Rallying (international) or rally racing (US) is a form of automobile racing that takes place on normal roads with modified production or specially built road cars.
Subaru Impreza in Monte-Carlo Rally 2005
A rally course consists of a sequence of relatively short (up to about 50 kilometres) timed "special stages" where the actual competition takes place, and untimed "transport stages" where the rally cars must be driven under their own power to the next competitive stage. Rally cars are thus unlike virtually any other top-line racing cars in that they retain the ability to run at normal driving speeds, and indeed are registered for street travel.
In most rallies, including those of the World Rally Championship (WRC), drivers are allowed to run on the tracks of the course. In these reconnaissance drives, the co-drivers, who sit next to the drivers, write down notes on how to drive the course. These "pace notes" are repeated during the actual race, allowing the driver to take the course as fast as possible.
In the past—and until recently in the United States—most rally courses were not allowed to be scanned prior to the race, and the co-drivers used maps supplied by the organisation. The exact route of the rally often remained secret until race day. In 2002, US rules now also allow "course notes", giving much more detail than a typical route book be available to all competitors, but the route still remains secret and there is no reconnaissance.
Because the drivers don't know exactly what's ahead, the lower traction available on dirt roads, and the driving characteristics of small four-wheel-drive cars, the drivers are much less visibly smooth than bitumen circuit racers, regularly sending the car literally flying over bumps, and sliding the cars out of corners. The entertaining nature, and the fact that the vehicles are in some cases closely related to road cars, draws massive spectator interest, especially in Europe, Asia and Oceania.
There are several categories of rally cars. In the FIA World Rally Championship, the cars used are built to World Rally Car specification. Previously Group A and Group B specification machines were used. Group B cars were banned in 1986 due to a heavy number of deaths and injuries among drivers and audience.
A Subaru Impreza WRX competing in a rally.
Rallying is a very popular sport at the "grass roots" of motorsport—that is, motor clubs. Individuals interested in becoming involved in rallying are encouraged to join their local clubs. Club rallies (e.g. Road rallies) are usually run on public roads with an emphasis on navigation and teamwork. These skills are important fundamentals required for anyone who wishes to progress to higher-level events. Additional information about the jargon and rules of rally racing are available through the following links: