Demystifying the World Rally Championship (WRC): A Test of Speed and Strategy

JamesFeb 23, 2024, 09:25 PM

WRC (World Rally Championship) World Rally Championship, started in 1973, organized by the FIA International Motor Federation, is the highest level of rally series in the world. All WRC participating vehicles must be developed and manufactured based on mass-produced cars, and compete according to the designated driving route (with different road conditions such as rainforest, muddy, snowy, desert and winding mountain roads).


WRC Rally Race Categories

The WRC competition is divided into two major categories, Group N for original factory and Group A for modified, based on the specifications of the participating vehicles. Both Group A and Group N are further divided into four small groups according to different exhaust volumes.

Group A8: Over 2000C.C.

Modified Group A7: 1601-2000C.C.

Modified Group A6: 1401-1600C.C.

Modified Group A5: Below 1400C.C.

Modified Group N4: Over 2000C.C.

Original Group N3: 1601-2000C.C.

Original Group N2: 1401-1600C.C.

Original Group N1: Below 1400C.C. There must be at least 5 cars in each group racing at each station of the original factory group, otherwise enforced advancement is required.


WRC Rally Race Method

Each rally includes two days of field survey, one day of machine inspection, and three days of competition. Each event is divided into three sections (Leg), usually about 15 to 25 special stages (SS: special stage) in each event.


SS (Special Stages) stages are speed races on closed controlled roads, each Leg usually has 5-10 SS stages, lengths usually between 10-50 kilometers, the total length of SS stages is limited to 400 kilometers. WRC is determined by the total time each driver completes all SS stages, the timing unit is 0.1 seconds, with an average planned speed of 110 kilometers as the limit, and it cannot exceed 132 kilometers.


The WRC scoring system is the same as F1, the top eight of each station can get 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points respectively, the points earned by drivers can be the annual points of the driver and the team, the driver and team with the highest total points of the year will win the highest honor of the world champion. FIA stipulates that each factory team can only send two cars to participate in the race, and the participating factory teams must participate in the race all year to compete for the annual team points.


Considering these two provisions, the team points are taken from the best eight out of the points earning drivers.


Those who participate in the WRCar group races are the elite drivers of each family. The race starts according to their ranking, with the leading scorers going first.


The number of vehicles participating in the competition usually around 90, in addition to the vehicles participating in the WRC competition, the remaining part will intersperse the JWRC (Junior World Championship) or PWRC (Production World Championship) competitions with lower engine power, specifically for young drivers. Manufacturers must participate in more than 10 stations throughout the year and must participate in at least two races outside Europe.


WRC Rally Race Special Details

In the WRC competition organized by the FIA, an important link is the road reconnaissance. Road reconnaissance refers to the survey of the race track by the driver and the navigator before the official competition on Tuesday or Wednesday before the start of the competition. Each car group is allowed to pass through the same stage twice to conduct a survey as close as possible to the real race. The first time through the stage, the driver needs to feedback the road condition information to the navigator, and then the navigator records these information in simple language. The second time through the stage, the navigator reads out the road book, and the driver checks these information again.


The reconnaissance car must be Group N rules, 2-liter turbocharged engine, standard engine management system, gearbox, traditional axle, and brakes. Roll cages must be installed, racing buckets, and four-point or more certified seat belts. Reconnaissance vehicles are not allowed to post any sponsor's advertising. The driver usually has a maintenance team to assist in the reconnaissance, to solve any race car problems encountered in the reconnaissance. They carry commonly used repair parts and wait at the end of the stage.


The Stages stage, unlike the general track racing cars (such as F-1), WRC cars are first priority for factory team participating vehicles, followed by FIA nominated drivers, other drivers go according to registration order. Generally, there should be a take off interval of at least 2 minutes for the first 20 cars.


Special Stages (SS) are the competition routes of the rally, where drivers and co-drivers strive to achieve the fastest completion time.


The competition route is set on private or public roads, and traffic will be controlled for the public during the competition.


A typical rally has about 25 special stages within three days. The stages are connected by public roads, and all competition vehicles must comply with local traffic laws on public roads. Each stage varies in length, ranging from 5 to 60 kilometers, and vehicles are timed at each stage, calculated to the smallest tenth. The Clock timer forget the habitual so-called "the first one to cross the line wins" traditional race competition. WRC vehicles do not compete directly with each other. Their toughest opponent is time. Each competition car takes off at an interval of one to two minutes, each car is timed and entered into the FIA's computer. Unless someone gets into trouble on the road like anchoring, the players are unlikely to see their opponents on the race route. The event ends, with the vehicle that used the least amount of time to complete the event winning.


The Points points, the goal of the results of all 16 division events is to get two FIA world championships: driver champion and team champion. The first driver can get ten points, the second to eighth can get 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points respectively, adding the points of the two drivers in the team equals the team points.


The TIME Controls, the rally route is controlled by a strict timetable. Drivers will be penalized for being late or early. The time is based on the clock at the entrance and exit of the departure point. For every minute the driver is late, a 10-second penalty will be added to the total personal time. If the driver is more than 15 minutes late for the start, or is 30 minutes late for a leg, or is more than 60 minutes late for the entire rally, he may be disqualified from the competition.


The Service Parks, after completing several stages of competition, the vehicles can go to the designated maintenance area for 20 minutes of maintenance, the maintenance process will be closely monitored.


The maintenance personnel in the maintenance area are made up of team members. After each day's competition, the maintenance personnel can have a longer 45-minute maintenance time, and when the time is up, the vehicles will be controlled in the parking area until the start of the competition the next morning. There will also be overtime penalties if maintenance exceeds the time limit.


Engine and transmission, generally WRC cars are equipped with six forward gearboxes, usually this sequential transmission device is installed near the dashboard, rather than the manual seen in general vehicles. There's also a clutch pedal on the car, but besides starting from the starting line, it's not much needed at other times. The driver just needs to push and pull the gear shift lever, and all other actions are controlled by the computer.


WRC race cars can exceed 200km per hour, every tenth of a second is related to victory or defeat, so time can't be wasted on shifting gears. The gear change time of a WRC race car is about 50 milliseconds - this is about ten times faster than a market car.


engines and tyres, the 2.0 liter engine block of the WRC race car is the same as the original market car, the difference is that it is a turbocharged horsepower beast, the maximum horsepower can reach 300hp, and it is also equipped with four-wheel drive. In order to stop such a high-speed racing car quickly, it needs to have enlarged carbon fiber brake discs, the size of which is almost the same as the diameter of the wheel ring of a general car.


Tyre choice, to improve grip and safety, WRC racing cars are equipped with giant 18-inch tires, snow uses 15-inch tires, and tire replacement is very frequent. Don't be surprised if you hear team members changing tires seven times in a rally. On tarmac, cars need smooth bald racing tires, rainy days require tires with drainage grooves. On gravel roads, tires must be thick to prevent the impact of gravel on the road. On snow, studded tires are standard equipment. Tire factories such as Pirelli and Michelin have also developed anti-flat systems. If the tire is punctured by foreign objects, the foam-like substance in the tire will automatically inflate to fill the interior of the tire, preventing air leakage and potential dangers.

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