Established in 1973, the WRC is an epic battle against the elements and the clock. It is spread across 13 rallies, covering six continents and 15 countries. Man and machine must master everything from snow-packed forest tracks in intense cold, to rock-strewn mountain passes in blistering heat.
How a Rally works
Each rally features a number (typically between 15 and 25) of timed sections - known as special stages - on closed roads.
Drivers battle one at a time to complete these stages as quickly as possible, with timing taken to 1/10th second. A co-driver reads detailed pace notes that explain the hazards ahead.
Competitors drive to and from each stage on public roads, observing normal traffic regulations.
The crew which completes all the stages in the shortest cumulative time is the rally winner. WRC points are allocated to the top 10 finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 basis in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
Rallies follow the same basic structure. They start with two days of reconnaissance in which drivers and co-drivers practise the route at limited speed to make pace notes.
The recce is followed by a Thursday morning shakedown, a full-speed test which allows competitors a final opportunity to fine-tune their car’s set-up.
The rally proper starts on Thursday night, usually with a short fan-favourite stage in a stadium or through the streets of the host town.
The competition continues for the next three days, before ending on Sunday lunchtime with the rally-closing Power Stage. This offers bonus points for the fastest five drivers and is broadcast worldwide on television.
Competitors visit the service park at pre-determined times to allow team technicians to perform mechanical work on their cars. There are usually three service sessions in a day:
- An initial 15-minute visit in the morning before the opening stage
- A 40-minute session midway through a day’s competition
- An end-of-day session lasting 45 minutes in which cars are re-prepared for the following day
Service is tightly governed and time penalties are applied if a competitor exceeds the allotted time in service. At the end of each day’s competition, cars are held in a secure parc fermé overnight with no access for team members or competitors.
Outside of the service park, only a driver and co-driver can work on their car, using only tools and spare parts carried onboard.
Penalties are incurred by competitors who arrive late at control points located at, for example, special stage starts and the entrance and exit of the service park.
Competitors who retire due to mechanical issues or accidents may restart the following day, subject to their car being safe to continue. For every special stage missed following retirement, a competitor incurs a 10-minute penalty, to be added to the fastest stage time recorded by a crew in their technical category.