On The Event
A beginner's guide to road rallying with Rally Round
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 organisation. It's important that you visit the Rally Desk regularly to check 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 mechanical or medical. We want you to enjoy the event, and the staff on the Rally Desk will do all they can to help you. Be aware that in exceptional circumstances, if we are obliged to accommodate the rally in two separate hotels, the Rally Desk will be situated in one or the other.
Every member of the Rally Round team will do their utmost to assist you with any problem you might have. Each has a specific area of responsibility and experience (see our Team page for details), so it makes sense to direct any enquiries to the most appropriate person. That said, as members of a small team, all are required to fulfil a variety of roles.
Rally Round Director, Liz Wenman is in overall charge of the event, ably assisted and represented by Rally Co-ordinator, Heidi Winterbourne. They will overtake to travel ahead of the rally in one of our Land Rover Defender 110s, reaching lunch stops and night halts in advance to ensure that everything is ready for your arrival.
The Clerk of the Course (CoC) is responsible for all competitive aspects of the rally. If you have a query about the regulations or the results, it should a complicated to the CoC, whose decision is final.
The Marshals report to the Clerk of the Course and run Time Controls, working in pairs. They will usually be members of the Rally Round team, although trusted local volunteers may sometimes be used. As soon as a Time Control closes, the Marshals must leapfrog the rally to be present at the next Time Control, so their job can be quite stressful, in spite of their ever-cheerful demeanour! While they will assist you in any way they can, they cannot make binding decisions relating to the application of the regulations or the results. Such matters are the sole preserve of the Clerk of the Course.
The Mechanics travel in two Land Rover Defender 130s with truck cabs and Quad Tech bodies; code-named XRAY and ZULU, these are both superbly equipped as mobile workshops to deal with car-related problems that are beyond your own maintenance and repair abilities. For details of how to request assistance, see the Breakdowns section, below. Please be aware that the Mechanics might not be able to attend to your car until they have dealt with another. They also have a schedule to keep to be present at Time Controls (where they may act as Marshals), lunch stops and night halts. So, they cannot guarantee to provide a repair or towing service in all circumstances. What's more, despite appearances, they need to eat, and to sleep!
During the day, one Mechanics' vehicle runs at the front of the rally, giving assistance where possible and arriving at lunch stops and night halts with the front runners to set up a workshop and triage any 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 follows that the Sweep cannot overtake the last car on the road. If your car is running well, it is not good form to dawdle or otherwise delay the Sweep, whose assistance may be required by others in difficulty farther up the road.
The Rally Doctor is available throughout the event to deal with any health issues you might have. He travels in a specially equipped Land Rover Defender 110 in the middle of the rally, to minimise response times. Also, all members of the Rally Round team are first-aiders, trained on courses with endurance rallying in mind.
Media coverage is important, and every Rally Round event will be photographed, filmed and written about in online blogs and press articles. The photographer and/or videographer may travel in a third Rally Round Land Rover 110 and will need to overtake you several times during the day to get ahead of the field. Hungry for material, journalists will always be happy to hear tales of triumph and disaster, so do please seek them out. If you cannot find one, you may pass on your stories via Liz, Heidi or another member of the team - they will not discuss with the media any matter you wish to remain confidential. If you are writing a blog of your own for the benefit of friends and family at home, please let us know so that we can help publicise it. We will also be pleased to receive copies of your favourite photographs, which we might be able to include in the souvenir books we distribute to all participants after the event.
Before the rally starts, both driver and navigator must Sign On at the Rally Desk, producing all the required documentation for crew and car such as driving licences, vehicle registration, insurance and identity papers, and signing the necessary indemnities. In return, you will be given your Road Book, Time Card, crew ID cards (to be worn at all times, please), competition numbers and rally plates (don't forget to bring cable ties, Velcro or some other means of fixing the rally plates to your car). Signing-on is a good opportunity to check your allocated start time and synchronise your watches with official Rally Time. You will also be able to examine a set of maps marked with the rally route, and copy it on to your own maps. Examples of official signs and boards, such as those used to identify Time Controls, will also be on display.
Every car will be scrutineered (scrutinised) 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 triangle(s), high-visibility jacket(s), first-aid kit, tow rope and fire extinguisher, all of which should be readily accessible, not merely for the scrutineer's benefit but in a case of breakdown or emergency. Problems discovered at scrutineering, on the day before the rally, in the car park of an unfamiliar hotel in a foreign country, can be difficult to resolve. However, if you have prepared the car properly, per the regulations, you should have no worries.
When your car has passed scrutineering, you should take the earliest opportunity to calibrate your tripmeter. At Signing On, you will have been given directions for a calibration route of several kilometres. Here you should check that your tripmeter reading precisely matches the distance recorded by the organisers when compiling the Road Book. On a long road section, even a tiny discrepancy can add up to a major navigational error, and we don't want to lose you! Whatever type of tripmeter you use (Gauge Pilot, Halda, Brantz and Monit are popular makes), make sure you know how to adjust it, or bring written instructions.
On the eve of an event, a briefing will be held for all competitors. It is essential that at least one member of every crew attends this briefing. Once the event has started, essential information for competitors (such as re-routes or timing amendments) will be displayed at the Rally Desk. It is your responsibility to look out for this information.
The Road Book
When you sign on you will be given a copy of the Road Book. Amongst other information, this contains a detailed description of the rally route, with total and intermediate distances for a series of numbered instructions. These instructions usually include Tulip Diagrams (so called for their resemblance to a flowering tulip bulb) that represent road junctions in graphic form. Tulips are read from the bottom upwards - the black dot represents your car, and the diagram represents the road layout ahead. You simply follow the direction indicated by the arrow. Below are four examples. From left to right, they indicate: (1) Turn left (2) Turn left then keep right (3) Straight across at crossroads with road sign (4) Turn right at the roundabout.
The route instructions also include written notes on significant road signs, landmarks and hazards. Below, with explanatory notes, is a sample Road Book page taken from Day One of our 2013 Paris-Madrid Rally (click on the image to enlarge):
Also, the Road Book contains a range of useful information, for instance:
- An entry list and hotel details
- Results query forms
- An incident report/damage declaration form
- 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
Rally Timing, Time Cards and Controls
As a sport, rallying might be called 'competitive punctuality', in that each car is required to cover a set route in a set time, and the most punctual car wins. Of course, this has the incidental advantage of keeping everyone together on a route that may measure thousands of kilometres, but it also permits an exciting form of competition 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 maximum average speed of 30mph (48kmh), that might sound quite easy, but of course, if every crew were able to complete the event without penalties, there would be no winners. Twisty roads, fuel stops, refreshment and comfort breaks, navigational conundrums and reliability issues can all delay your progress.
Time Controls are situated at the start and finish of each road section, which may cover a morning, an afternoon or a whole day. 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.
On competitive rallies (as opposed to touring events) there will also be a number of Tests within each road section, challenging your driving, timing, navigation and communication skills. Each test has its own Time Controls.
Rally Time is the time displayed on the organisers' clocks. The entire event is run to this time. You should check it at the Rally Desk, and synchronise your watches accordingly.
At signing-on, you will be given a Time Card, which is used by Marshals 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 nature of each control is identified by its acronym, thus:
TC / MTC -- Time Control / Main Time Control.
RSTC / RFTC -- Regularity Start Time Control / Regularity Finish Time Control.
ITC -- Intermediate Time Control.
TSTC / TFTC -- Test Start Time Control / Test Finish Time Control.
PC -- Passage Control.
Due Time, as the name suggests, is the time you are due at a particular Time Control. The Time Card will specify the Due Time for an imaginary Car 0. As cars run at one-minute intervals, it follows that the Due Time for Car 1 is one minute after the Due Time for Car 0. The Due Time for Car 2 is two minutes after the Due Time for Car 0, and so on. You simply add your own car's number (in minutes) to the Due Time for Car 0. Thus if you are Car 21 and the Due Time for Car 0 is 14:00 hours, your Due Time is 14:21.
Some rally organisers set very tight schedules on road sections, which inevitably encourages high-speed and potentially hazardous driving. Rally Round does not do this. For the enjoyment and safety of all, our events are designed to run at a reasonably relaxed pace. Also, competitors are usually given a daily lateness allowance, typically 30 minutes, permitting you to arrive at the final Time Control up to 30 minutes late without penalty (in this case, Time Controls would remain open for 30 minutes after the Due Time of the last car). This will be set out in the rally regulations but may be subject to change. You should look out for and pay careful attention to all official notices and amendments issued during the event.
On the rally route, Time Controls are attended by a Rally Round vehicle and two marshals. The timing point is marked by a stopwatch symbol on a sign board.
The need to moderate speeds on public roads means that the results of a competitive road rally are decided on test sections, which are timed to the second. For example, you might be required to memorise and follow a complex path around a pattern of cones, completing the test in as short a time as possible. However, the commonest type of test is known as a Regularity, where you are required to maintain a precise average speed over several kilometres. And arriving at an unspecified point at the correct time or collecting penalties according to the number of seconds you arrive late, or early (early arrival is sometimes penalised more heavily).
In its most fiendishly complex form, Regularity competition demands great skill, combining tricky navigation on challenging roads, several changes of average speed part-way through the test, numerous 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). However, Rally Round events are designed to appeal to novices as well as to experts, so to keep things simple, and safe, we often employ a type of Regularity known as Jogularity.
Like any Regularity, this starts at a Time Control. However, rather than specify an average speed, the test instructions will specify an ideal time (in minutes and seconds) at which you should arrive at each instruction on the test route. You simply start your stopwatch as you leave the Start Time Control, and leave it running until you reach the Finish Time Control, aiming to arrive at each instruction at the ideal time.
To make things more interesting, there will be one or more Intermediate Time Controls along the way, possibly in secret locations, where marshals will record your arrival time. Remember, however, that the point of the test is to drive the course at an average speed, not to drive like a lunatic in an attempt to make up any lost time. So, if you are early or late at a Time Control, you must be the same amount early or late at the next Time Control.
Pictured below is an example of a Regularity test run on the Jogularity principle. It is located 26.87km into the day's route (as indicated at the top of the Total Distance column) and the Start Time Control (TC14) is signified by a stopwatch symbol next to a road junction. As you can see from the Your Time column, Car 0 is due here at 08.33 hours, so your own due time is 08.33 plus your car's competition number in minutes. Note that the start is test instruction number 1 (as indicated in the right-hand column).
Having zeroed your tripmeter's intermediate distance readout, you start your stopwatch as you move away from the start line, and leave it running. The Ideal Time column says you should arrive at instruction number 2 (at 1.23km stop and turn right) just as the stopwatch reads 1m 30s. Zeroing the trip at this point and writing the actual stopwatch reading in the Your Time column, you now aim to arrive at instruction number 3 (after 0.84km bear left) as the stopwatch reads 2m 31s, and at instruction 4 (after 1.84km straight on) as the stopwatch reads 4m 45s.
Whenever your arrival time is recorded by an Intermediate Time Control (ITC), you must apply any variation from Ideal Time to the ideal Time at subsequent Time Controls. Hence if there is an ITC at instruction 2 and you arrive five seconds late, your Ideal Time at instruction 3 becomes 2m 36s and your Ideal Time at instruction 4 becomes 4m 50s. Now let's say you actually arrive at instruction 3 at 2m 34s, ie two seconds early. Again you must adjust your Ideal Time at instruction 4, which would become 4m 48s.
If this boggles your mind, think of it another way. The quoted Ideal Times effectively tell you how quickly you should drive from one Time Control to the next. In the example above, let's assume there is an ITC at instruction 2. Whatever time is recorded at that point, you should aim to reach instruction 3 exactly 61 seconds later (the difference between 1m 30s and 2m 31s). If there is no ITC at instruction 3, you should aim to reach instruction 4 in exactly 3m 15s (the difference between 1m 30s and 4m 45s).
As ever, if you are late at the Finish Time Control, you may be the same number of minutes late (ignoring any seconds, which are only counted on tests) at the rally's next Time Control without incurring any additional penalty.
Don't be daunted by the apparent complexity of rally timing. Of course, it helps if the navigator is good at multitasking 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 crew 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 everyone 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 any other aspect of the event, please ask for clarification. The Rally Round team, and indeed your fellow competitors, will be only too happy to help you.
Each day's results will be collated and published at the Rally Desk. For each car, they will show the number of time penalties accrued at individual Time Controls and an overall total. If you are competing, you should check the results each evening and raise any queries you might have at the earliest opportunity.
It should go without saying that Rally Round reserves the right to exclude any participant who acts in a manner that might bring the organisation, the event or the sport as a whole into disrepute. Unsporting behaviour will not be tolerated.
Rallying requires you to be reasonably self-sufficient, resourceful and able whenever possible to maintain your own car - if Dorothy Caldwell (pictured below) can change a wheel at the age of 94, then so can you. However, we will use our best endeavours to assist if required. If you break down on the road, your first priority should be the safety of yourselves and other road users. Place a warning triangle at the roadside where it will effectively warn approaching vehicles of your presence, and display the SOS sign in the Road Book on the rear of your car. You may then call our mobile Mechanics on the telephone number listed on the reverse of your 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 with the distance from the previous or next numbered instruction in the Road Book. The Mechanics will get to you as soon as they possibly can, but may have other calls to attend first. Please be patient. If you succeed in resolving your problem before the Mechanics arrive, you must inform them of this by telephone, so that they don't waste time looking for you.
Finishers' awards will generally be presented to all crews who have reported within their time schedule to the Main Time Controls at the start and finish of each day. On competitive events, overall prize winners will not be eligible for class awards, which will be allocated in accordance with class sizes. Additional awards may be presented at the organisers' discretion.