Motor sport, particularly rallying, can be hard. Really hard.
You’re out there in the elements, be it rain and mud or hot sun and dust. You have to get your car prepared and loaded and unloaded. Consult with the service crew. Petrol, tyres and 500 other things that could go wrong need to be checked. Then you have to drive as fast as you can. Interpret the instructions of you co-driver and turn that information into a really great stage time.
A lot of things to process, calculate and to do.
But what if you can’t hear? At all. Both of you. 100% silence for 100% of the time.
That’s tough. Really tough.
I have been involved in Motor Sport administration with CAMS (which MA used to be called) for a good few years – 45 to be precise. In at least part of that time I managed the Medical Committee of CAMS, where we would occasionally be able to issue a race licence to a racing driver who was void of hearing. As it turns out, hearing is one of the senses which you really do not need to possess in
order to be a good and fast driver.
Same applies to rally driving. You probably don’t need to be able to hear to drive a car fast along a
road. But very few rallies are made of a single road! Then again racing is a one mans game. Rallying is a two person team game. It needs a driver and co-driver. They need to communicate with each
other, as both have critical tasks to perform inside the cockpit which usually means giving and receiving information on approaching road conditions.
Imagine driving a stage where you can’t hear the instructions your co-driver is giving you – and he can’t hear you so you can’t ask him to speak louder.
Yet that’s exactly the situation which Andrew Myers and Chris Storer, the crew of the “No Hear, No Fear Rally Team” face 24 hours a day.
Andrew is an Owner-Builder by trade and has been fascinated by rallying for 38 years. Chris is a Cabinet Maker and they have been mates for longer than they care to remember.
“Chris’ uncle taught us a lot about Datsuns and rallying, which is where we started to get our interest from” Andrew told me the other day. His first attempt at rallying was 29 years ago in a Melton Motor Sport Club rally navigating in a Datsun 1600. Chris was the driver.
“We wrote that car off after a couple of events” he lamented “it was very hard for Chris to focus on the road and our hand signals we used to communicate between us.”
“But then 29 years later we were both back in a car in the Japsport Valley Stages Rally – this time with me as the official driver! It was a difficult event for us, as Chris had to do all the communication in Auslan and then our Terratrip broke during the event and we miscued. Thank God using the RaceSafe mode helped us back onto the right road.”
“I was able to focus my driving and even though we had a few hiccups, we both reckon we managed very well. We don’t have that Terratrip anymore!”
Andrew and Chris each have three beautiful children. They use Auslan and Lipreading to communicate with each other in the car, and no doubt with a few sharp whacks on the legs when Chris needs to get Andrews urgent attention!
“We both learned a lot in that 29 years and after the experiences of the Valley Stages, we are having a crack at the 2022 Locak and Load Alpine Rally of East Gippsland.”
Indeed they are. The major hurdle was to get a start in the full 105 car field. Job done. They may be towards the end of the field, but that does not diminish their enthusiasm, or that of their service crew.
Their car is an interesting one. It’s an ex-Steven Vass full house Datsun 1600 which he used to win the WA Rally Championship in 2019. Some serious work has gone into the sponsors as well as the car and the boys are assisted by Kenway Automotive, Kumho Tyres Australia and a host of other automotive and non-automotive companies, including Auslan Service and Word of Mouth Technology.
Having a car and being able to drive it is one thing, but what about when they arrive at a control?
Andrew says their ability to be able to lip read is essential, and they are both quite proficient at it, plus they are pretty quick at writing messages on their notepad!
“We also show officials the road cards and do a bit of pointing” Andrew confirmed.
The Alpine Organisers have been quick to establish a protocol for all the officials, who will be made aware of the rather unusual communication requirements for Andrew and Chris.
The pair will do well, in an even more difficult than usual Alpine environment.
Chris gets the last say… “We just want all the spectators to use both their hands to wave at us – that’s the same as applause – and deaf people can’t hear clapping…”
Story by Bruce Keys