The View From the Right Seat by Niall Burns – Episode 4 – Blind Rallying

The adventures of world travelling co-driver Niall Burns never cease to amaze!  In this episode he takes us on a fascinating journey into a blind rally.


Episode 4 – The React Blind Rally by Niall Burns

I am currently in South Africa preparing for the upcoming SA Championship series opener here at the Goldfields Rally. Today I took some time away from my preparations to take part in quite a unique event, The React Blind Rally. This event is for blind navigators, who use instructions given to them in braille to navigate their drivers in a regularity aka TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) type event. I was asked to drive on this event by sponsor Andy Haigh Smith and I have to say it was an amazing experience.


My navigator for the event was the local experienced Cairie Van der Vyver. She has 28 years experience competing on these type of events and was quick to get me up to speed on what was expected of me and what the route may be like. We were seeded 29th and once I helped Cairie into the car, a very fancy Toyota Etos, we lined up for the start control. There, 4 minutes before our due time we were handed our time card which was printed in an ordinary style, a clock which is the drivers responsibility to keep an eye on and route instructions which were all done in braille. Cars are released in 2 minute intervals and once you are at the start control, clocks are zero’d and you begin. We started from the Killarney Race Track and Cairie began to read me the instructions to the first control which was north of Cape Town towards Malmsbury.

TSD Braille Notes vs. written
TSD Braille Notes vs. written

I should explain regularity (TSD) type events like these are not about high speed, they are about timing and accurate navigation. Cairie would instruct me to points such as a T junction where I turn left and I must keep a speed of 36kph to our next instruction which may be a speed sign post where I may or may not increase my speed. Our instructions tell us what times we should reach certain controls.  As an example, once we left the start control we should arrive at Time Point One in 4 mins 32 seconds. This means not only must the navigators instructions be spot on but the driver must pay close attention to the speed they travel at.  If we approach these controls early or late there are penalties which count towards our result. The driver must also keep an eye on the clock to make sure we are on time.  On a few occasions today where I mentioned we may be 5 seconds down at an instruction point, Cairie was not shy to tell me to speed up! At controls a marshal will ask for your time card and clock where they will confirm from their instructions if you are on your correct time. The winner is determined by whoever has the least amount of penalties, so you’re essentially trying to get a clean sheet if possible.


After 12 time points and a lot of fun on the back roads of Cape Town we finished a very respectable 27th overall. Cairie did a fantastic job on the navigation, pity about my driving but we have always next year to redeem ourselves, that’s if she’ll ever co-drive for me again! The event is so unique and it’s a real credit to the organizers who do a fantastic job
from getting all the navigators to the venue and providing them with drivers. I would urge any motor club who might have an interest in organizing one of these events to do so. You certainly won’t regret it. I have to say it was one of the most rewarding events I have taken part in and hopefully I will be back for next years event too.
Now it’s back to training and preparations for our rally next weekend and hopefully I’ll be back to answering more of your questions which I have being emailed soon.



You can follow intrepid co-driver Niall Burns’ exploits here at and  at these links:


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3 Thoughts to “The View From the Right Seat by Niall Burns – Episode 4 – Blind Rallying

  1. Wentzel

    thank you for the report. shows the public there is more to disabilkity

  2. Cairie Van der Vyver


    I’m Cairie Van der Vyver and I was Niall’s navigator. I’m so glad that I got this website, because now I can tell you my side of the story. The thing that impressed me so much was that Niall didn’t know Cape town at all and yet, we did so well. We got on really well from the first go. It wasn’t long before we started teasing each other about who’s fault it was if we did badly in the rally. We kept on teasing each other when we reached the halfway mark for a tea and refreshment brake. I will gladly ride with you next year. We make a good team and I just want to thank you for such an enjoyable rally. I hope that something like a rally like this could start in Ireland and other countries in Europe.

  3. Really cool event, thanks for sharing.

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