Stage rally is one of the most exciting forms of motor racing, requiring a unique blend of skill behind the wheel, teamwork between the driver and co-driver, and mecahanical ability to keep the cars running through the punishing demands of a race weekend.
The races take place predominantly on gravel and dirt roads. Unlike most forms of road racing, the drivers are essentially blind on the course. The are given detailed, turn by turn instructions for each stage in the form of a route book. Most races allow the driver and co-driver to make a single pass "recce" to scout the course and to make additional pace notes. These notes, provide a special language that allow the driver and co-driver to rapidly communicate the details of the course and the secrets to a faster stage. Listen to the audio interchange in the video below.
Against the Clock
Stage rallies are usually multi-day events, comprised of 6 or more stages each day. Each stage is a race against the clock, with the overall winner determined by the lowest cumulative time. Typically there is a short transit between stages, and teams have the ability to repair the race car at prescribed service times between the stages. The races can cover hundreds of miles. While speed is obviously the overriding priority, simply getting the car safely across the finish line is a significant challenge. With speeds in excess of 120 mph of gravel roads, the ability to avoid damaging the car, and the ability to quickly and effectively repair damage can often mean the difference between winning and losing.
Stage rallies often feature night stages. Night stages are exciting for the fans, and terrifying for the drivers. With liited visibility, speeds rarely drop significantly, making night stages a test of courage as much as skill. For more information on stage rally, visit Rally America, World Rally Championship, or Special Stage.