Rally is a motorsport, where a two-person crew (driver and co-driver) race on the closed public road, as fast as they can, against the clock. The racing sections are named Special Stages, separated by road sections in between, on which the crew has to respect the traffic limits and other rules as normally in traffic.
Rallying is a battle with time, not only when racing on the Special stage (SS), but also in all other aspects, as a crew has exactly measured time to reach the next time control point / start of the next stage, service zone, time for service and exits. Being late or early results in a time penalty, while multiple violations can also cause disqualification from the event. How does a normal rally event look like? Read below.
We’ve already covered first steps of rallying in our previous article How to start rallying from driver’s perspective, while for co-drivers we discussed about what makes a good co-driver and understanding of pacenotes, so today we’ll skip this and focus more on the mean machines, that these two persons are positioned in… the cars.
Early era, Group 2&3&4
Group 2 (1966-1981): BMW 2002, Ford Capri 2300, Triumph 2000
Group 4 (1973-1983): Lancia Stratos HF, Ford Escort RS1600, Audi Quattro, VW Scirocco, Golf GTI, Autobianchi Abarth A112, Alpine Renault A110, Saab 96, Fiat Abarth 124 Rallye, Opel Kadett Rallye…
Lancia Stratos HF
Alpine Renault A110
Group BThe so called “Golden era of rallying” was introduced in 1982 as a replacement for Group 4. It had only few restrictions, with weight kept as low as possible, no restrictions on boost, resulting in double increase of power from 250hp to more than 500hp until 1986.
Massive power in a low weight cars provided spectacular rallies, so the number of spectators quickly rose as well. But this also proved to be a problem, as lack of crowd control (people standing on the road a second before car arrived) and massive, almost uncontrolable power of the cars caused a series of fatal crashes, with 1986 Tour de Corse and death of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto in a Lancia Delta S4 terminating the Group, as within hours after the crash, the Group B was banned from competing in the following seasons, with Group A becoming a standard for all cars until introduction of WRC regulations in 1997.
Most used cars: Audi Quattro A1,A2,S1; Lancia 037,Delta S4; Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, MG Metro 6R4, Ford RS200…
Audi Quattro S1
Lancia Delta S4
Group SGroup S was a proposed replacement for Group B, with limited engine power to 300hp, only ten cars required for homologation, more focused on prototypes. Group S was cancelled before it even started, after tragic events that caused cancellation of Group B, but until then Lancia had already made a model called ECV, Toyota MR2, Opel Kadett Rallye 4×4 and Lada Samara, while Audi and Ford had also their cars in development. Regulations of Group S were a foundation for introduction of WRC class in 1997.
Modified road cars, often based on turbocharged, four-wheel drive versions, further modified for greater power and torque, with suspension and tyres adjusted to surface of the rally. Group A cars provided better handling and more traction and safety than Group B cars, so the often exceeded the latter, even with much less power. Group A is still used as a basis for most rally competitions.
Most used cars: Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Peugeot 306 Maxi, Toyota Celica, VW Golf GTI, BMW E30, Ford Sierra, Lancia Delta Integrale…
Lancia Delta Integrale
Peugeot 306 Maxi
Group NGroup N was introduced in 1982, to qualify for homologation, a minimum of 2500 cars of the competing model had to be built in one year (this rule applies to newer classes as well) to replace Group 1. The cars were modified road cars, based on turbocharged, four-wheel drive versions, mostly Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Originally, all interior of the car had to be present, but this was later changed to allow removal of non-necessary parts apart from dashboard and door trim. The choice of dampers, ECU and gearbox internals was free, while strengthening of the suspension and body was also allowed, provided this didn’t alter the operating principle.
Group N regulations were replaced by Group R in 2013.
Subaru Impreza WRX
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
Also known as S1600, it includes cars with two-wheel drive, 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine with maximum volume of 1640cc and maximum power output of 230hp.. Standard gearbox is replaced by sequential manual gearbox with maximum 6 forward gear ratios and weight of the car is reduced to a minimum 980kg (920kg if engine with only two valves is used).
Most used cars in S1600 class are: Citroen C2 S1600, Renault Clio S1600, Suzuki Swift S1600, Citroen Saxo S1600, while there are also other models like Ford Puma, Suzuki Ignis, Fiat Punto..
Renault Clio S1600
Citroen C2 S1600
Super 2000Super 2000 or also known as S2000 regulations, were the foundation also for WRC regulations since 2011. Until then, rules for S2000 allowed all-wheel drive, 6-speed sequential gearbox and maximum 2000cc normally aspirated engine. When the rules were revised in 2011 to allow 1600cc turbocharged engines, the use of 2-litre naturally aspirated engines rapidly stopped.
Most used cars: Peugeot 207 S2000, Ford Fiesta S2000, Škoda Fabia S2000, Fiat Grande Punto S2000…
Škoda Fabia S2000
Peugeot 207 S2000
Group R regulations were created in 2012 to replace Group A and Group N and from 2013, no new cars can be homologated as Group A or N car, they are classified by R regulations instead. Group consists of six classes, from R1 to R5, with RGT regulations for GT cars like Porsche 911 GT3 etc.
Most used cars in R2 class are Ford Fiesta R2, Opel Adam R2, Peugeot 208 R2, Škoda Fabia R2 and Citroen C2R2 (Max), while in R3 there are Citroen DS3 R3T and Renault Clio R3(T).
Group R4 is for Group N classics like Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and the last, R5 is mostly represented by Škoda Fabia R5, Ford Fiesta R5, Citroen DS3 R5, Peugeot 208 T16 R5 and newly added Hyundai i20 R5, with a few others announced soon (VW Polo R5, Opel Corsa R5..).
|Class||Engine capacity||Engine type||Fuel||Min. weight||Drivetrain||Can compete in||Example|
|R5||1600cc||Turbocharged||Petrol||1230kg||Four-wheel drive||WRC-2||Citroen DS3 R5|
|R4||2000cc+||Turbocharged||Petrol||1300kg||Four-wheel drive||WRC-2||Subaru Impreza R4|
|R3T||up to 1618cc||Turbocharged||Petrol||1150kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3, JWRC||Citroen DS3 R3T|
|R3C||1600cc to 2000cc||Naturally aspirated||Petrol||1080kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3||Renault Clio R3|
|R3D||up to 2000cc||Supercharged||Diesel||1150kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3||Fiat Punto R3D|
|R2B||1400cc to 1600cc||Naturally aspirated||Petrol||1030kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3||Ford Fiesta R2|
|R2C||1600cc to 2000cc||Naturally aspirated||Petrol||1080kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3||Opel Adam R2|
|R1A||up to 1400cc||Naturally aspirated||Petrol||980kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3||Ford Fiesta R1|
|R1B||1400cc to 1600cc||Naturally aspirated||Petrol||1030kg||Two-wheel drive||WRC-3|
|RGT||no limit||Turbocharged or supercharged||Petrol||/||Two-wheel drive||R-GT Cup||Porsche 911 GT3|
Ford Fiesta R2
Citroen Ds3 R3T
Ford Fiesta R5
WRC regulations started in 1997. First regulations, valid until 2010, allowed up to 2.0l engine, four wheel drive, sequential gearbox, aerodynamic body modifications, weight reduction (to minimum 1230kg), forced induction (including anti-lag) and chassis strengthening, with minimal length of the body – 4000mm. They were fitted with 34mm air restrictor before turbocharger inlet to limit power to around 300hp.
During the years, a few changes were made like ABS, clutch control, paddle shifting and also certain rules about changing parts in attempt to cut costs.
Since 2011, rules became more strict, with smaller model cars (minimal length not defined), with 1600cc direct injection turbo-charged engine with 33mm air restrictor. Rules also forbid the usage of special materials like titanium, magnesium and ceramics, while limiting the usage of carbon fibers. Gear change had to be made with mechanical system, so paddle shifts were forbidden (until 2015) and center differential had to be removed.
2017 marked the so called “return of the Group B” era, with increase of power due to restrictor diameter increase from 33mm to 36mm, which means increasing the same 1.6l turbo engine from 310 to 380hp, decreasing minimal weight by 25kg and allowing more aerodynamic adjustments, while electronic centre differential returned, with front and rear remaining mechanical.
In the first years of WRC regulation, Ford started with Escort WRC, Subaru with Impreza WRC, Toyota with Corolla WRC and shortly afterwards Seat joined with Cordoba WRC, Škoda with Octavia WRC, Hyundai with Accent WRC and Citroen with Xsara WRC.
Until 2010 we’ve seen also Mitsubishi Lancer EVO WRC, Ford Focus WRC, Peugeot 206 WRC and 307WRC, Škoda Fabia WRC, Citroen C4 WRC.
From 2011 the new regulations brought new models, with Ford opting for Fiesta WRC, Citroen DS3 WRC and also Mini joined for a year with special John Cooper Works WRC model. But mostly it was Citroen vs Ford, or better said M-Sport, Malcolm Wilson’s team making Fiesta WRC cars. In 2013, Volkswagen decided to join in with Polo R WRC and a year later Hyundai returned after 13 years of absence, with i20 WRC, while 2017 marked the return of Toyota for the first time in WRC since 1999, with new Yaris WRC.
Citroen Xsara WRC
Peugeot 206 WRC
Ford Focus WRC
VW Polo WRC
How does a rally event look like for crews?
A single rally event can be run in one day or multiple, depending on its length, for example a WRC event with around 300km of SS is usually divided into 3 racing days, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday.
For a crew, everything begins with registration weeks before the rally. After their application is confirmed, they arrive at the administrative checks, where they present their licences and other documentation. After that, they take the car on scrutineering (techinical inspection), where they check if everything complies with the rules specified by FIA, not only on the car, but also if all safety equipment (helmets, HANS, suits, extinguisher etc…) has a valid homologation.
When all is confirmed, the car can be placed in service zone, with the crew usually going to do a recce. Recce is a short for reconnaissance, the part when crews take their regular car and drive through the stages, while obeying the speed limits, as roads are still open for public at that time. Recce is usually done a day or two before rally, sometimes on the same day, once again, depends on its length. Speeding during the recce is penalized and can cause disqualification, if violations are repeated or exceeded.
Each crew has at least two runs on each stage, but usually three, when they write pacenotes. On the first run they write down the corners roughly, on the second they check the input and add details, while on the third, a co-driver reads pacenotes as it will on the rally so they check, if everything is okay. The biggest challenge of the recce is that crews have to anticipate, if they will be able to drive through a corner as they marked it on recce, as their speed on the rally will be quite higher as it was during recce.
Once recce is done, they wait until the start of the rally. Time for final preparations, co-driver writes down pacenotes in more readable font (not enough time on recce to write nicely), the service team gets ready and the fun begins.
First, the ceremonial start. As the name says, a ceremonial procedure, when the cars are driven through a start/finish ramp and crews are presented to the public.
Then the cars return to the service zone and wait for the first special stage (SS). Each car has exactly specified time on when to leave the service zone and when to be on the start of the SS. Being late or early results in time penalty, with multiple violations also disqualification. The co-driver is responsible for timing and guidance to the next stage on road sections. After stage is finished, the crew heads for the next one or in service zone, when there is also precisely measured time on when are they allowed to enter and exit, so how much time do their service team has to fix something. This is usually around 30 or 45 minutes, depending on rally programme, but most of the time, this means busy and nervous time for the guys in the service zone and a bit of rest and recovery for the crew. A driver has to decide on which tires will be fitted for the next run, with the quantity of tires mostly limited, while refueling is allowed only on special spots, usually on the exit from the service.
When the first day is over, the cars head to Parc ferme, a closed parking lot, where they stay overnight and where no service is allowed, before everything repeats on the day 2 and if everything goes right, the crew reaches the finish line of the final stage and the ceremonial finish and trophies are awarded.
For most of the crews this means time to finally relax, breathe, have a deserved beer with guys from the service to say thank you, but selected cars, usually winners of each class, are taken to final scrutineering, where they are checked again, if everything is according to rules or if they replaced certain parts since first scrutineering.
Then they clean the service zone, load up the cars and head home. Not thinking how much money was spent during this weekend, but how much fun did they have. Because that’s why they do it. For fun, for passion. And once you enter, you can’t leave, it holds on to you and you always want more, just one more… Because WE love it.
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Peugeot 206 WRC
VW Polo WRC
Citroen DS3 R3T
Peugeot 207 S2000
Škoda Fabia S2000
Lancer EVO VI
Peugeot 306 Maxi
Lancia Delta Integrale
Audi Quattro S1
Lancia Delta S4