A DiRTy debrief: interview with DiRT 4 Rally School Tutor and Co-Driver voice, Jen Horsey
As you may have seen, a familiar face (or voice, to be more accurate!) is returning to the DiRT franchise in the form of the awesome Jen Horsey! We’re absolutely thrilled to have Jen back on board for the fourth instalment of our numbered series – she’s such an asset to the game, and we’re super proud to have her involved.
We were lucky enough to steal a bit of Jen’s time ahead of her hitting DirtFish Rally School for an event – so naturally, we quizzed her about what’s she’s doing there, her involvement with DiRT 4, and what she has lined up for the rest of the season. Don’t just take this interview’s word for it though – head over to Jen’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts to keep up with her motorsport-related globe-trotting. Enjoy!
Hi Jen! So, you’re at DirtFish at the moment… tell us a little more about why you’re here.
I’m going to get a chance to do some driving! Although we sometimes joke in the rally car that co-drivers are the brains of the operation while drivers are just the “hands and feet,” it’s fantastic for a co-driver to get a turn behind the wheel now and then. I drove my own car for a few years, and even though I’m a much better co-driver and coach than I am a driver, I miss getting a chance to sling it sideways. And I also find it makes me a better co-driver because I understand what’s going on for the driver and I’m better able to deliver the information he or she needs, when it’s needed. I’m here at DirtFish with my friend, American radio host and driver Jim Beaver, who’s brought together some of his friends and sponsors for a special session.
DirtFish Rally School features in the new game, DiRT 4 – why’s it such a good place to learn how to drive?
Rally driving is a unique skill: you’re dealing with a whole bunch of variables in a rally scenario that you wouldn’t find at a race track. For one thing, we race in every kind of weather and on every imaginable surface. We also put a lot of value on the teamwork between driver and co-driver. And those are skills that are best learned in a closed environment that safely simulates real-world conditions and is unpredictable, in one sense, but also creates repeatable scenarios so you can learn and develop your abilities. That’s what DirtFish is and it’s a fantastic rally playground.
And this isn’t your first DiRT game either! Where else might our fans recognise your voice from?
I was in DiRT 3 as one of the co-drivers, too. Calling notes for so many stages in the game was a really fun experience. I’ve also done some TV — as a reporter and commentator, mostly on ESPN and ABC back when Rally Car Racing was an X Games discipline.
So, in terms of the voice-over recording: how did you record your parts for DiRT 4, and how did it differ to when you recorded your VO for DiRT 3?
Last time, I did the voiceover session remotely, from Toronto where I happened to be at the time, and I had a game designer on a phone line from the UK coaching me through it. We recorded all of the stages in the game, call by call. There were a lot! My script was as fat as a phone book! I remember we jammed through them all really fast, though, and the engineer in the studio said we set a record for number of lines recorded in one day. That was funny to me, since it’s a lot easier to record rally calls in a studio with a cup of tea in hand than it is in a rally car going 100 mph over bumps and jumps and with trees a few inches from your window! The weird thing was that I didn’t see any of the stages until the game was finished so I was calling them all completely blind.
This time was a lot different. In January, I flew to England so that I could do the recording at Codemasters using the high-tech game simulator. You can hear in my voice that I’m actually bumping down stage roads in the game while I’m making calls because I’m belted into a gaming rig and riding along in a virtual car. I don’t think anybody’s ever done something like that before and it shows a real commitment to making it real for the player. I still haven’t seen all the stages in the game, though, because nobody can! The team at Codemasters has figured out a way build an almost infinite number of stages on the fly and I’m going to be able to call them all for you – just like we made our own notes together. The technology preview I got when I was there makes me really excited to see the game when it’s released.
What’s your favourite bit of the game?
I love the variety of cars and stages you get to drive. There are some real classics in there. And I’m looking forward to trying my hand at some of the other disciplines that I’ve never tried in real life. I can vouch for how realistic the game physics are for rally, so I know I’ll learn a thing or two when I hop into something like a Landrush buggy.
Who’s your co-driver when you play?
Not me! I actually like to have Nicky Grist in my ear when I’m playing the game because when I’ve got myself in my own ears it’s kind of like hearing myself in stereo — it’s really distracting to hear “Left Four!” and then to hear myself think — in the same voice: “OK, so my co-driver says that’s a Left Four coming up, I need to whoa it down a little for that!” It’s a meta-rabbit hole and… I just can’t. Thanks for being an awesome co-driver, Nicky! Hope I can return the favor for you!
We know you’re at DirtFish now, but what’s on the schedule for the rest of the year?
I don’t have a fulltime competition schedule these days but I still work in racing and I’m lucky in that I get to sample a bunch of different motorsport! I wish there were more weekends in a year because I run out of time before I run out of races to attend for sure. So far, I’m planning to be at the full Global Rallycross season here in the USA, a handful of off-road races – starting with the Mint 400 in a couple of weeks here — some Formula Drift events, hopefully a World RX race or two, and I hope I can co-drive a few events too. They’re starting to put UTV classes in a few smaller rallies near where I am, which opens doors for an easy, low-cost weekend with friends and so I can imagine a few of us former X Games competitors squaring off for fun at a regional sometime this year.
I also hope I can return to the Rebelle Rally this fall, which is a really fun all-female off-road race a former rally teammate and I did last year across Nevada, Arizona and California: they chuck you into the desert for 10 days with a map and compass and task you with finding hidden checkpoints — which is a whole different kind of challenge for a co-driver, and a whole new landscape for me to explore!