WHAT WE DO
Autotests are all about car control. The challenge is to negotiate as quickly as possible a memorised, low-speed course without hitting any markers. While you will rarely venture out of first and reverse gears, you will need to get the hang of handbrake turns, J-turns and the like particularly when competing at an inter club level. Drivers compete on courses – usually on tarmac or grass areas such as car parks or smooth fields – marked out by plastic pylons or cones. They tackle a number of tests, with two attempts at each. The driver with the lowest accumulated time is the winner, although penalties are incurred for hitting cones, failing to stop on a line, or for taking the wrong route.
The late British legends Colin McRae and Richard Burns became stars in the World Rally Championship but that is 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.
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. 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. 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.
A ’12 Car’ event, 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, just the relevant map, a map magnifying glass and map light.