How a rally works
CHASING THE STOP WATCH!
Among the major branches of motor sport rallying is the only one in which there is no direct confrontation. Time is the main adversary as the cars start one after another on the same road at regular intervals. It is both an individual and collective sport as each car is in the hands of a driver and co-driver.
World championship rallies are all run to the same basic almost-identical timetable: they compromise several legs over three or four days at the end of the week.
The event opens with two days’ reconnaissance – in general Tuesday and Wednesday – in ordinary cars to help the drivers/co-drivers find their marks on the roads making up the special stages. On Thursday a final test session called the shakedown is held over a few kilometres on a closed road. The ultimate preparation is a dummy start in the host town the same evening.
A typical day begins with a visit to the service park in which the final adjustments are made within a given time limit. Throughout the route the co-driver must follow a precise timetable, which obliges him/her to check in at each time control within a minute of the ideal time set by the organisation.
After the service park the crew follows a road liaison using the directions in the road book issued by the organiser in which all the distances and direction changes are noted. At the end of this journey in the local traffic during which the traffic laws in force must be respected, the car arrives at the start of the first timed stage. Teams entered for the manufacturers’ world championship set off one by one at two-minute intervals.
This is where the sporting aspect starts. Each crew has only a single aim: namely, to set the fastest time on the stage whose length can vary from a few to some 40 km; it takes place on roads closed to normal traffic. The times are measured by photoelectric cells at the start and finish. Over this route the co-driver reads back to the driver instructions that the latter noted during reconnaissance to guide him in the most efficient manner.
The crews follow another road section to reach the start of the next stage and so it continues. They then return to the service park for the midday technical break. In the morning loop they do three or four stages on average. In the afternoon they cover the same stages again and at the end of the leg they repass by the service park. The route changes every day, but the principle remains the same with a double loop around the town in which the service park is installed.
Each rally must have a Power Stage, a stage televised live on the final day. It counts towards the general classification and additional points are awarded to the first three.
The winner of the rally is the driver who has covered the whole route in the shortest time. The overall classification is established by adding up the times (minutes, seconds and tenths of seconds) set by each crew in the stages taking into account any penalties imposed throughout the rally.