Emesis, the arch nemesis of co-driving

You know it, you’ve had it, for this reason or the other. Maybe you were ill, or had few dozen beers too many, but at some point we all experienced that inglorious moment of seeing the contents of your stomach pouring out of your mouth. I know, yeah, not a pretty description and not a pleasant experience, but hey, it’s only natural for humans to do that.

One of the most common causes of vomiting is nausea, itself caused by plethora of things. Among those things there is one not typical to every human being, but extremely annoying if it coincides with your desire to become a rally co-driver. You’ve guessed it – it’s motion sickness, or travel sickness, or sea sickness, or that thing you get when riding in the back seat of the car or in the bus or even while flying.

Without going into all science mode, I’ll briefly explain what causes it – basically, your eyes send signals which are different to what your brain is experiencing from other sensors in your body, mainly the vestibular system and the inner ear. So, if you’re reading a book in a bus your eyes are saying you’re stationary while your brain is receiving constant information telling it your body is moving and muscles need to be engaged to keep the balance. If this condition continues, brain will conclude that one of those information sources is corrupted and will react by launching a defense mechanisms to rid the system of suspected poisons. And voila, your lunch will be launched out of your mouth just because your brain thought that was the best thing to do.

I can testify how annoying and then some this problem can be if you’re trying to do your best as beginner co-driver. For me, full-face helmet was out of the question – and whether this was linked to this particular problem or not, all I could use was traditional “jet” open-face helmet for my co-driving. The same helmet that is being used by one guy who borowed it from me years ago and then never contacted me again. But I digress. Again.

Oddly enough, unless I had full-face helmet, I never had problems in actual rallies, not once. On the other hand, recces were major pain. Especially if you’re able to do more than few runs, and frequently stop or slow down, or even turn around to redo some corners. And all that in a standard car, with no blessing in the shape of bucket seats and racing harness. You need to look up to see the road, then look down to write things as your driver is calling out pace notes, and all that while trying to balance yourself in a standard road car seat. Most I could do before asking for a breather (or just panic stop to eject my meal out) was one stage at a time, depending on the occassion.

I’ve tried all sort of things, pills, tablets, ginger, eat before, not eat before, drink, don’t drink, I even had some supposedly magic pills sent over from UK by my friend co-driver… all that did not help very much. It was standard procedure for me to do a section of road and then either stop and take a rest before moving on (and that only delayed the inevitable) or just keep pushing, then vomit, and after a brief pause carry on doing what I genuinely enjoyed, despite these incidents. I cannot say the same for my drivers, even though they were all very polite and symphatetic.

Apparently there are people that are completely immune to motion sickness, and whether that includes all top co-drivers I have no idea. But the very thought of having just two runs of each stage makes me cringe – you’re not supposed to take breaks or stops or pauses in order for your co-driver to extract the imaginary poisons out of his system. It would be either perma-vomitage for me, or it would most likely be no career (as was the case, but not for this reason).

One of the things I never got a chance to try was doing recce in a proper recce car, with regular competition seats and harnesses, so your body is tightly secured and cannot move, so you don’t have to force your brain into constant struggle of trying to balance against the movement that actually isn’t there according to what your eyes are saying, but is there judging by the info from the vestibular system. Among the things which might help and I haven’t tried were various patches as well as just go and drive the stage and try to keep the steady pace without too many stops and sudden variations in speed, but that kind of defies the main purpose of recce, doesn’t it?

If any of the co-drivers would be willing to share their experiences and whether this particular problem ever bothered them, I’ll be happy to hear them out.