Each rally features a series of timed closed-road speed tests, known as special stages, which typically number between 15 and 25. Drivers tackle these stages, which range from 2km to 50km, at two-minute intervals and are timed to a tenth of a second. The co-driver reads highly detailed pace notes to the driver which portray an image of the road ahead, including hazards, corners and road surface, and in which gear they should be approached.
Competitors drive on liaison sections to and from each stage on public roads, observing normal traffic regulations.
Recce and Shakedown
Most rallies follow the same basic itinerary. This starts with two days of reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday, where driver and co-driver practise the route at limited speed to make pace notes in a unique form of shorthand.
It is followed by a Thursday morning shakedown, a short test session over a typical special stage when competitors put the final touches to the set-up of their rally cars.
Rallies usually begin with a Thursday evening start ceremony with the competition itself running from Friday morning through to Sunday lunchtime. The rally ends with a live TV Power Stage at midday on Sunday.
During each day competitors visit a service park at pre-determined times to allow technicians to perform mechanical work on the cars and change tyres. Service is strictly limited, ranging from 10 to 45 minutes, with penalties imposed if competitors spend longer than the allocated time in service.
Away from the service park, only the driver and co-driver can work on their car, using only tools and spare parts carried on-board.
Penalties and Points
Competitors must adhere to a strict time-table and penalties are applied if they arrive late or early at checkpoints throughout the event. The crew that completes all the stages in the shortest time is the winner. Points are allocated to the top ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 basis and are awarded to registered teams in the same way. Bonus points are awarded to the fastest three drivers through the Power Stage.