Thursday 21 November 2019

'My main focus is World RX because it's just so good' - Andrew Coley.

Andrew Coley talking to Timur Timerzyanov
MEEGGGAA…. A word that can have a variety of meanings, but it is also a word that is often used by the voice of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and it is also a word that describes the man himself – Andrew Coley.

Andrew Coley is a motorsport commentator and presenter hailing from East Sussex in England. He joined the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014, as the official presenter and lead commentator.

Coley is arguably one of the great motorsport commentators of the 21st century. While Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Ben Edwards or even Jack Nicholls, etc. are great commentators, but none of them can truly match Andrew Coley’s passion and enthusiasm for the sport. Most lead commentators live the sport through media reports and come along as book smart individuals, with experts to support them in the commentary box. 
World Rallycross Commentary team: Andrew Coley (left) and Dan Rooke (right)
PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Coley.

Coming from a motorsport/rally background, Coley’s knowledge about rallycross is reflected in his commentary. But it’s important to never forget that behind every commentator there is a hard-working team. This is no different in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. They say: ‘Dynamite comes in small packages’. Well, that statement is 100% true. The team behind the scenes is relatively small compared to other motorsport series, but they produce an incredible product for the fans.

In addition to the production team, Neil Cole and Laura Winter are on the ground with live interviews minutes before and after a race. While Dan Rooke, an experience rallycross driver joins Coley in the commentary box. 

Rooke and Coley…. Are a match made in heaven! Coley has a high-intensity style of commentary, while Rooke has a calmer approach which works remarkably well. 

Rooke is a great addition to the commentary team and is able to notice anything that Coley might have missed, which adds to the broadcast. He also has great technical knowledge that can provide better insight for the viewer.  

ANTI-LAG on… Ready to Race lights are on… and it’s go, go, go…. Let’s get to know Andrew Coley a bit more. 

Junaid Samodien: Where did it begin for you? How did you get involved in motorsport?

Andrew Coley: I used to watch the Formula 1 with my dad when I was a kid, and then my mom and dad took me to watch rallycross at Brands Hatch when Will Gollop was the European champion. Then we started watching some rallies. I used to race radio-controlled cars, as a kid – I loved it!

Then finally I went to rally school for my nineteenth birthday and drove a Mk2 Ford Escort. I have never driven a rear-wheel-drive car before and I just loved it. I fell in love with driving a car on loose surfaces and I wanted to compete, I said to the instructors: ‘I am really serious, I don’t want the you did really well. I want to know if I am any good or not.’ They said: You are and you need to practice, but you have good natural talent behind the wheel. So, I bought a Vauxhall Nova rally car and went to regional rallies. This is where it all started.

Just competing in the airfield rallies or rallies on military landing and other events in the South East of England - I did that for two or three years trying to move up the ranks which we did. We got up to National Level. 

Andrew Coley piloting his Vauxhall Nova 1.6 rally car.
PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Coley.
JS: Having made the transition to commentary. Would you ever consider returning to competitive racing?

AC: I’d love to, but its money. It’s so expensive and I think if someone else wants to pay for it, I am more than happy to have another go. I am very lucky; I very occasionally get to do a rallycross race and I am very grateful for that. It’s an expensive sport at all levels. Yes, I’d love to be back behind the wheel. If I won the lottery, I’d quit commentating immediately and join the World Rallycross Championship.

JS: Is there any series you’ve ever considered commentating on?

AC: Prior to World Rallycross, I commentated on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) with Kris Meeke and Guy Wilkes. I commentated on Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – I did that for many years. I did the Goodwood Festival of Speed, but at the moment I am focused mostly on Rallycross. I try to fill my calendar with rallycross first of all. You know then after that the little jobs come in and you can slot those in, but my main focus is the World Rallycross Championship because it’s just so good. 

JS: If you could have anyone as your co-commentator. Who would it be and why?

AC: First of all, Dan (Rooke) has done a brilliant job. 

As a guest, I would love to have Kenneth Hansen [14-time European Rallycross Champion]. I think he would be great – to be fair Andreas Bakkerud would be a brilliant co-commentator, I think Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen as well. To be honest with you, you know who the good talkers are from watching the TV and who doesn’t enjoy talking quite so much. So, you take the best drivers in World Rallycross Championship and if they are not competing I’d love to have them as a co-commentator. I would also like to try a spotter as a co-commentator because I think it would bring a different dimension to the sport.

JS: Would you rather consider a rallycross driver, spotter etc. as a commentator rather than someone outside the sport?

AC: Absolutely, it should be someone in the sport. It’s my job to be the hype man and it’s their job to be the expert. You know.. I am the guy that should get excited and they should be the guy that tells me why I am excited. A lot of the time I know the answer to the question, but the point is that the viewers and fans like to hear it from the expert driver and that is the way it should be. 

[Coley's voice] “look at that everyone smashed in the first corner my goodness me.. Dan, why have they smashed into each other at the first corner?” And, he tells you why. I tell you what and he tells you why. 

I think if you have two lead commentators then you have two people desperate for the air time and crashing into each other, and if you have two drivers it goes too analytical and you don’t get the passion. You have your hype man and your expert. Kenneth would be great because obviously, he’s the most successful rallycross driver. He’s super calm as well he’d be the total opposite to me. 

JS: What are your thoughts on Projekt E having climbed onboard the Ford Fiesta launched in Latvia. Do you think fans will embrace the change?

AC: Projekt E will be the support category for the World Rallycross Championship. So, the main category will be even faster, and at the moment the Projekt E cars are as fast as the Supercars now. 

So, the issue that all-electric motorsport has at the moment is noise. Up until now, all motorsport fans are passionate about noise and they are not going to be that passionate about something that is quiet because that is human nature. People don’t like change, but it is the future of transportation and if you look back at it in 50 or 60 years from now, you would have kids who are saying: ‘God, weren’t old cars noisy.’ It’s the same way that when we look at a steam engine and say that it’s too slow. At that time it was cutting edge, and at the minute these are the fastest two-litre turbocharged engines in the world and they make incredible noise and I love anti-lag and I will miss it. But if you want the best drivers in the world and the best manufacturers in the world and you want them all competing at the highest level. 

The manufacturers are not interested in petrol and diesel engines they are only interested in electric at the moment, so that is the way the championship is looking to go. Time will tell! I say it to all the fans who ask me: “If you made all motorsport electric right now and everyone went electric for 2020. What would be the best one to watch?” And, the universal answer is Rallycross. It’s short and sharp. We are still going to start with five in a line, we are still going to have contact into turn one, we are still going to be sideways in the dirt, and we are still going to do the jumps. If you take the noise away from any of the others, then I think you take away 50% of the spectacle. I think the noise actually is only 20% of that [in Rallycross].  

JS: You have visited a number of Rallycross tracks globally. Would you draw/design your ideal Rallycross track?

The Andrew Coley rallycross track has a 60%/40% split between asphalt and gravel. It's a fast-flowing track with three jumps, including the iconic Nitro RX jump (concept), with a tight loop section that heads under the jump followed by a fast curved section before reaching the third jump and ending off the lap with a Spa-Francorchamps styled gravel/joker section. A true driver's track!  

Liam Doran offered his opinion on Andrew Coley’s Rallycross track design: “This is sick!”

A very special 'Thank You' to Andrew Coley for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us.

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron [PedalFest SA]
Circuit drawn by - Andrew Coley
Pictures By - Andrew Coley/FIA World RX Media

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