps we’ve done that are 45-50m long and 110-120mph, so it does go on quite a bit. There’s one train of thought that [says] you aren’t accelerating when you’re in the air, so you don’t want to be in the air that long. But if you slow down too much you’re losing too much speed, so it’s a fine balance.’

5) Touch down

‘The technology in the suspension of WRC cars is incredible, so the landing is often quite gentle, even though you’re coming down from a great height at a great speed. [But] the ones that catch you by surprise really are a moment. Last year on Rally Poland I nearly landed on the co-driver’s door. Luckily it came back.’

6) Every inch counts

‘It can get complicated. If you take off six inches off-line you can land metres from where you thought, and that means you’re off the road. You can’t really compute it – it’s pure experience. On the recce we’re limited to 60-70km/h in a normal road car, so we have to decide then in our pace notes what we’re going to do.’ 

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By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first