For the last 10 years WRC has been run predominantly on repeated stages, with single run stages becoming increasingly rare (apart from short super specials). Why has this development happened and what are the pros and cons of each approach?
Cover Image by Richard Simpson / Flickr (C)
Back in the early days of rallying, most of the special stages were run just once. Rallies would cover a large geographical distance – a circular route or one from city to another – with service vans chasing the rally cars. Thus stage repeats were rare and would at most occur on separate days, apart from exceptions like the Sintra loop in Portugal, which was run up to three times.
Stage repeats didn’t start becoming usual until when servicing was concentrated into designated service parks in 1995. This was taken even further by limiting the amount of service parks to one per day in 2001, and finally one per rally in 2004, as it is now. Shorter entry lists also helped the progress.
My data says that 1997 was the last year when over half of the season’s special stages (with super specials omitted) were single-run, while already in 2002 that number was down to 20%. The lowest number of single runs was actually already in 2010 when there were only 11 single runs of the 232 stages whole year. Since then 10% has been exceeded in 2012 and 2015, but now the trend is again downwards with the past three years giving 7%, 6.3% and 5.4%.
Single run stages of 2022
The 2022 WRC season contained 13 single run non-super-specials. Five of them were run in Acropolis and three in Monte Carlo with two each in Portugal and Japan as well as one in Sweden (although it was almost completely repeated).
|Monte Carlo||Luceram – Lantosque||15.20 km|
|Monte Carlo||La Bollène-Vésubie – Moulinet||23.25 km|
|Monte Carlo||Le Fugeret – Thorame-Haute||16.80 km|
|Sweden||Umeå Sprint||5.53 km|
|Acropolis||Elatia – Rengini||11.26 km|
|Japan||Shinshiro City||7.08 km|
|Japan||Nenoue Plateau||11.60 km|
Why are single run stages disappearing? Let’s look at things from different angles. A thumb up means single runs are good, thumb down says single passes are bad. A shrug means we cannot make any conclusions.
The regulations don’t say anything about stage repeats per se, except that repeating a stage more than twice is not permitted. However, a new rule for the 2021 season limited the number of stages within a loop to four, likely to suit the All Live televising/streaming format. This in effect made it more difficult to arrange a single-run stage for only the morning of afternoon loop to be run as a fifth stage. Although, it’s still possible by having only three longer repeated stages and then a fourth one as a single-run or having one repeated stage sandwiching two single-runs.
This is simple mathematics. If every stage of a 300 km rally is run twice, there is 150 km of roads to be recced. If all stages are run once, there is double the amount of pace notes. Reconnaissance time is nowadays limited to two days, and already now the recce days are very long, especially if the rally is covering a vast geographic area. Sometimes rallies apply for waivers to get a third recce day.
More different roads in a rally means more different roads, or at least gives a chance for more variety. Maybe the single-run could offer something different to the rally, that would be too much to drive twice? For example a tarmac stage in a gravel rally or a rough and technical stage in a fast rally?
Analogously to the previous point, the more roads there is to be learned and remembered, the more difficult the rally is for the drivers, so we could expect single runs to increase difficulty. To measure this, let’s look at crashes and mistakes made by Rally1 drivers in the 2022 season
|First Pass||Second Pass|
|Solberg (Friday)||Estonia||Solberg (Sunday 3)||Estonia|
|Solberg (Sunday 1)||Estonia|
|Solberg (Sunday 2)||Estonia|
|Katsuta (Friday)||New Zealand||Katsuta (Saturday)||New Zealand|
|Evans (Saturday 1)||New Zealand|
|Evans (Saturday 2)||New Zealand|
37 of these mistakes happened on first or single passes and only 16 on second passes, so it definitely seems that second passes are easier, to the extent that in Finland, Catalunya and Japan absolutely no crashes happened on second passes. Meanwhile it’s curious that all of Neuville’s mistakes happened on second passes!
You could assume first passes yield greater time differences when everybody can fine tune their braking points and pace notes for the second pass. Actually these results from 2022 actually claim otherwise. In here we measure the difference between stage winner and the fifth fastest on the stage, with s/km as the unit to eliminate differences between stage length.
|Stage||Rally||Surface||First pass 1-5||Second pass 1-5||Diff|
|Laukaa||Finland||Fast gravel||0.37 s/km||0.21 s/km||-0.16 s/km|
|Sahloinen – Moksi||Finland||Fast gravel||0.36 s/km||0.24 s/km||-0.12 s/km|
|Oittila||Finland||Fast gravel||0.97 s/km||0.46 s/km||-0.51 s/km|
|Kroksjö||Sweden||Snow||0.13 s/km||0.45 s/km||0.32 s/km|
|Brattby||Sweden||Snow||0.25 s/km||0.51 s/km||0.26 s/km|
|Långed||Sweden||Snow||0.29 s/km||0.57 s/km||0.28 s/km|
|Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci||Croatia||Broken tarmac||1.33 s/km||1.17 s/km||-0.16 s/km|
|Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok||Croatia||Broken tarmac||0.32 s/km||0.47 s/km||0.15 s/km|
|Krašić – Vrškovac||Croatia||Broken tarmac||0.59 s/km||0.64 s/km||0.05 s/km|
|Els Omells – Maldà||Catalunya||Smooth tarmac||0.25 s/km||0.25 s/km||0.00 s/km|
|Riba-roja||Catalunya||Smooth tarmac||0.21 s/km||0.30 s/km||0.09 s/km|
|Querol – Les Pobles||Catalunya||Smooth tarmac||0.30 s/km||0.30 s/km||0.00 s/km|
|Monti di Alà e Buddusò||Sardinia||Technical gravel||0.45 s/km||0.36 s/km||-0.09 s/km|
|Tempio Pausania||Sardinia||Technical gravel||1.34 s/km||0.76 s/km||-0.58 s/km|
|Cala Flumini||Sardinia||Technical gravel||0.94 s/km||0.22 s/km||-0.72 s/km|
|Loldia||Safari||Rough gravel||0.25 s/km||0.58 s/km||0.33 s/km|
|Geothermal||Safari||Rough gravel||0.27 s/km||0.29 s/km||0.02 s/km|
|Soysambu||Safari||Rough gravel||0.45 s/km||0.27 s/km||-0.18 s/km|
|Whaanga Coast||New Zealand||Muddy gravel||0.23 s/km||0.55 s/km||0.32 s/km|
|Te Akau North||New Zealand||Muddy gravel||0.30 s/km||0.48 s/km||0.18 s/km|
|Kaipara Hills||New Zealand||Muddy gravel||0.63 s/km||1.03 s/km||0.40 s/km|
In Finland and Sardinia the effect is clear from stage to stage, but on the snow of Sweden and muddy gravel of New Zealand it’s actually the opposite with second passes creating bigger time differences. On the paved roads of Croatia and Catalunya the differences are minimal, while altogether unpredictable in Safari. So this one is undecided, because it depends from rally to another.
Running a special stage requires a certain amount of personnel. Their tasks are not limited to the running time of the stage, so we cannot assume that one set of personnel could arrange one stage on the morning and a completely different stage on the afternoon as opposed to handling two runs of the same stage. Thus it’s quite logical that we need more personnel for two single-runs than on a repeated stage. Obviously the working day will be longer for two passes, although only for the rally day, not for the pre-rally activities. It’s also worth mentioning that if a stage is repeated on separate days, this benefit is partially lost.
In addition to personnel, there are other expenses to prepare a rally stage. For example repairing the road, which is not done between two runs of a special stage. We could also count all kinds of stage planning and road permission obtaining as well as tapes, signs, fences and other equipment into these expenses. In many ways a repeated stage gives two for the price of one.
Televising a special stage is another task which needs planning in advance – essentially their own recce. Camera operators need to be placed onto the ground and the connections tested. It’s much more convenient for the WRC+ team to use one location to film two passes of a stage than to move to another stage – Even if they would move their position to another corner for the second pass.
In gravel and snow rallies the road deteriorates with each pass of a car. In turn the second pass could get rutted and rough. In tarmac rallies the road gets more polluted. This is why some drivers do not like second passes, especially on the lower class cars.
Finally the score is 3-4 between single runs and stage repeats, meaning that stage repeats are fractionally better. Personally I would like to see more single runs in rallies, but I also understand the organizers – everything is more and more expensive, authorities demand more and more things and it’s more and more difficult to get volunteers to work on the stages.
EDIT 27.3.2023 updated “Challenge” to “Difficulty” and added a couple of crashes
3 thoughts on “Stage Repeats vs. Single Runs”
Did you actually manage to find every stage ever driven in the WRC for the first statistic or is there some approximation included? And how long did it take? Nice to see other content too besides the route previews. Keep it up!
The big data is what I have in my database, and especially from 70’s and 80’s there’s stages missing. But I assume it wouldn’t change the percentage that much.
Also stages that are partially repeated but run with separate titles are counted as single runs here.