Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A pace note side note

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long time since my last post and it’s great to have some motivation to write a bit more on this blog ! I hope you will enjoy it.

There has been some interesting discussions on this forum from time to time:

Today I’d like to focus on this thread:

Where I asked:

It's a shame that Mads (Ostberg) isn't able to go faster than what he is currently showing. 

It seems to me that he has the gift of driving, and the adequate balls, not even mentioning the experience...and car. 
I have a feeling that his pace notes are not precise enough. I am just looking at his driving and cannot understand his Norwegian notes so not sure...but that's what it looks like to my eye anyway. 

I mean by that:

1. the excessive sideways driving
2. the lack of commitment on specific fast entry corners into dead slow ones (when it's blind only).

In my view these are signs of a good driver who is unsure about EXACTLY what the upcoming corners are like and/or the distances between them (exact racing lines and braking points).

Maybe a bit of coaching would do him good.

That's my two cents.

Any ideas?

What I’d like to do is go over Sebastien Loeb’s pace notes system and share what all that gibberish means in terms of driving (as far as I can understand). For this example we’ll use the first few km of stage 14 from ADAC Rallye Deutschland 2011. This stage is located in the Baumholder military area. There are lots of surface changes, junctions, rough sections, high speed sections, hinkelsteins, etc.

You can find the in-car here:


Droite a fond long et long ciel tout droit

Flat right long (apex far into corner) and long crest keep straight

250 metres gauche 140 moins mi-long pas corde entrée léger gravette sortie

250 m left 140° half-long (apex a bit around the corner) don’t cut at the corner entry and there is light gravel at exit

100 metres attention à la flèche droite 156 ferme 100 mi-long

100 m caution at the sign post (turn arrow) right 150° over 60 m (this means the corner runs for 60 m) tightens to 100° half long

et gauche a fond long

And flat left long

sur droite a fond 100 metres

Onto flat right 100 m

droite 140 plus long fond

Right 140° plus long flat (flat out corner)

et gauche ferme 140 bon long pas corde

And left tightens to 140° ok (good corner although it may look weird from driver’s perspective, this is to prevent him from lifting off) long don’t cut

et droite 140 bon long

And right 140° ok long

et gauche 140 mi-court corde frein pour 60 metres face fleche gauche 100 corde max

And left 140° half-long cut braking over 60m until in front of sign (arrow) left 100° maximum cut

et droite 60 long pas corde

And right 60° don’t cut

sur gauche 80 moins rasé glisse

Onto left 80° minus go very close to inside (there is a rock) slippery

sur droite a fond long tard frein pour gauche 100 mi long 50 metres apres fleche

Onto flat right long late braking for left 100° half long 50 m after sign

et gauche a fond

And flat left

et droite 90 plus tard elargis

And right 90° plus late apex let the car go wide (this means the road is unusually wide and he should use it)

sur gauche ferme 140 moins long

Onto left tightens 140° minus long

sur ciel et attention a la fleche bleue droite 145 bon ferme 130 bon

Onto crest and caution at the blue sign right 140° over 50m then tightens to 130° ok

130 metres gauche 110 mi-long début dalle

130 m left 110° half-long start of concrete slabs (this is useful to know because it's more slippery smooth concrete)

200 metres attention droite 149 bon frein pour gauche 90 mi-long derriere paille

200 m caution right 140° over 90 m ok braking for left 90° half long behind hay bale.

sur droite a fond long

Onto flat right

et attention gauche 110 tres long tard corde legere

And caution left 110° very long until apex small cut

et droite a fond sur gauche 130 plus plus mi-long corde fond ouvre

And flat right onto left 130° plus plus half-long cut then opens flat (flat ou corner)

et droite a fond corde legere sur attention 70 metres gauche 130 moins long tard rail sortie

And flat right small cut over caution 70 m left 130° minus long late (late apex) narrow clean line for wheels only at exit (rail sortie) (this means stay in the clean tracks)

sur droite a fond pas corde sur gauche a fond et attention droite 154 ferme 130 mi-long béton

Onto flat right don’t cut onto flat left and caution right 150° over 40 m tightens to 130° half-long concrete (change to better grip level)

et attention gauche 124 moins frein corde ok pour droite 80

And caution left 120° over 40 m braking cut ok for right 80°

250 metres …

250 m …

There is a lot of detail and sometimes his co-driver has little time to say it all. It gets even worse in twisty mountain roads.  Loeb focuses on describing what the shape of the corners are like. You may think this is elementary!

Oh, but it is not! 

Many do it the other way and rely mainly on speed indications with some description of road conditions and apex location through words like short, half-long, long, very long, etc. Petter Solberg's notes are a good example of speed notes with notes like "5 right minus half-long", 5 being the gear and minus meaning it's a bit lower in rpm's, half-long meaning the apex is a bit around the corner. I know you're gonna say it's pretty straight forward and you don't need me to tell you all of that. Well, you are right and that's exactly my point! In speed note cases it is often straight forward. 

Loeb’s system is primarily descriptive, with sometimes some speed notes. By speed notes I mean “plus” and “minus”, “flat” additions, “brake points”, etc. When necessary he will also give some notes about where to position his car on the road. In this case we are talking about where to be on a blind crest, letting the car run wide on a corner exit, how much to cut, etc.  Others do the same to a certain extent but he puts more effort into describing very precisely the corner combinations, how long corners are in terms of meters and where he should brake! This is paramount information in blind corners. Many top drivers simply don't do that.

You will hear things like "very long 6 Left tightens into 2". Unless the driver has intimate knowledge of the stage this information is simply not enough to be "balls out" in a reliable way. 

You will notice on the in-car footage that a "flat" corner (a fond) for Loeb is only used for corners which have almost zero angle to them (they happen to be flat out, mostly, yes). My point is if he comes out of a dead slow hairpin and into a 90° left he will call that corner a 90 left and not a flat left, even though it's on full acceleration.

For a driver the advantages behind the descriptive system are the following:

1. after getting used to it your brain will automatically understand exactly what is coming up and you will instinctively adjust the speed, even though there are few speed indications. 

2. the descriptive system is independent of weather or road conditions.

3. almost completely independant of your car's performance level.

4. very useful in reduced visibility.

Point n° 1 is a question of work, patience, dedication and understanding but n° 2 & 4 are the real biggies and when rallies have new stages and/or are fought in changing conditions these will really pay off.

I believe that his note system was pivotal in his success. It permitted him to use his skill to the fullest whilst being able to keep the risk taking to a minimum and hence his very limited amount of accidents. It also enabled him to set-up his cars for precision driving and he could focus solely on achieving maximum traction and speed out of corners. 

This guy's driving was in my opinion a dream come true for his engineers.



  1. Please can you explain also these number ° marks on some picture.

    1. give me a moment I will post something up

  2. Nice post!

    I don't speak French at all, so it's very interesting to read what Loebs notes really mean.

    Hope you write more often in this blog :-)

  3. Nice to read a new post on this blog !
    For 0° corners, they also use "gauchi" or "droiti" this is for "gauche insignifiant" or "droite insignifiant" : unimportant left or unimportant right. This is more a descriptive way to define the corner.

    1. Yes ! You are right, I forgot to mention that one. Thanks.

  4. Hi Antony really interesting article.but i have a question.if a driver uses speed notes and the weather conditions differ between the recce and the rally what he can do?for example:5(gear)flat right during the recce,but during the rally the road is dumpy,or full of water,or full of snow-ice(monte carlo),what are the options in that case.


    1. Good point. In my opinion this is a potential down side of speed notes for unexperienced drivers. With enough experience the driver should be able to instantly adjust his speed. That and also the need to know the exact corner shape are the main reasons why my notes were descriptive.

  5. Hey Anthony, fantastic to have you back in your blog! It's great to be able to have access to these kind of things. Please keep it coming!

    I know you've talked before about car setup, but could you please right something a bit more general. What I mean is that you could write saying things like: "if the car's oversteering, then you can make changes to the damper rebump", "if you have understeer, maybe you could have a change in the diffs preload".


    1. Thanks for your comment it's nice to hear you enjoy the posts! I will keep your suggestion in mind. Let me think about something...

  6. very nice post!

  7. Great read Antony! What is your understanding of the 'Plus Plus' note that is been used in some notes now?

    1. Thanks! Plus, plus plus, minus, double minus are usually some speed adjustment indicators. In Loeb's case if he hears "Gauche 130" he'll know what speed he can take it at given the different characteristics of that particular road and the conditions, circumstances, etc. If he hears "Gauche 130 +" it means to him the corner is a bit faster than normal."gauche 130 ++" means one step higher in speed than a single +.

  8. Perfect.... nice article. only found this post today