Updated: Feb 28
Today at Divebomb we are going to be analyzing all there is to know about the WRC (World Rally Championship). If you are a general motorsport fan you will have likely heard of WRC at some stage. Whether it was through endless scrolling on social media platforms or through commentary during other motorsport events. Even if you have heard of WRC or not this article is for you. We are here to give you the full rundown of WRC between the weekend layout, the teams, drivers and co-drivers, engine specs we will cover it all. Let’s get straight into it!
Written by Megan Teahan, Edited by Mikaeel Ali
The Championships this year consists of thirteen drivers and co-drivers across four different teams. The championship has a total of twelve rounds across eleven different countries. The season typically runs from January to November, this may seem like quite a long season, but a lot of the rallies have a gap of at least two weeks, with the Belgium rally and the following round after that in Greece seeing almost a one month “break” for everyone involved. Each Rally weekend features between fifteen to twenty-five timed sections or “special stages”. These stages take place on closed roads from the public, where each driver/co-driver competes alone on the section. Drivers go to and from each section adhering to local rules of the road of whichever country they are competing in. You may be wondering why there is a co-driver in the passenger seat and not just the driver alone in the car. A co-driver in WRC is just as important as the driver. The co-driver reads pace notes to the driver warning the driver of upcoming hazards. (We will touch back on co-drivers later). The timings from each section are taken to 1/10th of a second, added up after all sections are completed. Whoever completes all stages in the shortest accumulated time wins the rally. The top ten finishers receive points going from twenty-five, eighteen, fifteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, four, two and one. Extra points are also earned during the closing power stage, which gives points to the teams of the five fastest drivers.
A Rally Weekend
The rally itself takes place over three days. Two days before a rally begins the drivers/co-drivers practice the route of the different stages, where the time sections of the rally will take place. This gives the co-driver time to make pace notes and helps the driver to get used to the layout of each section. If you have ever watched an on-board video of a rally race you will hear a voice that is constantly speaking, this is the co-driver calling out pace notes. While to most these almost “cryptic” words mean nothing, to the driver they are everything. One wrong word from the co-driver can throw the driver completely off course and result in massive time loss. Here is an example of the pace notes the co-driver would have on his pace notes during a certain stage. “40 L5-/Cr 4+ -> !!!R4/BgJmp oc”. Can you decode this message? If not, the answer will be revealed at the end of the article!
The weekend begins with a “shakedown”. A shakedown gives drivers an opportunity to test out the cars and the type of terrain they will be driving on, each car must drive through the shakedown stage at least three times. The shakedown also allows for any final tweaks to be made to the car before the rally officially begins.
The rally race itself then takes place over three days; this is where the fifteen to twenty-five timed sections take place. During the three days of racing, you will hear the phrase “service park ”. This is essentially the WRC version of a pitstop. There are three service park sessions per day. Each session takes place at a predetermined time, during these times teams are allowed to perform mechanical work on the car and fix any damage the car may have incurred during the rally so far. The first service park takes place in the morning before the opening stage of the rally, teams are given fifteen minutes for any last adjustments they would like to perform on the car. The second service park takes place midway through the rally, teams are given forty minutes. The final service park takes place at the end of the day where teams are given forty-five minutes to prepare the car for the following day. Service Park times are tightly monitored to make sure no team ends up spending more time on the car then they are allowed to. Rally racing takes place on different and constantly changing terrains therefore the car is bound to be subjected to damage at some stage of the rally. Therefore, the driver and co-driver are allowed to work on the car outside of service park times, using only tools and spare parts that are already in the car. If the car gets a puncture hallway through a stage, there is no “pit crew” following closely behind, you will see the driver and co-driver get out of the car to change the tire as quickly as possible. If the car sustains damage, the clock will not be stopped to allow time for the driver and co-driver to fix the damage. The clock will continue to run, and this will be taken into the final timings. Sometimes a car will be too damaged to continue with the race, resulting in retirement. Car retirements can restart the next day of the rally, granted the car is safe to drive but the driver will incur a ten-minute penalty for every stage they have missed. These time penalties will be added at the end. Time penalties will be incurred if drivers arrive late at control points for example, exiting the service park too late.
Technical Specification of a WRC car
We are going to focus on the technical specification of the m-sport Ford Fiesta WRC pictured below. This year m-sport are running two cars with drivers Teemu Suninen, Adrian Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith and co-drivers Jarmo Lehtinen, Alexandre Coria and Chris Patterson.
Rally cars are based off road cars that you; ether drive yourself or more than likely drive past every day on the road. It is the specification of the cars in the world rally championship that make them different to the typical road car.
The m-sport Ford Fiesta produces 380bhp, 450nm of torque from its 1600cc direct injection engine. If the previous sentence makes no sense to you, let’s break it down. Bhp also known as horsepower is the amount of power an engine can produce, the higher the bhp the faster the car can run. For example, the average road car has 120phb, which is not fast in terms of rally cars. Torque is a crucial part of generating power from a car’s engine, the more torque the greater the acceleration on the car. All rally cars are subjected to at least 425nm and no more than 450nm for safety reasons. 1600cc is a 1.6-liter engine, a direct injection engine has more power and burns less fuel.
The next aspect of the WRC Ford Fiesta is a six-speed sequential gearbox, to explain what a six-speed sequential gearbox is we will compare it to the typical road car gear box. Both gear boxes are quite similar, with a typical road car gear box you would press the clutch before changing/or putting the car into the gear. Following a “H” pattern of first gear being top left, second gear being back left and so on. With a six-speed sequential gearbox, you hit a lever/or paddle to change through gears in order whether you are upshifting or downshifting. This type of gearbox would be seen on most race cars.
Another main aspect is the MacPherson struts, these are basically the front suspension of the car. When a rally car becomes air bound and almost bounces back down to the terrain this bounce comes from the MacPherson struts. These struts also work as shock absorbers during collisions or impacts back to the terrain. These struts allow for more extreme steering hence why they are used in the m-sport Ford Fiesta.
If you want to know more about the m-sport Ford Fiesta WRC head over to the m-sport website for the full breakdown.
If you did not end up decoding the pace notes here is the answer “Forty, left five minus over crest opens over 40, tightens four plus, into triple caution right four over big jump off camber”. If this still makes no sense, you are not alone.