Stage rally is real cars, real roads, real fast. It’s a point-to-point race against the clock as drivers and co-drivers work together in production-based vehicles to compete on closed public roads. Day or night, teams tackle dirt, snow, gravel, or tarmac roads and obstacles like water crossings and jumps at incredible speeds.
Co-drivers use stage notes, which are detailed instructions about the course. Every turn, jump, crest and hazard is noted in order for the co-driver to accurately communicate to the driver what to expect. Some rally events allow the team to pre-run the course in a non-competition car at legal public speeds prior to the event in order to write their stage notes; this is called a “reconnaissance” or “recon.” However many races do not allow the driver and co-driver to pre-run or practice the course, and stage notes are provided via the event organizer. There’s a saying that a NASCAR driver takes one turn 10,000 times, while rally drivers take 10,000 turns once. This format tests a driver’s reflexes, endurance and precision, leading many to believe that rally drivers are the most skilled drivers in the world.
Rally cars must be street legal as there are stages on open public roads (where driving too quickly earns a penalty.) After several stages the cars visit the Service Area where team mechanics may have anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to perform any necessary repairs. While outside of these service areas only the driver and co-driver may work on their car. Seasoned professionals compete alongside weekend warriors and press on, regardless of the challenge, to finish the event with the lowest time possible.