Driver, co-driver and machine against the elements
The late British legends Colin McRae and Richard Burns became stars in the World Rally Championship but that’s only the tip of an iceberg, because in the UK alone rallying is enjoyed by thousands of competitors across dozens of championships and events.
Special Stage rallying is probably the best known branch of the discipline but navigational events on the public highway, known as Road Rallies, have a long and successful history and are easily accessible to anyone with a road car and driving licence.
How does Rallying work?
Stage Rallies mainly take place in the forests and comprise loops of competitive sections, or stages, with the winner being the crew (driver and co-driver) that completes them all in the lowest aggregate time. The co-drivers read route direction notes issued by the organisers on both the stages and the linking road sections to ensure the car is heading the right way.
For Road Rallies on the public highway the emphasis is as much on navigation as driving skill. The navigator, who uses Ordnance Survey maps to direct the driver around the route, must be very careful with timing – it’s just as bad if you check in too early as it is to check in too late at a time control.
There are several different forms of road-rallying such as Touring Assemblies with no timing, Economy Runs, Historic Rallies for classic cars and more competitive night events, where the emphasis is on good navigation and time-keeping. Lots of well-known rally co-drivers cut their teeth in Britain’s road-rally scene and went on to stardom in the World Rally Championship.
Most local motor clubs run what is known as a ’12 Car’ event, which is ideal for starting out in any kind of rallying – this is limited to 12 cars and just about any car can take part. You do not need special equipment to take part in road events, just the relevant map, a map magnifying glass and map light.
How do I start?
To get involved in Stage Rallying, you’ll need a full DVLA driving licence. Then you need to buy a Go Rallying starter pack, pass a BARS test and then apply for a RS Inter Club – Stage Rally Competition Licence. If you just want to co-drive, you can apply for a Navigator’s licence without having to pass the BARS course.
If you want to be a driver you will need to have a full driving licence and be at least 17 years of age but you can compete as a navigator from as young as 12.
What kind of car do I need?
For Road Rallying all you need is a taxed and insured road car with a valid MOT certificate.
For Stage Rallies you will need a car that complies with the regulations. This will generally entail modifying the car with safety components such as a roll cage, special seats and harnesses, fire extinguishers and suchlike. You can either buy such a car second-hand and prepare it yourself, or you can get a preparation company to modify a standard road car for you.
As Stage Rally cars have to use the public highway to get between stages the car will also need to be taxed and insured with an MOT certificate, as in Road Rallying.
What safety equipment needs to be fitted to my car?
Stage Rally cars are required to have safety equipment such as a Roll Over Protection System (ROPS), FIA-homologated seats and harness, and two fire extinguishers, details of which can be found in section R of the Motorsport UK Yearbook.
Technical regulations for Stage Rallying are also found in section R of the Motorsport UK Yearbook. Specific event or Championship regulations are found in Supplementary Regulations (SRs) made available by the organiser.
What personal protective equipment do I need to wear?
As a minimum you will be required to wear a helmet and flame resistant overalls to approved standards. Details can be found in section R and section K of the Motorsport UK Yearbook.
What is a category 2 Stage Rally car?
A Category 2 Stage Rally car is a car which no longer retains the manufacturer’s drive train configuration (for example a front-wheel-drive car converted to rear-wheel-drive), a car which has undergone extensive chassis modifications, or a car which has a replacement engine of more than a 25% capacity increase over the original. Further details can be found in the Category 2 guidance notes.
To obtain a Category 2 Stage Rally Vehicle Identity Form, the vehicle will need to be inspected by a Motorsport UK Technical Commissioner. Further details on the procedure can be found in the Category 2 guidance notes.