Sebastien Ogier and Vincent Landais of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT perform during World Rally Championship Mexico in Leon, Mexico on March 19, 2023.
© Jaanus Ree/ Red Bull Content Pool
WRC

Get up to speed with the world of rallying and learn all about the WRC

The world of rally driving is unique and may be hard to understand. We want to make sure you're in the know, so we've got the answers to your most pressing questions.
By Peter Franks
5 min readPublished on
Established in 1973, the World Rally Championship (WRC) has come a long way since the very first race at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. The cars have changed significantly, as have the rules. So let’s answer some of your burning questions about the sport.
01

How does a rally work?

A rally is a stage race. Each of the three days of racing is divided into several special stages, which are the only parts of the weekend that are actually timed. Each stage is generally between 10 and 50km in length, with the entire event covering around 350km in total.
Each rally features numerous stages with some taking on extra significance. Super special stages tend to be short and create a spectacle as they change the character of the rally – such as a change of surface or a head-to-heat format is used – while power stages usually run as the final stage of a rally. It may sound like the bonus level of a video game, but in reality, it awards additional championship points to the five fastest crews throughout the stage, regardless of where they finished in the rally.
Thierry Neuville (BEL) and artijn Wydaeghe (BEL) of team HYUNDAI SHELL MOBIS in action during World Rally Championship Mexico in Leon, Mexico on March 18, 2023

Stages are held on a variety of surfaces

© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

02

How do you win a rally and how is the WRC championship decided?

The rally winner is simply the driver with the fastest total time across all the stages. Points are then assigned to each driver based on their finishing position at the rally: 25 points to the winner, 18 to second place, 15 to third and down to just one point for tenth place. The WRC champion is the driver with the most points at the end of the season.
How fast can the cars go?
The average speed record of 124.73kph was set in 2015 by Jari-Matti Latvala in Finland. During this rally he reached 200kph on several occasions, which is particularly impressive when you consider the terrain. While this may be well short of the speeds regularly reached in Formula One, WRC drivers have to navigate sharp turns on narrow roads and on surfaces that range from asphalt and gravel to even snow. Go for a ride in the passenger seat with Sébastien Ogier and you'll never ask him to speed up.

2 min

POV: Running flat out with Ogier at Rally Finland

Watch four-time world champion Sébastien Ogier as he tests his M-Sport Fiesta ahead of Rally Finland.

03

How powerful are the cars?

Since 2017, WRC cars have featured 1.6-litre engines that produce around 380 horsepower, as well as an electric boost that allows them to reach as much as 520 horsepower for a few seconds. It's a lot of power, much more than WRC cars ran for decades when they were limited to 315 horsepower. If that seems overly cautious, it's for good reason. Perhaps the most famous era in WRC featured the machines of 'Group B' in the 1980s. During this time, WRC cars had no power limits and could carry up to 600 horsepower. They proved too dangerous, however, and these cars were banned after the death of Finnish driver Henri Toivonen.
The Ferrari 308 was a surprisingly good rally car

The Ferrari 308 was a surprisingly good rally car

© DPPI

04

How do rally drivers know the routes?

At the speeds of these cars, your average GPS simply would not cut it, even if it were allowed. Instead, each crew (driver and co-driver) does their own course survey at the start of the race week. They get a maximum of two passages on each stage, during which the driver/co-driver take notes on every turn of the course. And we're talking a lot of notes.
Julien Ingrassia (Ogier’s co-driver) explained the process: “I transcribe while trying to take as many visual cues as possible. When you are going 180kph and then you have to take a sharp left, what I am saying is crucial. A note said five-tenths of a second too late can ruin everything.”
That's right, the co-driver is giving a steady stream of live directions to the driver, including how far ahead the next turn is and how fast they can go through it.
Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Daniel Ingrassia preparing for the 2019 Tour de Corse WRC Rally.

Learning every inch of the course is vital

© Citroën Racing

05

Can road cars end up next to rally cars during a race?

Yes and no. The timed stages take place on closed courses. However, each driver is responsible for getting themselves from the end of each stage to the start of the next one. Often this means driving on public sections of road where the WRC cars must obey traffic regulations just like any other car.
06

Why are there so few manufacturers in the WRC?

Thirty drivers for only three manufacturers (Toyota, Ford and Hyundai) isn't much. That said, it's explainable. The brands involved have been manufacturing streamlined cars for the WRC for years, while other car companies have not developed the models or know-how.
07

How do mechanics work on rally cars?

As you can imagine, it's impossible to set up pits in the middle of the woods. Mechanics must therefore wait until the drivers' cars are parked in a service park set up between two stages so that they can repair or adjust them. But they must be careful as they don't have the whole evening as their work must not exceed 10, 30 or 45 minutes, depending on the allotted time.
Go beyond the limits and there'll be a penalty. And if ever it's necessary to change a tyre in the middle of a special, then the driver and the co-driver take care of it, with the tools and other parts stored in the car.
Sébastien Ogier at FIA World Rally Championships 2011 in Karlstadt, Sweden on February 11, 2011.

When WRC drivers also need to be their own mechanic – Sweden, 2011

© GEPA Pictures/McKlein/Red Bull Content Pool

08

Who has won the most titles in WRC?

Traditionally it has been French drivers that have dominated in WRC. Sébastien Loeb currently leads the way with nine world titles, while fellow Frenchman Sébastien Ogier has eight (with his last title triumph coming in 2021). There have also been numerous Finish drivers who have excelled in WRC, with the latest being Kalle Rovanperä who won the title in 2022.
09

Are there drivers that excel on different rally surfaces?

All WRC drivers are able to expertly navigate across all types of surfaces, whether it’s sand, gravel or asphalt. But driving in the snow can sometimes present a challenge and requires a huge amount of skill. This may explain why Scandinavians, like Stig Blomqvist and Marcus Grönholm – who grew up driving in the snow – remain the record holders for victories in this speciality, with five wins apiece.

Part of this story

FIA World Rally Championship

The FIA World Rally Championship puts drivers against some of the toughest conditions on the planet.

90 Tour Stops

Rally de Portugal

Fast, technical gravel roads are soft and sandy initially, but can be rocky and rutted for the second pass. Tricky corners are hidden by crests and temperatures can soar in Portugal’s early summer.

Portugal

Guanajuato Rally México

Mexico is the season’s opening gravel round and breathtaking in both senses of the word. The stages climb to the thin air and stunning scenery of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra Guanajuato mountains.

Mexico

Safari Rally Kenya

Competitors can expect rocky and rutted tracks and unpredictable weather on challenging closed dirt roads against a backdrop of stunning picture-postcard scenery and exotic wildlife.

Kenya

Croatia Rally

The course provides a mix of asphalt, with some surfaces worn and bumpy due to weather and water damage, and others much smoother. Springtime displays Croatia’s beautiful countryside in all its glory.

Croatia

Rally Japan

Japan hosted the final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship. Crews had to develop brand-new pace notes, so a successful recce could have made the difference between a good or bad result.

Japan

Rally Finland

Smooth and blisteringly quick gravel roads, buried among forests and lakes, are characterised by massive stomach-churning jumps. Bravery and commitment are essential here more than anywhere else.

Finland

Rally Central Europe

Rally Central Europe makes its WRC bow, featuring three special stages across three different countries.

Rally Chile Bio Bío

Rally Chile Bio Bío will feature stages taking place mostly in the surrounding forests, along with some more open sections that have views of the Pacific Ocean.

Chile

Rally Italia Sardegna

Fast and narrow stages leave no margin for error, while intense heat tests tyres to the limit on the abrasive roads.

Italy

Rally Estonia

The pace in Estonia is relentless as gravel roads featuring plenty of crests and jumps are paired with more technical sections on wide and narrow forest roads. They’re billiard-table smooth too.

Estonia

Rally Sweden

The snowy and icy conditions of the frozen forest terrain at Umeå demand skilful driving during the 10-stage course.

Sweden

Acropolis Rally Greece

Twisty gravel mountain roads combine with high temperatures and choking dust to provide a fierce challenge. Tracks are smoother than they used to be but still pose punishing demands on tyres and cars.

Greece

Sébastien Ogier

When Sébastien Ogier clinched a eighth World Rally Championship crown in November 2021, he joined an elite club of drivers.

FranceFrance

Kalle Rovanperä

Kalle Rovanperä is the record-breaking, youngest-ever WRC world champion who's following in the tracks of his legendary Finnish compatriots.

FinlandFinland

Elfyn Evans

A first win in 2017 saw Elfyn Evans become the first Welsh driver to win Rally GB on home soil, and he's continued racking up big results ever since.

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

Takamoto Katsuta

A product of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge development program, Takamoto Katsuta came to the WRC via karting and Formula Three.

JapanJapan

Thierry Neuville

Belgian driver Thierry Neuville has finished in second place in the drivers’ standings several times – now he's pushing hard to be the next WRC champion.

BelgiumBelgium

Dani Sordo

Veteran Spanish driver Daniel Sordo can currently be found blazing a trail in the World Rally Championship with Hyundai.

SpainSpain