On The Event
A beginner's guide to road rallying with Rally Round
So the great day has arrived at last – the first of many, we hope – and you have reached the rally start hotel; in some distant lands we will even arrange your journey from the airport. What happens next is explained in this chapter, with an overview of the organization and an introduction to the basics of rally competition.
If you arranged shipment your car should already be here, either at the hotel or at the nearby port awaiting Customs clearance, in which case we will help you with the collection process in due course.
Rally Desk / Rally HQ
Located near the entrance of each rally hotel, the rally desk is our mobile headquarters for the duration of an event and your point of contact with the organization. It’s important that you visit the desk regularly to check the notice board for posted amendments to the route or schedule, peruse the latest competition results, book or confirm your attendance on rest-day excursions or request assistance with any problems you might have, be they sporting, mechanical or medical. We want you to enjoy the event, and our staff and local agents will do all they possibly can to assist you. In exceptional circumstances, if we are obliged to accommodate the rally in two hotels, the rally desk will be situated in one or the other; you will be notified of this.
Every member of the Rally Round team has a specific area of responsibility and experience, so although they will help you in any way they can it makes sense to direct your enquiries to the most appropriate person.
Event Director Liz Wenman is in overall charge of the event. She will generally overtake or travel ahead of the rally in one of our support vehicles, reaching lunch stops and hotels in advance to ensure that everything is ready for your arrival.
The Clerk of the Course (CoC) is the experienced senior motorsport official responsible for all competitive aspects of the rally and usually the author of the road book. If you have any queries about the route, the regulations or the results, they should be directed to the CoC, whose decision is final.
The Marshals report to the Clerk of the Course and run the rally’s time controls, usually working in pairs and communicating via shortwave radio. They will usually be members of the Rally Round team, although experienced local volunteers may sometimes be used.
As soon as a time control closes, the marshals must leap-frog the rally to be present at the next time control before the first car arrives, so their job can be quite stressful, notwithstanding their ever-cheerful demeanour. They will assist you in any way they can, but they cannot make binding decisions relating to the application of the regulations or the results.
The Mechanics travel in pairs aboard well-equipped mobile workshops and help to deal with car-related problems that are beyond your own maintenance and repair abilities. For details of how to request their assistance, see the section on breakdowns. Be aware that the mechanics might not be able to attend to your car until they have finished with another. They also have a schedule to keep, so they cannot guarantee to provide a roadside rescue in all circumstances. What’s more they need to eat, to drink and sometimes even to sleep! During the day, one mechanics’ vehicle runs at the front of the rally, arriving at lunch stops and night halts with the leaders in order to triage incoming jobs.
The Sweep is the name given to the second mechanics’ vehicle, which brings up the rear of the event, ensuring that nobody is left behind. It cannot overtake the last car on the road, so if your car is running well it is not good form to dawdle or otherwise delay the Sweep, whose assistance may be required farther ahead.
The Sweep cannot overtake the last car on the road
The Rally Doctor is highly experienced and available at all times throughout the event to deal with any health issues you might have. He usually travels in the middle of the rally to minimise response times. In addition, all members of the Rally Round team are first-aiders, trained with endurance rallying in mind.
Media coverage is important and every Rally Round event will be photographed, filmed and written about, not least in a rally blog that allows family and friends to follow your progress from afar. If you are writing a blog of your own, we will be happy to publicize it.
Journalists are always pleased to hear amusing tales of triumph and disaster, so do please seek them out if you have a story to tell. If you cannot find one, you may pass on your stories via Liz or another member of the team – they will not discuss with the media any matter you wish to remain confidential. Be aware that the photographer and filmmaker will need to overtake you several times each day in order to get ahead, so please make it easy for them. We are also happy to receive copies of your own photographs, which we might be able to include in the rally blog or in the souvenir books we distribute after the event.
Rally Round team vehicles carry the Rally Round logo and stickers so they are easy to identify on the road.
Before the rally starts, both driver and navigator must sign-on at the rally desk, producing all the required documentation for crew and car (driving licences, vehicle registration, insurance and identity papers etc) and signing the necessary indemnities. In return you will be given your road book, time card, crew ID cards, competition numbers, rally plates (if not sent in advance) and a GPS tracking unit that must be fitted to your car for the duration of the event. You may also sign up for the luggage transport service if you haven’t already done so.
Signing-on is an opportunity to check your allocated start time and synchronize your watches with official rally time. Examples of official signs and boards, used to identify time controls, will also be on display. Don’t be afraid to come back and ask questions; the desk will be staffed until the last competitor has checked in. You may seek advice from the team at any time, of course.
Your crew ID cards carry emergency contact numbers, and should be worn at all times. They also help new acquaintances to remember your name!
Before you forget, please staple copies of your personal insurance documents into the road book.
Every car will be scrutineered (scrutinized) to ensure that it is safe, legal and complies with rally regulations. The scrutineer will also check that you are carrying compulsory equipment such as warning triangles, high-visibility jackets, first-aid kit, tow rope and fire extinguisher, all of which should be readily accessible, not merely for the scrutineer's convenience but in case of breakdown or emergency.
Problems discovered at scrutineering, on the day before the rally, can be difficult to resolve. However, if you have prepared your car in accordance with the regulations, you should have nothing to worry about.
This is a good time to fit your competition numbers and rally plates (if you have not already done so – see the chapter on car preparation). Attaching self-adhesive decals can be fiddly but it’s worth taking some time to do it neatly, as bubbles and wrinkles can really spoil the look of a well-turned-out car. The trick is to first apply soapy water to the bodywork, slide the decals into place then squeeze out any air bubbles and excess water with the edge of an old credit card. You can easily remove stickers after the event by first warming them with hot water or a hairdryer.
When you have passed scrutineering, take the earliest opportunity to calibrate your tripmeter. At signing-on, you will have been given directions for a calibration route. Drive to the first marker, stop and zero your trip, then drive to the second marker and stop again, noting your tripmeter reading. Now refer to the trip calibration instructions you remembered to bring with you. If you have an electronic unit, it’s usually a simple process of keying in the ‘official’ distance specified by the rally organizer. With a mechanical unit, you might need to change a gearwheel to correct any inaccuracy; carrying a calibration chart can save a lot of trial and error. Make a note of any correction in case you need to readjust the trip later in the event.
A one per cent error in your tripmeter reading might seem insignificant, but over a distance of 100km that's more than enough to send you down the wrong road; it will also introduce an error into your timing, resulting in penalties that might lose you a trophy. Keep an eye on your trip accuracy throughout the rally and readjust it if you notice significant discrepancies on road sections (errors on loose surfaces may be due to wheelspin). An organizer should warn you if any part of the road book was measured with a different vehicle.
If you’ve forgotten how to adjust your tripmeter, ask one of the rally mechanics – you won’t have time to do it tomorrow! And whilst you’re out calibrating the trip, take the opportunity to fill up with fuel.
On the eve of an event, a briefing will be held for all competitors, with a special, additional session for novices or anyone else who needs assistance. It is absolutely essential that at least one member of every crew attends the competitors’ briefing and listens to everything that is said.
Once the event has started, essential information (such as re-routes or timing amendments) will be displayed on the rally desk notice board. It is your responsibility to look out for this information. Always check the notice board before you retire for the night.
The road book
Amongst other information, this vital document contains a detailed description of the entire rally route, giving total and intermediate distances for a series of numbered instructions. These usually include ‘tulip’ diagrams (so-called because they were first used on the Tulip Rally in the 1950s) which represent road junctions in graphic form.
Tulips are read from the bottom upwards – the black dot represents your car and the diagram illustrates the road layout ahead. You simply follow the direction indicated by the arrow. From left to right, the following examples indicate: (1) Turn left, (2) Turn left then bear right, (3) Straight across at crossroads with Give Way sign, (4) Turn right at roundabout.
The route instructions also include information on road signs, landmarks and hazards. Below, with explanatory notes, is a sample road book page taken from Rally Round’s 2017 Odyssey Italia:
UNDERSTANDING THE ROAD BOOK
At the head of the page is the name of the event (Odyssey Italia) and the day’s section, including the reference numbers and locations of start and finish controls (Day 8: RS8.4 Calangianus to MTC8.3 Porto Cervo) plus the section length in km and miles. In the top-right corner is the page number (Pg 8.20, ie day 8, page 20). The rest of the page contains five columns.
Each instruction is numbered in the top-left corner of the first column. This number is quoted in any route amendments and when requesting assistance (eg ‘we have stopped 3km after instruction 2 on page 8.20’).
Columns one and two give the total distance from the start of the section and the intermediate distance from the previous instruction. The bold numbers are km, the smaller numbers (in parantheses) are miles.
Column three shows a tulip diagram of the junction or road feature. The black dot represents your car and you simply follow the arrow. Additional symbols show the position of signposts, buildings or landmarks.
Column four illustrates any relevant road signs, with written instructions or hazard warnings if necessary. It may also show rally signs (a stopwatch symbol would indicate a time control, for example) or other important features, in this case fuel stations.
Column five gives the remaining distance to the end of the section, again in km and miles
If you would like personal tuition on any aspect of rally navigation and timing, whether to understand the basic principles or to improve your existing skills, please see our Rally Training page.
In addition to the all-important route instructions, the road rook contains useful information such as an entry list, hotel details, results query forms, an incident report/damage declaration form and an OK/SOS sign that should be displayed on the rear of your car if you stop at the side of the road for any length of time. Please note that the SOS sign should only be displayed in case of emergency. It should not used to request technical assistance from your fellow competitors, who will naturally stop if they think you are in serious trouble. If you decide to pause for photos, refreshments or a comfort break, display the OK sign. If you have a mechanical problem, display the OK sign and call the rally mechanics if necessary – their telephone numbers are on your crew ID card. If you are on the rally route, the Sweep mechanics will reach you eventually in any case. Also see the section on breakdowns.
Rally timing and controls
As a sport, rallying might be called ‘competitive punctuality’, in that each crew is required to cover a set route in a set time, and the most punctual crew wins. Of course this controlled timing has the advantage of keeping everyone together on a route that measures thousands of kilometres, but it also permits an exciting form of motorsport at road-legal speeds.
Lateness is measured in minutes or seconds, referred to as penalties, and the aim of the game is to accumulate as few penalties as possible over the course of the event. Because rallies on public roads are limited to a modest average speed (30mph in the UK), that might sound quite easy, but twisty roads, fuel stops, comfort and refreshment breaks, navigational conundrums and reliability issues can all delay your progress.
Main time controls are situated at the start and finish of each day and there will be other time controls along the route, typically at lunch and coffee halts. Cars start at one-minute intervals, so it follows that if every car kept precisely to schedule, they would also finish at one-minute intervals.
There will also be a number of test sections to challenge your driving, timing and navigation skills. Each section has its own time controls.
Rally time is the time displayed on the organizers’ clocks. The entire event is run to this time. You should check it at the rally desk, and synchronize your watches accordingly. Do this carefully – we have seen an expert crew gain 60 penalties at every timing point on day one, losing all hope of winning, because the navigator’s watch was one minute out of sync with rally time.
At signing-on you will be given your time card, which is used throughout the event to record your attendance at time controls. DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD!
The time card lists all the time controls on the event, numbered sequentially. The type of control is identified by its acronym, as follows:
MTC or MC - Main Time Control.
TC - Time Control.
RS / RF - Regularity Start / Regularity Finish Control.
TS / TF - Test Start / Test Finish Control.
TP - Timing Point.
PC - Passage Control.
RC - Route Control or Check.
Controls are marked by sign boards. An advance warning board at the roadside will display a yellow symbol, while the control itself (with its attendant marshals) will be marked by board with a red symbol – this may be at the roadside or inside a building such as a café or restaurant. Commonly used symbols include the following:
Stopwatch - Time Control.
Flag - Test Start.
STOP - Timing Point, Test Finish.
Stamp - Passage Control.
Crossed Arrows - Regularity Self-Start.
An example of a sign board symbol - in this case a yellow stopwatch provides advance warning of a time control
Scheduled time is literally the time at which you are scheduled to visit a particular control, but your time card doesn’t actually show this. For each control the time card specifies the scheduled time for an imaginary Car 0, which is referred to as standard time.
As cars start at one-minute intervals, it follows that the scheduled time for Car 1 is one minute after standard time, the scheduled time for Car 2 is two minutes after standard time, and so on. In order to calculate your scheduled time at a control, you simply add your car’s competition or start number (in minutes) to the standard time shown on the time card. Thus for example if you are Car 21 and the standard time for a particular control is 14:00 hours, then your scheduled time at that control will be 14:21.
Some rally organizers set very tight schedules, which almost inevitably leads to potentially hazardous driving on public roads. For the enjoyment and safety of all, Rally Round events are designed to run at a more relaxed pace, especially on longer rallies where we allow time for sightseeing.
You will also have a penalty-free lateness allowance, typically 60 minutes, at the final time control of the day. At other controls you will be penalised for late arrival, within a maximum permitted lateness specified in the event regulations, typically 30 minutes. Beyond this, you will be deemed to have missed the control. However, you may carry any permitted lateness on to subsequent controls without additional penalty, so you need not race to catch up.
Your scheduled time plus maximum permitted lateness is called your due time. Be aware that controls will close immediately after the due time of the last car.
All lateness allowances are set out in the regulations, but may be extended in certain circumstances. As ever, you should look out for official bulletins.
Test and regularity (TSD) sections
The need to moderate speeds on public roads means that the results of a rally are decided by a series of driving and navigation tests, timed to the second.
For example, you might be asked to follow a specified path around a pattern of cones as quickly as you can, or to drive several laps of a racing circuit, where your lap time is ranked against other cars in your class and penalties awarded according to your position in the ranking (nervous navigators may sit this one out, at the cost of a small penalty, typically 10 seconds).
On road rallies, by far the commonest type of test is known as a regularity or TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) section, where you are required to maintain a precise average speed over several kilometres, aiming to arrive at an unspecified point at the correct time or collecting penalties according to the number of seconds you arrive late, or early (for safety’s sake, early arrival may be penalised more heavily).
In its most fiendishly complicated form, regularity competition demands enormous skill, combining tricky navigation on challenging roads, several changes of average speed part-way through the test, time controls at secret locations and timing by a variety of methods (on sight, or at the moment you stop at or astride a line). You can buy a book of average-speed tables to help you work out how long it should take to cover a certain distance at a particular speed (Rally Round provides such tables for certain tests) but on complex regularities the navigator still has a lot to think about as he or she juggles the route instructions, maps, speed tables, two stopwatches and a tripmeter whilst watching the road ahead and telling the driver whether to speed up or slow down, and which way to turn next.
Rally Round events are designed to suit novices as well as experts, so to keep things simple, and safe, we often employ a type of regularity known as jogularity.
Whereas a normal regularity test specifies an average speed, a jogularity sets an ideal time (in minutes and seconds) at which you should arrive at each instruction on the test route. You simply start a stopwatch as you begin the test and leave it running until the test finish, aiming to arrive at each route instruction at the specified time.
To make things more interesting, there may be several timing points in undisclosed locations. However, we want you to maintain an average speed, not to drive like a lunatic in order to make up any lost time. So if you are early or late at a timing point, you must be equally early or late at the next timing point.
Pictured below is an example of a regularity test run on the jogularity principle. It’s located 26.87km into the day’s route (as shown at the top of the ‘total’ distance column) and the regularity start control (RS14, as it’s the 14th control of the day) is signified by a stopwatch symbol next to a junction.
UNDERSTANDING JOGULARITY TEST INSTRUCTIONS
Columns one and two show intermediate and total distances.
Column three shows your ideal time at each instruction, as should be displayed by a stopwatch set running at the start.
Columns four and five provide a description of each instruction.
Column six gives the due time for Car 0 at the test start. The rest of the column is used to record your actual stopwatch reading at each instruction. Any variation from ideal time should be applied to your ideal time at the next instruction.
Column seven numbers each instruction.
As you can see from the ‘your time’ column, Car 0 is due here at 08.33 (standard time), so your own scheduled time is 08.33 plus your competition/start number in minutes. Note that the start is test instruction No1 (as shown in the right-hand column). Having zeroed your tripmeter’s intermediate readout, you start a stopwatch as you drive away from the start line, and leave it running. The ‘ideal time’ column says you should arrive at instruction No2 (after 1.23km stop and turn right) just as the stopwatch reads 1m 30s. Zeroing the intermediate trip and writing the actual stopwatch reading in the ‘your time’ column, you now aim to arrive at instruction No3 (after 0.84km bear left) as the stopwatch reads 2m 31s, and at instruction No4 (after 1.84km straight on) as it reads 4m 45s.
However, remember the point about maintaining an average speed. Whenever your arrival time is recorded by a timing point (TP), you must apply any variation from ideal time to the ideal time at subsequent timing points. Hence if there is an TP at instruction No2 and you arrive at 1m 35s, five seconds late, then your ideal time at instruction No3 becomes 2m 36s and your ideal time at instruction No4 becomes 4m 50s.
Now let’s say you actually reach instruction No3 at 2m 34s, two seconds earlier than your newly adjusted ideal time. Again you must adjust your ideal time at instruction No4, which would become 4m 48s.
If this boggles the mind, think of it another way. Those ideal times effectively tell you how long it should take to drive from one point to another, and if you can match this you’ll get no penalty. Let’s say there’s a TP at instruction No2. Whatever time you recorded at that point, you should be bearing left at instruction No3 exactly 61 seconds later – the difference between the ideal times of 1m 30s and 2m 31s – and passing instruction No4 in exactly 3m 15s – the difference between 1m 30s and 4m 45s. No problem, unless you lose your way or encounter a herd of sheep...
Note that even if you are late at the regularity finish, you may be the same number of minutes late at the next time control (seconds are only counted on tests) without additional penalty.
Some regularity starts are unmanned. Instead they are simply marked at the roadside (and in the road book), usually by a crossed pair of route arrows. Here you may start at a time of your choosing, writing your own start time (legibly – and in ink!) on your time card. You cannot cheat this system by leaving the start time blank until the last possible moment, because you never know where the next timing point might be.
The wrong approach
As soon as you spot a time control, if you are running ahead of time, you might be tempted to stop and wait, or slow down to a crawl, in order to creep into at the control at precisely the right moment. Marshals are wise to this, and you will be penalized if your speed falls below walking pace. You will also be penalized for a ‘wrong approach’ if you arrive at a control from any direction not specified by the road book.
Don’t be daunted by the apparent complexity of rally timing. Of course it helps if the navigator is good at multi-tasking and mental arithmetic, but even complete novices soon get the hang of it, and there is no need to be ultra-competitive – this isn’t the World Rally Championship. In any case, anything can happen in rallying: the most experienced competitors can tumble from the top to the bottom of the leader board with a momentary loss of concentration, a rally leader can break down in the final kilometre of an event and an 11-year old can navigate her father to a class trophy. Rally Round events are designed to ensure that every crew remains in contention for an award for as long as possible, but you may wish simply to enjoy the drive. Above all, rallying should be fun!
If you still have questions about timing, or uncertainties about any other aspect of the event, do please ask for clarification. The Rally Round team, and indeed your fellow competitors, will be only too happy to help you.
We expected you to be reasonably self-sufficient, resourceful and able whenever possible to maintain your own car – if the world’s oldest navigator, Dorothy Caldwell, can change a wheel at the age of 94, then so can you. However, our mechanics will use their best endeavours to assist you when required. If you break down on the road, your first priority should be the safety of yourselves and other road users. Put on your reflective jackets and place a warning triangle where it will effectively warn approaching vehicles of your presence. You may then call our the mechanics via the telephone number on your crew ID card. All cars and Rally Round vehicles will carry a GPS tracking device but as a matter of course you should identify your location as precisely as possible by quoting the distance from the closest numbered instruction in the road book (for example: ‘We are in a ditch, 36km after instruction 1 on page 1.’). The mechanics will get to you as soon as they possibly can, but may have other calls to attend first, so please be patient. If you resolve your problem before the mechanics arrive, you must inform them of this by telephone, so they don’t waste time looking for you.
Be aware that the Sweep mechanics follow the rally route. If you stop in a location not visible from the road, they will not see you. They will try to find you if you are close by, but cannot guarantee to provide assistance in all circumstances – you deviate from the official route at your own risk.
The indefatigable Dorothy Caldwell
Rally Round’s safety record is second to none, but accidents can happen anywhere, at any time. If you are involved in any incident that results in injury or damage to property, you must inform the rally organizers by telephone as soon as possible and complete the incident report/damage declaration form contained in the road book.
Each day’s results will be collated and published on the rally desk notice board. For each car they will show the number of penalties accrued at individual time controls and an overall total. As this invariably draws an excited crowd around the notice board, summary results will also be published as soon as possible on the results page of the Rally Round website (accessed from the relevant event page) so you may review them at leisure. If you are competing, you should check the results each evening and raise any queries you might have at the earliest opportunity, and within the time period specified in the event regulations.
Finishers’ awards will be presented to all crews who have reported within their time schedule to the main controls at the start and finish of every day. Overall prize winners will not be eligible for class awards, which are allocated in accordance with class sizes.
It should go without saying that Rally Round reserves the right to exclude any participant who acts in a manner that might bring the organization, the event or the sport as a whole into disrepute. Rallying should be fun, and unsporting behaviour will not be tolerated.