In 2024, the WRC, as usual in recent years, will be decided in 13 events. With two changes since last year, where Poland replaces Mexico and swaps places with the Safari Rally, making it the third event of the year after Sweden. Also, Latvia replaces Estonia. Otherwise, it’s the same as in 2023. And, of course, we are most looking forward to magical duels in the winter landscape of Västerbotten – Rally Sweden.
December 07, 2023Text: Rolf Harju
Challenged by each other and the elements
Drivers, cars, and teams compete not only against each other but also against extreme climates and challenging road conditions. An ultimate challenge where the most complete driver, the most durable cars, and the best team emerge as winners. But how does it work? Here, we clarify some concepts for those new to the sport.
Each rally, event, consists of 15–25 special stages. They drive on closed roads, where the goal is to get from start to finish as quickly as possible. Each driver drives individually with their co-driver, who, through their “notes”, tells the driver about the upcoming road conditions. The best time wins the stage, and the times from all stages are combined to determine an overall winner.
The competitions start with a Shakedown – a full-speed test on a stage similar to the competition stages, before the start. Here, drivers have the chance to feel the surface and characteristics. And the teams can adjust the cars to perform optimally in the current conditions. As a spectator, it’s a bonus where you can see your favorites in full speed several times before the actual competition begins.
The special stages vary from a couple of kilometres to a few miles and are run individually. The prioritized top WRC drivers (Rally1 cars) start with three-minute intervals. Rally2 cars and Rally3 cars start with one-minute intervals.
On Friday, the overall leader in WRC starts first, and so on. The two final days (Saturday and Sunday) have all WRC cars starting in reverse order after the overall standings from the previous competition day. The one at the bottom starts first, and the leader starts last among WRC cars. For Rally Sweden, the final result of the Monte Carlo Rally determines the starting order on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Between special stages, they drive on regular roads and follow traffic rules. However, they have a strict schedule to follow to avoid time penalties.
A competitor who breaks a special stage has the opportunity to restart the next day. They can continue and participate in the competition, even if they have broken one or more stages. They receive a time penalty for each stage they have not completed.
On the final stage of the competition, broadcast live worldwide, extra WRC points are awarded to the five fastest in the WRC class to increase excitement. In WRC, the one with the best time on the last stage gets 5 points, the second gets 4 points, the third gets 3 points, the fourth gets 2 points, and the fifth gets 1 point.
During the competition, the servicing of cars is strictly regulated. Mechanics can only work on cars during scheduled periods of 15, 30, or 45 minutes. In between, only the driver and co-driver can touch, work on, and repair the cars. At night, the cars are stored in a special parking lot securely guarded for both their own teams and other interested parties.
In Umeå, you will find the service area at the exhibition area Nolia, just like The Red Barn Arena, in close proximity to Umeå city centre. Here, you can visit the teams’ facilities, see the servicing, and if you’re lucky, maybe exchange a word or two with your favourite driver.
It’s not only the drivers who compete; the car manufacturers/brands also fight for the world championship title. The total points accumulated by the “teams” are counted here. Each team can enter three drivers in the same manufacturer’s team for each rally, event, but only the two best results count.
They compete with Rally2-specification cars (previously R5). Just like in WRC, an individual winner and a team winner are determined. Teams can accumulate points from all events, while drivers can only count points from seven pre-nominated events. They can participate in more but won’t receive any individual points from them.
A class intended for private drivers and teams who have bought or rented their Rally3 cars from manufacturers (currently only Ford). This is a new class with four-wheel-drive cars that have smaller engines than the Rally2 cars in WRC2.
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