There’s no shortage of badass forms of racing these days, but one that has been around, at least in its modern form, since the early 1970s is Rally Racing. It’s actually one of my favorite forms of racing and is something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a little boy. I’m talking about the small, ridiculously powerful, high flying, backcountry road dirt sliding Rally Racing. It is extremely popular in Europe but there are rally stages all over the world where drivers from every corner of the globe come to compete in the time trial style event.
Before 1979, most of the cars were rear wheel drive and they must have been a handful to keep under control on some of those fast gravel roads. But once the all wheel cars were legalized by the World Rally Championship, the cars got so much faster and that’s when the restrictions started to come into play. When you see some of the terrain these guys are hauling ass through it’s probably good that someone stepped in and started regulating, otherwise there would probably be a lot of dead racers. Some of these roads are just barely wider than the car and are completely lined with trees, or it’s the edge of a cliff, or maybe even some poor bastards tin woodshed that gets blasted by a Subaru WRX at 100mph.
How rallys usually work is there’s a race that’s separated in to a number of stages over the course of a predetermined distance, for example the Argentina Rally is scheduled April 21st-24th and is 1331,83 KM (827.56 miles) and is chopped into 18 stages. Each stage will be timed and the total lowest time at the end of the rally wins. The drivers start one at a time every 10-30 seconds, depending on the course. There is also a co-driver in the car that is responsible for the very detailed course notes and navigation that is required to do these narrow twisty dirt roads at such high speeds. Usually a couple days before the race the driver and co-driver will go out and drive the course at normal speeds to come up with the most detailed and accurate course notes possible. If You were to listen to the co-driver, he sounds like he is spitting out gibberish but when you learn a little bit about it you can see why it’s so important. I definitely don’t know all of it but I do know that if he says “ok you have a left hand 4 crest into right hand 1 slow” that basically means you have a left turn coming that should be taken at mid-high speed, then over a small jump then immediately into a sharp right hand turn that I would need to slow way down for.
It’s pretty self explanatory once you learn a few basic things. The number scale for these turns are usually rated from 1-6 with 6 being flat out full throttle and 1 being almost a 90 degree turn. This is referred to as the Jemba system and it’s the most commonly used. The Jemba pace notes are generated from a computer that sits in the back of the vehicle that is fitted with mutilate accelerators and other equipment to measure the forces being put on the car and where. This is awesome, they have all this information but the problem is, that machine records every little thing and if you tried to spout that much information off to a driver while he literal has your life in his hands, he would probably kill you. So once they have this information it is up to the co-driver on the reconnaissance runs to determine what notes are pertinent and what should be discarded.
Lastly, we have to give a shout-out to the fans of Rally Racing across the world. They have to be either the bravest or dumbest fans on the planet to do what some of these maniacs are doing at some of these races. Most races take place in remote foreign countries where it would be impossible to police the whole course, so on some stages you will see hundreds, if not thousands, of people lining the road waiting for the rally cars to come flying by at break neck speeds. Remember how I said the roads are usually very narrow too, and these fools are literally inches from a car flying by them fast enough that they wouldn’t even feel it if they got hit, it would just be game over lights out. They commonly line up at the big jumps, or technical turns because that’s where the most action happens. We can’t really blame them there because it sure brings some great videos from it. Truthfully if we were there, which hopefully one day we will, we would probably be doing all that we could to get those great shots as well but I don’t think we would take it quite as far.
So take a few minutes and watch some highlight reels of Rally Racing over the years. Sometimes you wanna cringe, others you wanna clap and yell bravo, and occasionally you’ll even get the holy shit I can’t believe he saved that. Enjoy
Here is one that has more of the older cars in it also.
This is the second part to this Rally video. To see the third go here.