How To Explain The World Rally Championship?

What Is The FIA WRC Racing, And Why Is It So Thrilling?

Imagine yourself in the wild nature, where the animals wander at arm’s length, or at the central street of the original city, where the roads provide you authentic traditions. It’s like you find the door to a different world where everything lives by its own law and time. Hence moment, the picture becomes even more colorful. The sound starts the atmospheric tune, while the atmosphere launches the unforgettable vibe because the rally cars cross the ramp at the starting ceremony. Nothing will be the same since this moment. Sounds great? However, the overall picture in your imagination is still incomplete. You have to know the rules and schema of how the WRC or the FIA World Rally Championship works to understand its thrills at full gamma.

Getting familiar with the World Rally Championship’s definition

The FIA WRC, or the World Rally Championship, is a world-class competition in super fast rally cars sport, which is held as an international event. The crews are completed with a driver, co-driver, and a few parts, just in case, and have to run about twenty special stages during the weekend for a simple purpose – as fast as possible. Seems to be very simple, but in fact, this challenge is on forces not for each one. 

first race car

It was like the domino effect. The different countries started their own rallying challenges. However, these weren’t united as one row until the FIA picked most of them under the IMC (International Manufacturer Championship) in 1970.

  • Lisbon Rally (Portugal) 1947,
  • Tulip Rally (Netherlands) 1949,
  • Rally to the Midnight Sun (Sweden) 1951,
  • Rally of the 1000 Lakes (Finland) 1951,
  • Acropolis Rally (Greece) 1956.

With nine locations, IMC had held for three years until 1972, while such venues as Monte Carlo (Monaco), Acropolis (Greece), Safari (Africa), Sweden, and Wales (Great Britain) gained their iconic status of the oldest rallies. The IMC was the father of the WRC as soon as in 1973, it transformed into the World Rally Championship, starting the story with 12 rallies on four continents and 13 countries worldwide.

How did the World Rally Championship start?

Henri Ford once said, ‘Auto racing began five minutes after the second car was built.’ Therefore, the first-ever rally race started in 1911 in Monaco, less than twenty-five years after Carl Benz revealed the world’s first automobile.

Prince Albert I and ‘Sport Automobile Vélocipédique Monégasque’ decided to demonstrate the best cars and promote Monaco to rich motorists. Therefore, the Rallye Monte-Carlo is the oldest stage among current rounds of the WRC.

In the ICM championship times, the driver and rally car must master everything from snow-packed forest tracks in the intense cold to rock-strewn mountain passes in blistering heat. That was quite different racing.

Even though the ICM had a brief history, there were 18 manufacturers, while the German Porsche, French Alpine-Renault, and Italian Lancia were the most successful.

Old Rally Cars

The Alpine A110 car achieved the first manufacturer’s world championship title, while the Alpine-Renault was the first world champion, followed by Lancia‘s three-year win streak with the Ferrari V6-powered Lancia Stratos HF – the first car designed just for rallying.

The high competition between manufacturers led to new types of rally cars appearing, designed to race fast events out of circuits.

1971 Renault Alpine A110

THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

HOW DOES THE FIA WRC WORK?

wrc rally chile guide for rally fans

Shakedown

The rally crews pass a full-speed test at least three times to find the best of their car’ settings, while each pass is timed. Drawing parallels with Formula 1, it is like free practice sessions.

"WRC Rally Italia Sardegna (2019)" by Kyn Chung is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Maximal Attack

In the following few days, the rally drivers and their co-drivers will have to use all they learned from the terrain, route, road surface, and their car to pass the stages with maximal speed, avoiding the sharp corners, tricky stones, and puds, using the right tires and stop at service: once to fit the tires and second to left the car for the night.

Rally Acropolis 2023 what to expect

Power Stage

The crew that completes all the stages in the shortest cumulative time is the rally winner, while the Power Stage, or the final stage, allows the five fastest crews to get extra World Rally Championship points in the driver’s standings: 7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

rally Portugal jumps

Finding the best settings of a rally car is one of the keys to winning the World Rally Championship round because the following challenges the vehicle has to pass are about jumps, hard-breaking, maximal speed, car hits, and tire endurance.

As for the jumps, at some destinations like Fafe in Portugal or Ruuhimäki in Finland, rally drivers experience the jumping for 30, 40, and even 60 meters long!

Step #1: Preparation


Preparation for the round starts a long time before the event. Often, the crew goes to the go to a pre-test to check the terrain two weeks before the WRC event.

Secondly, in the week of the race, between Monday and Wednesday, the crew heads to reconnaissance or recce to make the pace notes. With using a regular car, their speed is strictly limited. The rally driver and co-driver are both working with the route.

The final preparation is the Shakedown when the drivers run the route. The co-driver in the passenger seat gives a running commentary on the directional changes, turns, and road conditions ahead. 

Understanding the features of the terrain and finding the best settings for the car are the main goals of the preparation. Depending on the schedule, the Shakedown can be held on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, the WRC teams unwrap their boxes at the service park zone, or the major scene of action, because the rally crews will visit it several times during the weekend.

Step #2: ACTION


Against spectacular backdrops or in the center of the host city, the crews drive onto a podium, greet the fans, and give a quick interview at a festive opening ceremony. After that, the crews start the first special stage, or the SS1, to set their first time, while the entire route consists of between 15 and 25 special stages

The main goal of the competition is to complete each of the stages as quickly as possible without errors, mistakes, punctures, and other technical problems, keeping the regulations. So, to make it as efficient as possible, the co-driver reads pace notes explaining the route accuracy as detailed and fast as the driver can race with closed eyes.

The crew stops at the time control, and the driver talks with the press while the co-driver gives the time card. 

The fastest time on Thursday does not guarantee success since conditions change, and the crews head to different areas on the following days. Saturday and Friday are the most challenging because the drivers pass the most of special stages on Friday or Saturday, depending on the racing program.

However, for those who survive after Friday and Saturday, there comes Sunday’s finale.

Step #3: SCORING THE POINTS


The winner is the crew that completes all the stages in the shortest cumulative time. The points system in the World Rally Championship has changed since 2024, and the top 10 finishers are awarded 18-15-13-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 points in both standings, the drivers and manufacturer championships. They score points by Saturday, but drivers must finish the rally the following Sunday to gain these points in the standings. 

Power Stage is the final stage of the WRC Rally, where the five fastest crews get extra points in the driver’s standings: 7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Unlike other special stages, the timing of the Power Stage is a thousandth of a second, while even the drivers who retired previously have a chance. That is where the drama arises!

A Typical Schedule of the WRC Round

01

Thursday

Usually starts with the morning shakedown at 10AM, and the evening ceremony of the start launches at 17PM. After the ceremony, the crews pass a stage before parking their rally cars at Parc fermé.

17:00 – 20:00
02

Friday

Starts early at 7AM by passing three to four special stages, stopping at service, and looping the route again. Sometimes, it can be the longest distance day for rally crews to pass during the weekend.

7:00 – 19:00
03

Saturday

Starts early, and the location is changed a bit. The route gains the difficult terrain, such as tricky hairpins, jumps, and puds, because the crews are moving far from the city. After the stop-at-service, rally drivers pass the route again before leaving car for a night stop.

7:00 – 19:00
04

Sunday

Starts at 8AM with the two to three special stages and the stop at service to prepare the car for the final Wolf Power Stage. Then, the awarding ceremony starts and is followed by interviews of the participants.

8:00 – 13:00
best wrc rally jumps crashes

On the final day of the 2021 Croatian Rally, Sébastien Ogier was involved in an accident on a public road. Eight-time world rally champion has received a suspended ban and €7000 ($8468) fine. However, Ogier finished the day with a stunning victory at Rally Croatia.
Sometimes, the round of the World Rally Championship goes far beyond the plan and turns into the most thrilling event of the weekend, which consists of a mix of drama and confidence, with high variating of rises and falls at unpredictably moments.

THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The FIA WRC Rules and Racing Terminology 

Drivers & Co-drivers

The key aspect that sets the World Rally Championship apart from the other disciplines is that there is a need for two drivers. Thanks co-driver reading the pacenotes, the other driver can push the maximum of the car. However, navigation is just one of the co-driver’s tasks, because in rallying, they also repair the cars, change the tires, and check the schedule. In case something happens with the main driver, the co-driver takes the wheel.

The Starting Order

The starting order or the running order for the opening two days is determined by the drivers’ championship standings, with the leader going first. It changes for the Power Stage, when the crews tackle the stages according to the rally classification in reverse order, with the leader starting last, but the rule applies to Priority 1 and 2 drivers only. P1 drivers compete for WRC teams, while P2 drivers compete for Rally2 cars – WRC2. P1 cars that retire and restart the next day run before all the P1 and P2 crews.

Penalties

Rally crews are penalized 10 seconds for every minute the car is late to a time control–for instance, a stage start, service-in control, or service-out control. Checking in early to a time control carries a stiff penalty of one minute for every minute early. Retirement also has its own rules. Competitors who retire due to mechanical issues or accidents may restart the following day, subject to their car being safe to continue. For every special stage missed following retirement, a competitor incurs a 10-minute penalty. This penalty is added to the fastest stage time recorded by a crew in their technical category.

Service Park& Parc Fermé

The crews visit the service park at pre-determined times to allow team technicians to perform mechanical work on their cars. Often, there are three service sessions in a day. An initial 15-minute visit in the morning before the opening stage, a 40-minute session midway through a day’s competition, and an end-of-day session for 45 minutes. The last session is needed to re-prepare the rally car for the following day. At the end of each day’s rally, cars run in a secure and closed Parc Fermé overnight with no access for team members or competitors.

The Start’s Issue

All the participants of the WRC start separately at three-minute intervals. However, there is a big difference between starting first or last at road surfaces like gravel. The crew number one is disadvantageous, because they literally clean the dirt, passing the special stage slowly than following crews. Starting first driver at snow and ice is also tamping the road and helps the following cars, while at the tarmac, the advantage fully depends on the rain.

Spectators – Crews

Unlikely you will find spectators to help racers at any other discipline, but in the WRC, when the service is located far away, the fans who are nearby often come to help, especially when accidents or problems occur. In this way, spectators are literally an integral part of the race of the WRC.

Pacenotes

At first sight, pacenotes look like doodles, but in fact, they consist of the key information about the route such as the direction or the angle of the corner in variations from 1 to 9. Therefore pacenotes are different and personal, and the co-driver makes them manually. No one of the best GPS navigation can replace it, as even a tiny mistake at a crossroads can cost time.

Safety Crew 

As the recce is held Tuesday-Wednesday, the road conditions may change when the rally starts on Thursday. Such changes before the start collect the experienced rally crew, the Safety Crew, or the Knot Crew. They gather the information in case the route is changed or there is a need to switch the tires for another compound.

Special Stages

Each WRC rally features competitive special stages and non-competitive road sections that gather all stages together. The rally crews complete specials with maximum push, at the liaison legs they have a target time – officially allowed. If competitors check in earlier or later than their target time, they will be penalized. Upon arriving at the time control, the co-driver gives the time card as a record of stage times and time control arrival times throughout the rally. Sometimes the route may include a Super-Special Stage (SSS), which has two parallel tracks that enable two drivers to race each other. Super-special stages are run in city center locations.

Fixing the Cars

In conditions of wild nature and rough roads anything can happen, and which is often happens, but in the WRC there is no remote service outside of the service park. Therefore, the drivers and co-drivers are the only engineers outside the service, and their wit is the finest tool they have, like duct tape, and a jack to lift the car. As an option, they can call the team’s engineers. Working out of fast service of the car like fitting the tires is what the crews have practices often during the weekend.

Zero Car

Taking the parallels with Formula 1, the ‘Zero car’ is like a Safety Car in F1. Marked as 000 or 00, ‘Zero Car’ starts first to check the safety at a very limited speed, while the car under number 0 explores any additional safety issues before the race starts. With the most experienced driver at the wheel, ‘0’ passes the route fast, checking everything is ready.

Gravel, Tarmac, and Show

In the WRC, rally crews compete with each other, but not in the wheel-to-wheel battle, instead the advantage of one is a complex of skills and the best grip. Therefore, the road surface is key, and that goes far beyond its definition. We got used to determining: gravel, tarmac, and snow, while paved roads are called tarmac, and unpaved roads are called gravel roads. In most cases, the roads will be mixed, because each location has its own consistency of road surface. Thus, the gravel course in Finland will be quite different from the gravel roads in Portugal, where the last one would be about dust. The same is true for snow courses. The Rally Monte Carlo will be more about ice, while the round in Sweden is about snowbanks.

The ‘Zero Car,’ ‘Safety Crew’ are the parts of the rules that are governed by the FIA, or the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, while the World Rally Championship is one of many that FIA regulates.

What is FIA

THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

WHAT ARE THE WRC CATEGORIES?

Today, WRC racing includes categories with different types of rally cars: WRC, WRC2, WRC3, and Junior WRC. Both WRC2 (Manufacturer) and WRC3 (Private Teams) are supported series and split into two separate classes. From safety to cost-savings, WRC classes are about different rally driving levels and engine power. All rally cars are foul wheel-driven, but their power varies.

WRC

This is an elite class, which features the most expensive hybrid Rally1 vehicles.

what is world rally champiosnhip

WRC2

WRC2 is a four-wheel-drive category that features Rally2 cars, the sport’s second tier behind the Rally1 cars.

Renault rally3 car price

WRC3

WRC 3 is even cheaper and more accessible than WRC2, making it a significant starting point for young talents and small teams.

jwrc what is world rally championship

JWRC

The JWRC or Junior World Rally Championship remains standalone from the WRC.

how much does a rally car cost guide on prices

The World Rally Championship is an expensive sport, where the elite Hybrid Rally1 car price is an exorbitant amount, which can reach millions of dollars because the specially made parts and different tools set rally cars apart from their road versions.

WRC


 Only factory teams and privateers can afford WRC cars due to their massive costs. With a power-to-weight ratio of 3.1 kg/hp, their 1.6-litre turbo engine delivers more than 380 hp and the four-wheel-drive transmission includes a central differential.

WRC2


With a 4.2 kg/hp power-to-weight ratio, their chassis is modified to incorporate the transmission tunnel and the FT3 fuel bladder, widen the wheel arches and track, and transform the rear suspension into a pseudo-McPherson set-up and can achieve 290 hp.

Moreover, the WRC2 championship works differently. Despite the WRC2 class covering every round of the WRC, the crews can score points – no more than in seven rounds, as WRC2 teams enter up to six rallies in Europe and one long-haul event.

Thus, the team nominates two drivers per rally to score. Their five highest European scores and the long-haul rally will determine their final standing. The three fastest drivers on the Power stage scored three, two, and one point towards their overall championship standing.

WRC3


Rally3 cars run in WRC3 and with a 5.6 kg/hp power-to-weight ratio, their chassis must be modified to integrate the four-wheel-drive transmission tunnel and the rear pseudo McPherson suspension. The bodywork, however, remains in its original form. Visually, the Rally3 stands out with its rear wing.

However, the WRC3 racing program is less than other categories. Drivers and co-drivers may nominate five events to score points, counting their best four results.

Thus, a budding rally driver with a private car in the junior class cannot compete against someone from the current WRC. Despite that, it offers an excellent opportunity to begin a racing career in the World Rally Championship.

JWRC


The JWRC or Junior World Rally Championship remains standalone from the WRC support championships, WRC2 and WRC3. M-Sport Poland manages and promotes the competition under contract with the FIA.

The drivers race in identical rally cars provided and serviced by M-Sport on the entrants’ behalf. The championship takes place over five rounds. Drivers competing are limited, as the JWRC only accepts racers under 30 years old.

However, Sébastien Ogier, Dani Sordo, Elfyn Evans, and Thierry Neuville started their careers at JWRC racing career in the World Rally Championship.

In gold hands, the rally car turns into a speed monster at different terrains and weather conditions and takes the wins, that set it into the hall of fame like the iconic Lancia Stratos HF and Subaru Impreza S3 WRC or Citroen C4 WRC and Toyota Yaris WRC.

best wrc cars subaru impreza
WHY WE LOVE THE WRC?

WHY IS THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP SO THRILLING?

We can find a thousand and plus one reason why the WRC is so thrilling, but here are the main arguments.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO RALLY DRIVERS FACE ON?

Every driver and co-driver, who racing in the Rally Championship is a very trained athlete because they have to be physical endurance, rallying skills, the ability to adapt fast to changing conditions, patience, and accuracy. Moreover, rally drivers have to be ready for:

weather conditions’ changing to manage whatever it will be whether it is ice switched with snow banks or hard rain switched with dust and stones;
understanding the rally car like the back of their hands to set it, choose the right tires, and fix the damage if it occurs outside the service;
to endure G-forces, hot and cold temperatures during the event, as sometimes the leg that crews pass may reach a few tens of kilometers;
to keep the emotions under control, as sometimes battle becomes so exhausting, that to make the fatal error is a very high risk.

The need for resourcefulness in the Rallying

In the 2019 Rally Mexico, Andreas Mikkelsen lost time as he got the trap because the gate on the way to the Guanajuatito stage was closed. He left the car, and after a few attempts, the gate was opened, but time was lost.

Another case was held on the same Rally Mexico, but in 2014, when Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai was stuck on the road. With the appropriate tools to fix the car, he couldn’t find anything useful other than beer to refuel the car. Fortunately, the option worked well. Neuville finished this rally third.

Teamwork

The World Rally Championship is the competition of the partnership because each one, in the bundle team-crew-driver-co-driver, like an entire mechanism’s part, tries to work at its best. Someone falls, and the rest are impacted. If the co-driver mistakes, the crew loses time, and vice versa, the driver’s error costs the time.

Picturesque Views

The WRC opens the doors to different cultures, folkways, and nature, while the shots from the helicopter amaze the imagination with thrilling picturesque views. Moreover, watching the cutting-edge hybrid rally cars in the wild spaces is worth seeing anyway.

Powerful Cars

The average speed of the 192 km/h rally car amazes us even more. The current Rally1 cars are equipped with 1.6-litre turbocharged engines, and with recouping energy, their drivers get a three-second boost worth roughly 500 hp! These speedy monsters accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and may reach around 200 km/h at the fastest stages, like in Finland.

Anything Can Happen

In the difference from the other racing championships, it is the WRC when such factors as weather, terrain, and animals have such sense. Just add to this human error, nerves, strategy, and technical reliability, and you will come up with a mix with an unpredictable finish. Therefore, whoever wins the rally is not often the fastest but always the cold-mindest driver.

Difficult Conditions

From the standpoint of racing at the circuit, drivers are familiar with the conditions, but everything has changed since the racing area is the roads for a hundred kilometers covering the stones, dust, puds, looping the trampolines and hairpins. Those are like a guarantee that rally drivers must use all skills to pass it right. Just add they also must be fast.

Long-distance Game

The Rally Championship is not about a two-hour race, but it is a consistent mix of stages. No one guarantees that the rally crew, which starts it fast, will finish it as fastest. In fact, the opposite happens. Moreover, such distance gives a chance to those who retired or crashed the car at the beginning of the event. There is always a chance.

Female Racing Drivers

The profession of a rally driver is a tough and dedicated path. However, you probably will be wrong if you think that the WRC has always been a male-dominated sport. Many female racing drivers successfully race as co-drivers in the World Rally Championship. Thus, nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb won Rally Monte Carlo in 2022 with a new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, for which it was a debut race.
However, among the others, it is Michèle Mouton who won many rallies and became the vice-champion in 1982. She is still the only woman to have won the FIA World Rally Championship.

what is world rally championship and how to explain its rules

THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

HOW TO GET READY FOR THE WRC EVENT?

This is our small guide to all new rally fans. We included a few keys on how to get the best from the FIA WRC.

#1 Keep updated

Install the time widget on our phone with a time of the current destination and set the reminders of the special stages start. It helps you to manage your schedule and keeps you updated.

#3 Take a closer the Shakedown results

The Shakedown is always covered by live stream, and it is available free on the WRC Youtube channel. Usually, on Thursday morning, the rally drivers test the terrain and demonstrate their actual pace. So, focus on the top five fastest on Shakedown because those are the potential claimers for the victory. 

#5 Focus on the rallying conditions

Take a closer look at the road surface, about which information you can find in the preview we mentioned above. The tarmac, gravel, and snow are unique, and each rally includes roads that consist of a mix of a few, including stones, dust, and puds. It makes sense because the more stones – the more punctures, while the more dust means less visibility. Keep it in mind when making your own points of view. Besides, the weather is also crucial. No, the rally crews aren’t scared of the hard rain, but the truth is that the visibility is dropped due to the rain, roads become slippery, and crash is something that can happen. So, take a slight view of the forecast. 

#7 Take your time with the start ceremony

The starting ceremony of the WRC event is no less important than watching the special stages. First, because it is festive and authentic, while at each country it allows to look closer to the other culture. Secondly, rally cars under the night lights in front of thousands of fans are beautiful. Thirdly and finally, you have the time to look at our brave drivers and to find your favorite one because it is time they share their thoughts and do short interviews. 

#9 Join the community

It’s faster for you to get involved in the WRC if you connect with the other fans. So, find the groups and pages on Facebook or Reddit, and feel free to express your points or ask something you’re not familiar with. Most rally fans are friendly and happy to talk about their passion.

#2 Prepare yourself

There are a few ways to watch the World Rally Championship. First, you can subscribe to RallyTV, where every stage will be covered with a live stream, but it is a paid option. The second way is to look for a free live stream, which is provided by local TV. Hover, this may not cover all the action. Prepare needs to be done in advance because you need to figure out which of your channels provides the option. Third, you can follow the social media and watch the overall reports by Red Bull TV or via the WRC official channel on Youtube. 

#4 Pay attention to the route and distance 

Take a closer look at the overall and daily distance of the current WRC round. You can find the information on our website or check the official source because they publish the preview and schedule ahead of the event. Check how many stages and kilometers drivers pass daily and when the service is set. The longer the distance between services, the higher the possibility of damaging and retiring.

#6 No conclusions before Sunday

That is the primary rule since defeat on Friday doesn’t mean the game is over.

#8 The Power stage means the powerful atmosphere

Remember that the final Power stage releases rally drivers’ inner demons into the wild. It is the culmination of the event, as even retired driver got their chances to score the points. In a highly competitive sport like this, even the 1 point makes the crucial sense. Therefore, the most drama happens here, as it is a chance to fight back, and often, the tension goes out of control.

#10 Find new information that improves your knowledge

The case is not about the news or overviews only, but you can also find the books and movies about the World Rally Championship, which allow you to open the doors to the behind-the-stage scenes. Explore the storyline you’d like to improve your understanding of rallying sport. You wonder, but even playing racing games is helpful. It doesn’t matter how old you are because the passion for the rally unites people of all professions and ages worldwide. 

Hyundai Motorsport Rally Sardegna 4.jpg" by Helena El Mokni is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

You can check the current World Rally Championship line-up teams and drivers to pick your favorite rally driver.




THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

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THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

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