By Stefan Kristensen
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August 11, 2022
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What is World Rally Championship?

Introduction

If you have recently started following motorsports, you may have begun asking, what is World Rally Championship? Frequently abbreviated to WRC, this comes up a lot in the world of vehicles!

The World Rally Championship is a race against the clock and some amazingly tough terrain. There are 12 rallies in total, spanning 13 countries and 4 or 5 continents, and each driver has a co-driver to read out notes on the upcoming hazards. 

We’re going to explore all the major features of a World Rally Championship so that you understand what these races involve, how they work, and what the drivers are up against.

What Is World Rally Championship?

The World Rally Championship is an auto racing competition that is considered the highest class of international rallying. At present, the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship is the fiftieth championship, with a start date in February and an end date in November. There are a few key factors that it’s worth understanding about the championship:

  • Each car is operated by a driver and a co-driver
  • The races take place in multiple countries
  • Each rally is split into 15 to 25 special stages, where drivers compete against the clock
  • Only one car drives the race at once, aiming to make the best time
  • The terrain can range from desert to snow
  • The cars are all souped up to rally specifications and have a minimum weight of 1,190 kg

The championship is aimed to determine how well drivers cope with the challenging conditions that they are pitted against, using timed races to measure the skill of each driver and their co-driver. Since the cars are not racing at the same time, there is a reduced risk of crashes and sabotage behavior.

How Are World Rally Championships Set Up?

Countries can bid to host the World Rally Championship, and when it arrives in a town, several routes will be established and set up in the surrounding area. The length can vary from 3 km to 35 km, and each must be driven twice (or more) by the competitors.

These multiple runs are known as stages, and they will be added up to form a score. The driving team may complete the same stage twice in a day, finishing a “leg” of the journey. They don’t complete more than one leg in a day, however, so they will usually move on to a new stage the following day.

As mentioned above, there are usually between 15 and 25 stages, which can cover up to 350 km of roads. These roads are closed to the public while the rally is going on.

How Are Points Scored?

The driving team with the most points overall is declared the winner of the World Rally Championship, and points can be scored at each stage. This works by recording the time that it took the driver to complete the stage, and adding this to the previous stage time.

Points will also be deducted for certain things, such as arriving too early or too late, cutting corners on the track, and some kinds of vehicle repairs. 

At the end of every section, each driving team gets an overall time for the stages they have completed, minus any penalties that they have taken. A winner will then be declared, and they are given 25 points. Second place earns 18 points, third place earns 15 points, and fourth place earns 12 points. The tenth place receives 1 point.

The final stage of the World Rally Championship is known as the “Power Stage,” and here, the fastest car can win 5 more points. When the whole championship is finished, the car with the most points will be declared the overall champion, and the driving team the winners of the rally. Recently, the title has been held by Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julian Ingrassia.

What Is The Role Of The Co-Driver?

You may be familiar with the term co-driver, as they play an important role in many forms of racing – but particularly in the World Rally Championship. Their task is to direct the driver, and when the terrain is as challenging and changeable as it is in this competition. There is no way for the driver to memorize the route and even a small slip could lead to disaster.

The co-driver’s job is to help the main driver navigate. The co-driver takes notes on every facet of the track during the practice runs (which are taken slowly). They are also given pace notes prior to starting the stage, and these notes give the team everything they need to know about the course’s jumps, incline, cornering, etc.

The co-driver’s task is to convey these to the driver, giving them enough time to find the correct gear and take each section at a manageable speed. Without this constant input from the co-driver, the rally would be impossible to run, and exceptionally dangerous to both the car and the team inside.

It is critical for the co-driver to have good communication with the driver and to provide the right information at the right moment. If they don’t do this properly, the rally becomes far more dangerous, and there is a great risk that the team will come off the track. In such tricky terrain, this could ruin the vehicle and injure the drivers.

Why Are World Rally Championships So Appealing?

A lot of people love the World Rally Championship because they can get so close to the drivers, and because these races take place near towns and cities. The drivers will use the ordinary roads as they navigate to the stages, and that means that people get to see them up close, which encourages interaction and engagement.

Another reason that they are appealing is that it isn’t just about the speed. The World Rally Championship tests the skill of both the driver and the co-driver by pitting them against some truly challenging terrain, forcing both of them to navigate and operate the vehicle with care – and speed.

That makes for a more interesting and unusual setup than some other kinds of races, and a lot of people find that they get a thrill from watching the drivers.

Another reason that the race is so popular is the variety that it offers. You can see drivers operate in all kinds of setups, contending with a myriad of challenges.

What Vehicles Are Allowed?

There are strict specifications that govern the kinds of cars permitted in the World Rally Championship. The cars need to be capable of both speed and of handling the extreme conditions that they are pitted against in this championship.

The cars must have a 6 speed gearbox, four-wheel drive, and 380 horsepower – which is more than triple the horsepower of a car intended for standard driving. In 2022, new regulations have been added to allow hybrid drivetrains to race. This involves having an e-motor that can produce 100 kW, fitted to the 1.6 L turbocharged inline-4 engine.

According to the new regulations, this e-motor must be used when the drivers are traveling through built-up areas and in certain other places – and it can also be used to offer additional power within a stage, although the competition will rule on how much it can be used and how long for.

These new regulations are known as Rally1 cars (instead of World Rally Car) and they have a greater emphasis on standardized parts in an attempt to make the sport more accessible. There is also an attempt to improve the safety standards in various ways.

What Is The World Rally Championship-2?

You may have come across the term World Rally Championship-2, and possibly even the World Rally Championship-3. These two are support championships that take place on the same stages, but are more accessible. They allow lower performance and running cost cars, so many more people can drive in these events.

Which Brands Are Associated With The World Rally Championship?

The brands that have cars in the rally are Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Shell Mobis, and M-Sport Ford. Each will have multiple cars and driving teams within a World Rally Championship to increase their chances of winning, but they use a specific set of cars. All of these are based on models you might see in everyday life, but they have been significantly modified to meet the regulations.

M-Sport Ford races a Ford Puma Rally, while Toyota Gazoo uses a Toyota Yaris, and Hyundai has a Hyundai i20. All of these cars must meet the specifications mentioned above in order to qualify for the championship, and they will also be fitted with aerodynamic features, such as spoilers, rear wings, and diffusers.

Conclusion

So, you should now have a good answer to the question what is World Rally Championship? This championship takes place across the globe, encouraging driving teams to test their skills against challenging terrain and the clock. It has enjoyed immense popularity over the years, partly because of its unique approach to racing.

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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