We know that in Australia it is very tough to be a full-time co-driver, but it seems you are one of a select few, why do you think you are in that position?
Tough, question. Rather than comparing myself to others, I prefer to work at doing the best job I possibly can with the idea that others will see value in what I provide. To me I don’t “call notes” full time, so much as help drivers and teams fast track their learning, while helping them avoid some of the common pit-falls.
Smoothline Stage Notes is your full-time job, what’s involved with running a business writing pacenotes?
Running a pacenote business takes a lot more than just being able to write notes. We’ve become successful through listening to each sector of the rally community and producing products tailored directly to their needs.
Why did you start rallying?
I met some guys at a party one night who were into it and It seemed like a cool thing to do. I spectated a couple of local events then started servicing for one of the guys I’d met. A year or so later came the chance to navigate for a mate who was starting out, and the rest is history. From 2km into my first stage I knew what I wanted to spend the rest of my life working at.
Do you have any heroes in life and motorsport?
There are quite a number of guys I look up to for all sorts of reasons. One of my core beliefs is that there are no boundaries in life aside from those we impose on ourselves. I take inspiration from anyone who’s pushed the limits of what they do beyond what those around them would dare to dream about. One of my good friends became a “partial quadriplegic” at a young age as a passenger in a car accident. 30 years on he co-ordinates much of the Finke Desert Race and runs 4WD tours in the most remote corners of Australia, all from the driver’s seat of his heavily-adapted vehicles or an electric wheel chair. My book case is full of stories of people who have climbed crazy mountains, built unheard-of businesses or escaped insane hardships in third world countries, only to devote their lives to helping others do the same.
Do you have a favourite rally?
Singling one event out is hard. If I can give 3, they would be the Bega Valley Rally (in its old format with all the shire roads included), Rally SA and Targa Tasmania. The common thread is that these are very fast, flowing, technical and tricky events where those who refine their craft to the extreme will stand out, and those who think going fast is about “pushing a bit harder” sometimes show their cards. Interestingly I’ve had both successes and huge crashes in each of these events.
Is there a particular rally you would love to take home the cutlery?
My most cherished victories have been at rallies where we had to dig incredibly deep to overcome a seemingly insurmountable situation and come out on top. For me it’s not so much about the status of an event but how hard we had to work to win.
What other motorsports are you interested in?
My main passions are speed and the outdoors. Rallying is a great blend of these, but so are cross-country rallies, off-roading and “outback challenge” style events. Given the opportunity I’d love to add Endurance/Raid events to my calendar. The Australian Safari and The Dakar are certainly on my bucket list!
Have you ever thought about swapping the pacenotes with the steering wheel and driving?
I’ve spent time in both seats, but sold my gravel car when I left my full time job in 2006 to pursue co-driving properly (despite the 12-13 weeks a year leave I was allowed at the time). I’ve never driven a tarmac rally and would love to do that one day. I’m not sure I would give up wither seat for the other, but I saw an opportunity to complete at the highest level as a co-driver and thought it was worth putting the steering wheel to the side to take that opportunity up.
What’s been your worst day at the office?
There are 2 seasons that qualify as my worst “day in the office”. The first was 2001 where I competed in 10 events of varying disciplines and came away with 8 DNF”s, 1 DNS and missed 5 stages of Targa Tasmania. The second was in 2009/10 where I had the 3 biggest accidents of my career in a 6 month period, all with different drivers. Needless to say I did a good amount of re-evaluation after each one, but it’s those lows that have made the champagne taste so good at other times!
So tell us what’s it really like sitting next to Mr Patton? Be brutally honest.
Is he here? Just kidding, he’s a dream to work with! The enjoyment in sitting beside Mick comes from his un-wavering determination to improve and his absolute lack of resistance to question himself and how he does things. I’ve met very few people who strive so hard to achieve the impossible and this is reflected in the corporate support he receives and the steepness of his improvement curve.