How long shall we allow it that the events dictate the format?
We have experience to give freedom to the organiser to come with their strengths and do the rally as they would like it. But I have to say we have failed.
In some cases it works, in some cases it doesn’t work. A certain degree of standardisation is needed in rallies.
Jarmo Mahonen calls for the WRC events to be in a similar format. For some people, it already feels they are all the same. Let’s look at what each event has to offer of their own
Typically a WRC rally opens with a super special on Thursday, which is often repeated at the end of Friday or Saturday. The actual stages are driven in repeated loops of three stages on Friday and Saturday, with the Sunday having two stages repeated within the same loop, the last stage being the power stage.
The Monte Carlo Rally started already on Thursday with two night stages, moving the shakedown to Wednesday. One remarkable thing is that there’s not a single super special in the whole rally. The Friday was a normal 2×3 day but on Saturday there was a second mid-day service, after which SS2 was repeated again. The power stage was pretty long, at 21 kms.
Sweden had a quite normal structure with 2×3 on Friday and Saturday. Sunday would have also been a normal 2×2 day, but the first run of the power stage Torsby occured already at the end of Friday, acting partially as a super special with the ending tailored for spectators. The Thursday super special was repeated on Saturday.
The number of super specials is the highest of all season. With two canceled stages, 8 of the 17 run stages were super specials, almost 50%.
The most unique thing about this rally is that the opening stage is actually SS0. It’s a one hell of a piece of rally trivia – the winner of SS1 did not lead the rally although no penalties were given. Not sure why this happened, maybe they decided at the last minute to have two runs and didn’t want to change all the stage numbers or it was a way of bending the rules.
Another weird thing about the SS0/1 is that they were driven in Mexico City, far from the rally center and the other stages. The rally cars were transported back to Guanajuato on trucks. And as we know, this is what caused the cancelation of the whole Friday morning loop, since the trucks faced a traffic jam and the cars weren’t in time at the service park.
El Chocolate was the longest stage of the whole season at 54.90 km. It would have been run twice without the aforementioned incident. At the same time, El Chocolate made the Friday loop consist of just two stages instead of two or three, although the number of super specials fills it up.
There were no repeated stages during Sunday. Although, both of them were partial repeats from Saturday – La Calera shares the first 7 kilometres with Lajas de Oro and the power stage Derramadero concludes with the third run of El Brinco, being also the longest power stage of the season at 21.94 km.
Tour de Corse
Tour de Corse is probably the most different of all rallies. No super specials at all, no stages at all on Thursday, only 10 stages in the whole rally, averaging at 31 kms of length. Friday even didn’t have a midday service amid the four stages. The Sunday stages were run only once. The Sunday opener Antisanti – Poggio di Nazza was almost as long as El Chocolate at 53.78 km.
Argentina was a pretty standard 2×3 rally but the Friday super special was rather long at 6 kms and was repeated at the end of both legs. The Mina Clavero stage was run only once between the two runs of El Condor on Sunday.
Normal 2×3 structure for Portugal with just a repeated second super special concluding Friday. On Sunday there were two stages driven only once between the two runs of the Fafe power stage.
Again, a pretty standard 2×3 rally in Rally Italia Sardegna. No super special repeating after Thursday. As close to the stereotype as can get.
After the Thursday super special the crews had to do a long liaison to the city of Olbia for a night break and remote tyre change in the morning. Then the first day stages were run back towards the rally center, but the crews had to do the long liaison again after the midday service.
A very standard structure but in 2×4 format for Friday and Saturday, and super special was driven in a total of three times, concluding both Friday and Saturday.
Rally Finland had of the most unique structures in the whole season. Friday consisted of a total of 12 stages. The first loop had three stages repeated, while the second loop after the midday service was similar on three other stages, but the second run of Lankamaa was substituted with the repeat of the Thursday super special Harju.
Saturday was in 2×4 format, but the order of the stages changed for the afternoon loop. Sunday consisted only of 33 competitive kilometres, making it the shortest closing day of the season.
Deutschland had a similar location challenge as Rally Mexico, with the opening super special driven in Saarbrücken, far from the rally center.
On Friday there was a semi-super-special of Waden-Weiskirchen, that was run all of three times. It was a loop of four and half kilometres done twice per stage repeat. Thus, it was getting quite muddy towards the third run with each car driving the road for the sixth time and everyone cutting the insides of the corners.
Waden-Weiskirchen was the opener and closer of the morning loop and also the closer of the afternoon loop, whereas the loop itself consisted of only two stages. Meanwhile, the Saturday loop consisted of four stages, including the 41 km Panzerplatte and its more spectator friendly 2 km arena version, that was run twice consecutively on the afternoon loop.
Rally Catalunya is known for being the only mixed surface rally of the season with Friday on gravel and the rest of the rally on tarmac, with also the long Terra Alta stage on Friday including a tarmac section to be tackled on gravel setup.
There was no super special on Thursday. In fact, the only super special of the rally didn’t occur until the end of Saturday evening.
Another interesting fact is that the Sunday had a fairly big share of the rally at 74 kms whereas most rallies have around 50 kms on the closing day. Thus, all three days had three stages, each of them repeated, in addition to the super special on Saturday. And there was no service between the two repeats on Sunday.
Wales Rally GB was one of the primary sources of Mahonen’s concern, but this was mostly due to little visits to the service park and the lengths of the legs between services, which normally should be 80 kms at most.
If we look at the stages alone, Friday was a 2×3 day with only a remote tyre fitting service in between. Saturday was a 2×4 day with a super special thrown in and only two stages left after the service to be driven in the darkness. Sunday was supposed to be a 2×3 like in Catalunya, but the first repeat of Gwydir was removed because the night break would have become too short with the night stages.
Australia was another rally without a Thursday super special. Friday was a normal 2×3 day with a double super special at the end, whereas Saturday was a disgused 2×2 day since Welshs Creek and Argents Hill are actually a repeat of the Nambucca stage just split in two parts. Meanwhile, Sunday threw in some roads from friday run in reverse, as discussed earlier, with an additional service before the last two stages.
The rallies have a lot in common. All have full competitive days on Friday and Saturday, and all have a shorter day on Sunday with the concluding power stage. Most of the stages are double runs, but there’s still single run stages on some of the rallies.
I’m personally happy about these slight variations to the format, although sometimes I wonder how the French rallies get away with not having to do super specials.
Some have suggested that classic long rallies like Monte Carlo and Wales should be granted a longer itinerary and traditionally shorter rallies like Finland and Sweden should be shortened to just one and a half days. I don’t agree with this as it would make the situation uneven competitively and financially for different events. Also, shortening the current format would make them a bit ridiculous for the WRC value.
If something, I wish there could be some stages run already on Thursday, like there was in 2014, but I also understand it’s not a big spectator day and it’s all adding up to the cost. I’m not dreaming of remote services (not just tyre fitting zones) or marathon rallies anymore. I just want to keep the series running.
Cover Image by Richard Simpson / Flickr