The late British legends Colin McRae and Richard Burns became stars in the World Rally Championship but that’s only the tip of an iceberg, because in the UK alone rallying is enjoyed by thousands of competitors across dozens of championships and events.
Special Stage rallying is probably the best known branch of the discipline but navigational events on the public highway, known as Road Rallies, have a long and successful history and are easily accessible to anyone with a road car and driving licence.
How does Rallying work?
Stage Rallies mainly take place in the forests and comprise loops of competitive sections, or stages, with the winner being the crew (driver and co-driver) that completes them all in the lowest aggregate time. The co-drivers read route direction notes issued by the organisers on both the stages and the linking road sections to ensure the car is heading the right way.
For Road Rallies on the public highway the emphasis is as much on navigation as driving skill, as crews must maintain a time schedule through all the control points. The navigator, who uses Ordnance Survey maps to direct the driver around the route, must be very careful with timing - it’s just as bad if you check in too early as it is to check in too late at a time control.
There are several different forms of road-rallying such as Runs with no timing, Economy Runs, Historic Rallies for classic cars and more competitive night events, where the emphasis is on good navigation and time-keeping. Lots of well-known rally co-drivers cut their teeth in Britain’s road-rally scene and went on to stardom in the World Rally Championship.
Most local motor clubs run what is known as a '12 Car' event, which is ideal for starting out in any kind of rallying – this is limited to 12 cars and just about any car can take part. You do not need special equipment to take part in road events, but often a map magnifying glass, map light and a sump-shield comes in useful on the more competitive events.
How do I start?
To get involved in Stage Rallying, you’ll need a full driving licence. Then you need to buy an MSA Go Rallying pack, pass a BARS test and then apply for a Rally National B Stage Competition Licence. If you just want to co-drive, you can apply for a Navigator’s licence without having to pass the BARS course.
For Road Rallying all you need to do is join a motor club that runs such events. If you want to be a driver you will need to have a full driving licence and be at least 17 years of age but you can compete as a navigator from as young as 12.
What kind of car do I need?
For Road Rallying all you need is a taxed and insured road car with a valid MOT certificate.
For Stage Rallies you will need a car that complies with the regulations. This will generally entail modifying the car with safety components such as a roll cage, special seats and harnesses, fire extinguishers and suchlike.
You can either but such a car second-hand or you can get a preparation company to modify a standard road car for you.
As Stage Rally cars have to use the public highway to get between stages the car will also need to be taxed and insured with an MOT certificate, as in Road Rallying.
What equipment do I need?
For Road Rallying all you need is an OS map of the area, a pen or pencil, and your enthusiasm!
Because Stage Rallying involves higher speeds on more tricky roads you will need MSA-compliant safety items such as a helmet, fireproof overalls, boots and gloves.