Inside Revolution: How to take part in Road Rallying

Tuesday 20 December 2022

When you hear the word Rallying most people think of gravel-spraying cars doing handbrake turns and driving at high speeds – but there is another, far less frenetic side to it. Road Rallies are navigational events that typically take place on public highways and are easily accessible to anyone with a road car and driving licence. These events are also part of the StreetCar initiative, which is a good way to get started.

Revolution is available online, as a PDF download and on the Revolution app (for both iOS and Android devices). 

What are the different disciplines within Road Rallying?

There are several different types of events that you can enter, all focused on navigational challenges with different levels of competitive elements.

Touring Assembly

These are non-competitive events with a social focus, designed to be fun for the whole family. Participants follow a pre-determined, often scenic route on public roads, with
directions provided ahead of time. Speeds rarely exceed 30mph, with one or two refreshment and socialising stops. These are often arranged for historic vehicles or specific makes and models of car.

Treasure Hunt or Navigational Scatter

These are fun, social events where participants are given a set of clues, a list of items to collect or a set of 20-30 plot points, each with a question to answer. All teams must determine their own route with the aim of reaching all plot points within a set time limit. They take place on open public roads, with Navigational Scatters typically run at night. They are an excellent entry point to learn navigation techniques and build up teamwork.

12 Navigation Car Rally

Most local motor clubs run these events, which are limited to 12 cars with just about any car permitted to take part. These are more complex events, with crews having to navigate a route through time controls and maintain a time schedule. Competitors are given a precise series of instructions that define the route and must visit plot points in order and at particular times, with the aim of reaching each time control accurately. They take place on open public roads.

Navigational Rally

These are similar to 12 Car Rallies but take place in the evening or night and have no limits on entry numbers.

Road Rally

These tend to have higher numbers of competitors, cover the furthest distances, and sometimes include off-road special tests. Directions are sometimes provided beforehand, to allow teams to pre-plot their routes. They run at night, and are the most advanced forms of Road Rallying.

Targa and Historic Road Rally

These rallies place the competitive element on special tests held off road, typically in the daytime on private land at one or several venues, with cones marking out a set route for a navigator to direct their driver around. Historic Road Rallies often include competitive sections on the highway. The aim is to follow the correct route, with the time penalties possible.

©Photo F&R Rastrelli

What makes a good car?

Road rallying can be done in a standard car if it has an MOT, is registered and taxed as a private car, and is in neat and tidy order with all loose items stowed properly. It must have a maximum of four cylinders and single rotor Wankel engines are permitted, twin ones are not. Gearboxes must be manual with the traditional H-shift pattern and tyres must be road legal. At the start of each event, the car will be scrutineered to ensure safety and noise limits.

Are there any modifications required?

Cars should have original bodywork but can also be fitted with manufacturer extras, although non-standard wheel arch extensions are not permitted. The interior should contain all original trim, but front seats can be improved or replaced.

What other kit do you need?

You will be navigating through the course, so you need a working odometer, a pencil, rubber and sharpener, a stopwatch (or two if you can) and a piece of cardboard as a platform to write on. Some events will require you to have the correct local Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, and these can be highlighted but must not have information added to them other than that given to you by the organisers. Some events now run on apps, so a well-charged smart phone and dash mount and an in-car charger to make sure it doesn’t shut down during the event may also be required. It is good practice to be organised and have a container for essential loose items, so they remain in one place. Some events may require the use of an electronic trip meter, but these can cost upwards of £200 so be sure you want to commit before buying one.

What are the general costs of participating?

Assuming you own a road legal car, at a Taster event, all you will need to pay to get started is the event entrance fee, as the required RS Clubman Licence is free and can be easily obtained from Motorsport UK. For regular club events, a Club Membership is required. Events start at £30 and can be found using the club finder tool on the Motorsport UK website and contacting your nearest club to find out what’s on when and where.

How old do you have to be to take part?

A crew must consist of a driver and co-driver. Drivers must be at least 17-years-old, but navigators (non-Drivers) can be as young as 12.

What skills are required for Road Rallying?

The emphasis is as much on navigation as driving skill and in most cases good map reading skills are essential, as the navigator usually needs to use OS maps to direct the driver around the route. In time-controlled events, good time management is also key, because it’s just as bad if you check in at a time control too early as it is too late. It is also worth noting control procedures differ from event to event, so be sure to know what they are.

How can you learn the basics?

As Road Rallying is a StreetCar discipline, you can simply contact your local club and sign up to join an event. The organisers will give you all the information you need, so you can just turn up and get involved. It is best to start at the easier end of the discipline – for example joining a Touring Assembly to get to know the different procedures involved – before driving into the deep end. Some 12 Car events will prefill the route in for beginners so they can get the hang of it, and often clubs host tabletop navigations to learn how to read and use the Ordnance Survey maps from experienced club members.

What makes a good team?

The navigator’s role is to keep the car going in the right direction and on time. To do this, they need to inform the driver of upcoming features, so good navigator must be well prepared. Route instructions sometimes arrive the day before the event, so it is good to note down key marker points on the documents, either circling in pen or using a highlighter. You also need to work together and understand each other – particularly if there are test sections, as these require quicker response. To avoid penalties or missing locations, you should discuss strategy before the event and decide together what instructions will be given and what they mean. Trust each other – the navigator has the instructions and are most likely to be right; while the driver knows how to drive and does not need back-seat instruction.

How do you improve and progress?

Moving through the disciplines, from easier to harder, is the traditional way to get comfortable and – for those who want to – to become more competitive. Some people treat events as a nice day out, while others are in it to win it. Whatever end of the scale you are, the more events you do, the more familiar you will become and the more enjoyable you will find them.

Is it a stepping-stone towards other forms of motorsport?

There are no international competitions in Road Rallying, so for those who want to progress beyond, it is more used as a route into Stage Rallying, as it helps to build the navigational and driver-navigator communication skills that are required in that form of the sport.

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©Photo F&R Rastrelli