Rallying is a motorsport that takes place on roads using modified production or specially built road-legal cars. Rally events do not take place on race circuits with smooth surfaces but on normal public roads with ribbon of pavements, gravel, dirt, and everything in between. It is a motorsport that uses real cars on real roads driven at extreme rates of speed.
History of Rallying
The term rally began with the Monte Carlo Rally which was held in January 1991, but rallying itself can be traced back to the 1894 Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition sponsored by Le Petit Journal. It had attracted a lot of interest and foreshown the start of this very popular motorsport. The Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition led to a period of city-to-city road races in European countries and one of those was the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Rally of July 1895. This race was won by Emile Levassor with the time of 48 hours and 48 minutes for the 732-mile course which was an amazing average speed of 15 miles per hour.
After 8 years, there was the Paris-Madrid race where Mors Fernand Gabriel won in just under five and quarter hours for 342 miles at an average speed of 65.3 miles per hour. During this time, the speed of cars used in racing exceeded safety resulting to many injuries and even deaths. That’s why in 1903, the French government stopped and banned the races due to safety reasons.
Though it was banned in many parts of Europe, road racing continued in Italy and the first ever motorcar race was held in 1897 along the shores of Lake Maggiore.
In April 1900, the Thousand Mile Trail was organized in Great Britain. About 70 cars took part in this event and most of them were sponsored by trade organizations. There were 13 stages to complete and each route varied in length from 43 to 123 miles. The legal average speed limit was up to 12 miles per hour.
France got back in the race in 1905 when L’Auto sponsored the Coupe de l’Auto for small sporters. But when the World War came, it brought a slowdown to rally racing.
The Monte Carlo Rally was terminated during the war but it was subsequently brought back and it continued to thrive. In the 1930’s, it became the number one European rally.
From the 1920’s to 1973, many rallies emerged and they were run through the Alps in Austria, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany.
The 1950’s was the Golden Age of long-distance road rally and part of these were the Monte Carlo Rally, the French and Austrian Alpines, and the Lige, together with a host of new events.
As the years pass, the rallies became more difficult and dangerous. But it continued to grow and today, rally racing events are being held not just in Europe but all over the world.
Types of Rally
Rally racing has two main forms which are stage rallies and road rallies.
- Stage Rallies: These rallies are the predominant type of professional rallies performed since the 1960’s. Stage rallies are based on a straightforward speed over roads that are closed to other traffic. These roads can be asphalted, rough forest tracks, desert sand, or snow.
- Road Rallies: These rallies are the original form of rallying. They are held on highways that are open to normal traffic. In road rallies, the focus is on accurate time keeping, navigation, and vehicle reliability and not on speed.
Rally Championship Points
In rally championships, just like other forms of motorsports, points are tallied for both driver and team at every event. The winning driver earns 25 points, the second placer earns 18 points, then down on the order. The 10th placer earns only one point.
There is also an additional Single Power Stage where additional 3, 2, and 1 point are given to the top three finishers. This additional stage is often short and fast.
In the 1950’s most of the rally drivers were amateur and they are only paid a little, sometimes nothing. In 1960, the first rallying superstar, and also one of the first drivers to be paid full-time was Erick Carlsson from Sweden. In the same year, Stuart Turner, the competitions manager of BMC hired brave and skilled young drivers. Their skills were improved through highly competitive gravel and snow rallies in their country making them professional rally drivers. Today, a World Champion in rallying can be a driver from any nation.
World Rally Car
The World Rally Car is a racing automobile that was built according to the specifications of the FIA, which is the motorsports governing body. These specifications were introduced in 1997.
From 1997 to 2010, it was stated in the regulations that World Rally Cars should be built upon a production car. The minimum production run was 2500 units. Modifications can be made such as increasing the engine displacement up to 2.0L, addition of four-wheel drive, and weight reduction to a minimum of 1230 kg.
From 2011 to 2016, the rules for WRC cars changed and became more restrictive. The cars became smaller with a 1.6L direct turbo-charged engine with a 33mm air restrictor and a maximum pressure of 2.5 bar absolute. Exotic materials such as titanium, magnesium, composite, and ceramics were also forbidden except when they are present in the base model.
In 2017, the 1.6L turbo-charged engine was retained however, the diameter of the turbo restrictor was increased from 33mm to 36mm. The manufacturers were also given freedom to maximize the cars’ aerodynamics and brakes. They also allowed the use of electrically-controlled active center differentials but the front and rear differentials should remain mechanical.
Rallying is truly an amazing motorsport. As the automobile industry advances, there will surely be more rally racing events all over the world that we can look forward to.