Catherine Pattison motoring editor for the Otage Daily Times had the opportunity to work with one of the APRC TV crews at Malaysian Rally…… this is her story
My promotion from janitor to presenter with the (APRC) Asia-Pacific Rally Championship TV team at the Malaysian Rally last weekend, was swiftly accomplished.
I had offered to help out Kiwi camera operators-editors Malcolm Sines and Ben Marshall in return for them ferrying me to the prime action-watching positions.
Before morning light, we left for the palm-tree-punctuated special stages at Kota Tinggi, about 30km from southern city Johor Bahru.
I emptied the car of the multitude of drink bottles needed to sustain a film crew through the steaming heat (coupled with sweat-inducing humidity) and gained my first nom de gaffe after fishing a sanitary towel out of a first-aid kit to wipe a foggy lens.
The job advancement came following the first two tests when the cars were refuelling and I was handed the microphone and asked to come up with the questions.
“Hot enough for you?” was an obvious one as the drivers emerged from 60degC cockpits, stripped their overalls to the waist and plastered themselves in frozen flannels, attempting to bring their soaring body temperatures down.
Rivulets of perspiration running down their faces, former WRC drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae later concurred Malaysia produced the toughest conditions they had ever encountered.
Cue the tropical rain, which hosed down that Saturday afternoon.
The clay-based roads became rivers and tyre grip dissolved from not much to none at all.
There was never a dull moment during the weekend.
A hissing snake reared out of a ditch right where we wanted to set a remote camera on the opening stage; a car speared off into some trees a few hundred metres up the road; speedy camera set-ups were achieved just as the first car’s anti-lag could be heard popping in close proximity.
It’s not a glamorous job. It’s hot, dirty, downright exhausting and involves a lot of rushing between stages, negotiating touring directions on the motorways at breakneck speeds and eating/hydrating on the run.
But there’s an unbeatable thrill in hearing the APRC cars slowly sputter into life at a dark parc ferme (secure parking area) and recording the drivers’ comments, fresh from each bout of action.
You are the first to know who has no brakes, who has lost third and fourth gear and, when there’s a gap out on the stage, who has a mechanical problem or simply crashed out.