As a brief break from all the election coverage currently smothering your news and Twitter feeds, we thought we’d give you an insight into a sport we’ve recently developed a taste for: Rallying.

 

Rallying, to the uninitiated, is a form of motorsport that is effectively a time trial run over a series of closed-off roads designated as ‘special stages’. The driver who has obtained the fastest overall time by the end of the last stage is the winner.

Rallying however, except in the case of the MSN Circuit Rally Championship, is not just run on tarmac but on every single type of surface from ice and snow to gravel and dirt tracks. Much like sports car racing it is really a case of to finish first, first you must finish.

This is part of what makes rallying so inherently exciting. When the cars go out of service to begin another stage, you don’t have any certainty that all of them will return and whether those that do will be intact.

Some rallies, like the WRC Spares Ltd TSH Stages, a two-day event that takes place at RAF Portreath, have an attrition rate of over 50 per cent. This year just 39 of the 77 entrants finished a rally that is known for being tough on drivers and cars with its abrasively variable surface.

This though, isn’t the only reason for our newfound love of rallying, there’s something else, a sense of camaraderie amongst the teams and drivers, a sense that though everyone is competing for themselves they’re all in it together.

A perfect example of this is the aftermath of what happened on day one of the TSH Stages. When a Citroen C1 clipped a kerb and rolled into a light post, the two vehicles next on the road immediately stopped and made sure the stage was safe.

When the car was returned to the paddock that afternoon, the driver and co-driver of the damaged Citroen told me that over the course of a few hours mechanics and drivers from over ten other teams had, of their own accord, dropped in to lend a hand and donate parts so they could carry on racing.

Though we are not supposing events like this do not occur in circuit racing, what we are noting is that it is this camaraderie that is a crucial part of the atmosphere of rallying and a crucial element of what makes each event as enjoyable as it is.

There’s something else about rallying that invigorates the soul and senses. It is how, unlike circuit racing where the tracks have gotten safer as the years have passed, the stages have barely changed.

Those same trees and tracks that witnessed Timo Makinen’s Mini Cooper and Jean Pierre Nicola’s Alpine A110 in the fifties and sixties, still look on today as Ford Fiesta WRCs and Porsche 911s blast through those same turns.

Rallying has remained raw, kept its rough edges and, aside from safety changes to the cars; is a testament to the heroes of the past and present. As mentioned in a previous article, you cannot make a tree more energy-absorbing than it already is.

Rallying then, is more than a time trail between cars on a closed road; it is a visceral experience that provides cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger. Each stage is a miniature drama, a balance of skill and high-speed precision where just one error can be costly.

As such, if you’re looking for fast thrills but circuit racing either doesn’t appeal to you or is out of reach, then don’t worry because rallying is here to help.