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The Adventure of Rallying: An Interview with Tim Coronel

Conducted by Isabel Brito, Written by Arriana Rivera, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina

Tim Coronel and Tom Coronel during the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru; Image Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Tim Coronel is a Dutch racing driver and entrepreneur renowned for his participation in a number of motorsport events, such as circuit and rally racing. Alongside his twin brother Tom Coronel, they have competed in races such as the Dakar Rally, where the duo were acknowledged for their abilities in off-road racing.

This chat dives into how rallying, for him, is  “an adventure where you have to conquer.”  Coronel talks through the technical challenges a team faces during a typical race weekend. He also shares his perspectives on rally car racing and how he sees himself doing it for a long time. 

Isabel Brito: How did you get started in rallying?

Tim Coronel: In 2006, a friend of mine came over and said: “Why don't you go for rallying?” And then in 2007, I just started it together with my girlfriend.

IB: At the time when your friend suggested that you go into rallying, what was going through your mind?

TC: I always like challenges. In racing, I [felt as if] it didn't have challenges anymore. I had done everything except Formula One. So I thought, “No, let's do this and try to see if we can do this also in the right way.” So we just did it.

IB: Did you ever want to start in Formula One?

TC:  No, no, it was never my ambition to be honest. 

Tim Coronel (L) presents the Greenchoice Forze hydrogen car to the press on August 11, 2008 in Delft, south of the Hague; Image credit: ED OUDENAARDEN/AFP via Getty Images

Coronel has been racing since 1994 in different classes including touring cars, formula cars, and the German Formula Three Championship.  He became the 2005 GT3 racing champion with the Porsche European Championship in the Alfa 147 GTA plus.

IB: Was car rallying always something you wanted to do?

TC:  At that point when I did it in 2007, I just got more in love with all the challenges there are in the rally. With racing, you know what is there at the next corner. You know the tarmac and every millimeter of the track. With rallying, you don't know what's behind the dune or the hill or [what obstacles there are] after 100 meters. What you see is what you get. 

And that's why I fell in love with rallying.

Also, you have to survive and I love that part. It's not only racing, it's also an adventure. And in the adventure, you have to conquer. 

Tim Coronel driving during Dakar 2016; Image Credit: VI Images via Getty Images

IB: Does it scare you? All the risks that come with rallying?

TC: Yeah, there's a lot more risk, of course. And that makes it more challenging.

IB: What do you think differentiates car rallying from other racing series?

TC:  You have to be with that car, you need to feel the car. You need to feel the environment. If you do like 75% effort, it's already 110% because there are so many challenges. That's what you see with the experienced guys. They usually always win because they know what's behind.

You also cannot go for 100% flat out. That's too much risk you take. All the time it’s balancing all the risks, feeling the environment and feeling the car. 

IB: You talk a lot about challenges. What would you say are the top three challenges in rallying? 

TC: What's behind the dune, what's the next 100 m, and how steep will it go?

When asked about what rallying is for people who are new to the sport, Coronel talked about what needs to be conquered to get from point A to point B in the sport. “You have to conquer mountains.

You have to conquer the woods, the water, and the stones. You have to conquer big cities because you cannot do it in a straight line.”

He emphasises the importance of balancing tyres in the sport. According to him, the prices are at the finish, not at the next weight point. “If you go too fast on the big stones, you get a lot of flat tyres and if you have too many flat tires, you only have two tyres with you.” 

Image Credit : Dan Istitene/Getty Images

“The cars always go sideways on the dune, never go straight. If you go straight, the front wheels are in the air. But you don't want that, you only want one wheel in the air, the other one is on hitting the dune and you always keep traction.”

IB: You've been racing with your twin brother for a few years. What has that experience been like?

TC: Yeah, it's really nice because we know each other so well. And of course there are some irritations if you know each other that well. But you need to have trust, that's important. 

IB: What made you enter with your brother in the first place?

TC: I did it alone for seven years and then after five years alone, I said I had the opportunity to buy an extra car. So I called Tom, and I said, “Hey, we can do it together. Shall we do this adventure together?” And we make each other the promise that if we both make it to the finish, we would do a new project.

IB: He had an adjustment from touring car racing to rally. How did you help him go through that?

TC: He still has a hard time with that but he's doing well. With rallying, you have to be patient. It's the same as in F1. They also need to make a lap a little bit slower because otherwise they burn their tyres. And if you push it all the time, you burn your tyres, your differential, your engine and everything. So, sometimes you just need to balance it and with rallying, you're all the time balancing that part. How difficult I still have to learn that. That's for sure.

IB: How difficult is it? Reading a road map while driving?

TC: When you are together, you have more details because you have more time to listen and to be [aware] with it. And if you drive alone, you look at the picture, you absorb the picture and that's it. Because you have to look at the scenery as quickly as possible because if there's a stone, yeah. Bang, you burn your tyre. 

IB: When you are driving together, have you ever had a huge fight?

TC: Of course, sometimes you [fight] for a few seconds, but you have to continue. So, yeah, a driver has to listen. 

Tim Coronel and Tom Coronel greet the crowd during the start of the 41st edition of the Dakar Rally in Peru; Image Credit: Sebastian Castaneda/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

IB: Now that you've been rallying for such a long time, have you ever thought about retiring any time soon?

TC: No, for sure not. That's the funny thing about that car and this adventure. You can do it for a long, long, long, long time and you still get the rush from racing. 

IB: What does that feel like?

TC: It gives me more than racing [in] other cars. I do endurance racing and some sprint racing in the BMWs here in Holland, but it doesn't give me that feeling that I have with [rallying] because with that it's an adventure. You're more busy with the whole team than only with yourself.

IB: Yeah, that's interesting. My last question is, what do you do after the stage?

TC:  Most of the time, I discuss with my chief mechanic about how the route was, where the possibilities are that the car had some pain because sometimes you [ended up] hit a bump or something on the left, right or on the back of the car. 

We [would] also check if we hear different noises with the car. Then, I always take a little bite and then clean everything off the car. Then, I go to sleep.

Coronel happens to have a namesake YouTube channel where he usually documents his races with his twin brother in-depth from a point of view of the cockpit, accompanied by team radios. This channel is a good starting point for learning more about the motorsport. 

Tim and Tom Coronel took part in the recently-concluded 2024 Dakar Rally, finishing a career-best 22nd on the final leaderboard, driving for their own team, piloting a Century SR6 machine to this result.

The team at DIVEBOMB would like to wish Tim all the best on his future endeavours, including many more Dakar rallies in the future.


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