Communication is the most important part of the spotter-driver relationship. It includes hand-signals and verbal commands. When the driver is unable see the spotter, it is quite easy to get confused by voice commands. Go right can mean either the driver’s right or the spotter’s right depending upon where the spotter is facing. So when I said right, the driver had to go to his right and similarly for left. The hand signals are anyway self-explanatory and we finalised the communication protocol in a jiffy.
Spotting is a skill and it develops with experience. That is because depending upon the equipment the rig has, it can tackle the same obstacle in different ways. The course also depends upon the driver’s style and the spotter needs to know his strengths and weaknesses as well. And then, different cars, depending on their shapes and sizes will have to be plotted with different courses.
The gist of being a spotter is in the temperament. The driver might get carried away with all the slipping, sliding and bouncing that the car undergoes, but it is the spotter who is on his feet and has to have his head steady on his shoulders. The trick is to know exactly when to back off and when not to.
For example, the Tata Hexa was quite a handful up the hill-climb. In spite of having a 4x4, it does not get low range and when the rains stir up slush, the otherwise doable hill-climb become the slippery slopes of hell. The best way to tackle this obstacle was to carry the momentum. While I was directing Ameya through the easiest course, he was also fighting with the car. With the wheels spinning all the time, he had to modulate the horsepower using the clutch.
If we would have stuck to our one-go strategy, we would certainly have fried the clutch by the time we were up. So we stopped at spots where the ruts worked as stoppers and let the clutch regain its bite before we headed further.
We were almost near the top and the wheels were spinning frantically trying to find traction. We could clearly smell the burning clutch, but then, I insisted that Ameya keep going at full clip. Eventually, the tyres gripped and we made through. If we would have stopped, the caked tyres might not have been able to hold the 2-tonne Hexa on the hard slope with no rut edges to offer buffer.