WRC – How it Works

In 2023, the World Rally Championship is being decided across 13 rallies. Following several years of restrictions, normal business has now been resumed. And with the return of Chile and Mexico, WRC is once again a global event.

Europe also has an interesting new event with the Central Europe Rally, which spans three countries: Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. But we are of course particularly looking forward to some amazing duels in the only rally that takes place on snow and ice – Rally Sweden.

Drivers, cars and teams not only compete against each other, but against extreme climates and challenging road conditions. It’s the ultimate challenge, with the best all-round drivers, the toughest cars and the top teams all competing for the final victory. But how does it all work? Here’s a brief introduction for anyone who’s new to the World Rally Championship.

Each rally consists of 15–25 stages. Drivers compete on closed roads and the object is to get from start to finish in the fastest possible time. Each driver drives individually with their co-driver – the driver and co-driver are known as the ‘crew’. The co-driver is very much a navigator, who keeps notes and lets the driver know what’s coming around the next bend. The best time wins the stage, and the times from all the stages are added together to determine the overall winner.


Before the official start there is a Shakedown stage – a full-speed test on a route equivalent to the stages. This is the crews’ chance to trial and get a real feel for the nature of the route, and the teams can tune their cars to perform optimally in the prevailing conditions. This is a real bonus for spectators, as they can see their favourites at full speed several times before the official races begin.

Starting intervals

The super special stages vary from 2 km or so to about 20 km, and are driven individually. The prioritised top drivers (Rally1 cars) start at intervals of 3 minutes. Rally2, Rally3 and Historic cars start at intervals of 1 minute.

Starting order

On the Friday, the overall leader in the WRC starts first, and so on. On the final two days (Saturday and Sunday), all the WRC cars start in reverse order of their overall placement from the previous day. So the car in last place starts first, and the leader goes last. So for Rally Sweden, it’s the final result of the Monte Carlo Rally that will determine the starting order on the Friday morning.

The super special stages are linked by non-competitive road sections – open roads where normal road laws must be obeyed. There is however a strict timetable, with time penalties for late arrivals.


A driver who retires from a super special stage can re-start the next day. This means they can carry on in the competition, even though they have missed one or more stages. The team is given a time penalty for each missed stage.

Power Stage

In the rally’s final stage, which is broadcast live on TV all over the world, extra World Championship points are awarded to the five fastest WRC crews and the three fastest WRC2 crews, to raise the excitement stakes. So in WRC the best time in the final stage wins 5 points, second place wins 4 points, third 3 points, fourth 2 points and fifth 1 point. In WRC2 the fastest wins 3 points, second place 2 points and third 1 point.

Service Park

During the rally, servicing of the cars is strictly regulated. The mechanics may only work on their vehicles during scheduled periods of 15, 30 or 45 minutes. Outside of those times only the driver and co-driver may touch, work on and repair their car. Overnight, the cars are kept in quarantine, known as parc fermé (‘closed park’), and are inaccessible.

In Umeå the Service Park is at Nolia Exhibition & Congress Centre, and The Red Barn Arena can be found close to Umeå city centre. Here you can visit the teams’ stables, watch the servicing, and if you’re lucky you might even get a chance to chat to your favourite driver.

Manufacturers World Championship

It’s not only the drivers that compete in WRC – there’s also a World Championship for Manufacturers. Here, the points totals of all the drivers in the manufacturer’s ‘team’ are added together. Each team can enter three drivers in the same manufacturer’s team for each rally, but only the best two results are counted.


Racing in WRC2 is with Rally2-spec cars (formerly R5 – Skoda, Citroën, Ford, Hyundai). As in WRC, there’s an individual and a team winner. The teams can count all their points from the stages, while the drivers count their 8 best results towards their final score. The teams must take part in at least 6 rallies in Europe, and can count the points from 5 of these. They can also win bonus points and add one competition from outside of Europa.


A class for privately-entered drivers and teams that have bought or rented their Rally3 car from the manufacturers (currently Ford only). This is a new class featuring four-wheel drive cars with smaller engines than the Rally2 cars in WRC2.

WRC 2023

  • WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo
    19–22 January
  • WRC Rally Sweden
    9–12 February
  • WRC Guanajuato Rally Mexico
    16–19 March
  • WRC Croatia Rally
    20–23 April
  • WRC Vodafone Rally de Portugal
    11–14 May
  • WRC Rally Italia Sardegna
    1–4 June
  • WRC Safari Rally Kenya
    22–25 June
  • WRC Rally Estonia
    20–23 July
  • WRC Secto Rally Finland
    3–6 August
  • WRC EKO Acropolis Rally Greece
    7–10 September
  • WRC Rally Chile Bio Bio
    28 September–1 October
  • WRC Central Europe Rally
    26–29 October
  • WRC Forum8 Rally Japan
    16–19 November