(Content borrowed from the SCCA site)
Two people (a driver and a navigator) in ordinary cars make up a rally team.
A RoadRally is traversed over public roads within the legal speed limit. The challenge is to drive on time, arriving at points along the route neither early nor late (it’s NOT a race).
Each team needs a simple watch which can be synchronized to match official time, as well as something to write on and with. Interior lighting (map lights, a flashlight, etc) is also a good idea for night rallies.
After receiving and browsing the route instructions, cars start at one minute intervals. The first section, a short 10-15 mile route, is called the “Odometer Calibration Zone,” and is used to calibrate the rally car’s odometer to the official mileage used to measure the course by the rallymaster. After this section, the competition really begins, as you must follow the course using the instructions in the route book, as well as the general instructions that govern the rally. Meanwhile, you must also stay on time, based on the average speeds given in the instructions at various points through the routes.
A Contest of Precision
At various points, unknown to the competitors, timing controls (checkpoints) will be encountered. Since the rallymaster knows the exact distance and speeds you should have traveled to reach the checkpoint, the “perfect time” of arrival can be calculated. You are timed at the moment you reach the control, and will receive penalty points for arriving either early OR late. You are then given information about the last leg, as well as a time to start the next leg, and a clean start to challenge the clock. This is a contest of precision, not a race, and each leg is scored separately. If you are early or late at one control, you cannot make up for it by being late or early at the next. At the conclusion, scores for all legs are totaled, and the lowest score wins (just like golf). Sound easy? Well, just as in golf, it takes practice to get very good scores.
Regardless of how well you score, rallying is a lot of fun if you like to spend time in your car, see some scenery and spend time with congenial people. Rallies usually end at a location where munchies and beverages are available. You can join the rest of the crowd in discussing how the event went and how you did, while waiting for the final scores to be calculated and trophies to be awarded.
Events For All Levels of Experience
A Touring rally is a time-speed-distance contest with straight-forward course following. There is never a deliberate attempt to lead the contestant off course, and typically redundant/confirming instructions are provided if there is an apparent opportunity to get lost. Since there is less challenge in staying on course, the competition usually either tests the driver with challenging roads, and/or tests the navigator with precise calculations. A typical National Tour rally with a minimum of 24 controls is won with an average of less than one point per control, and often with less than 10 points total (or a total error for the day of under 6 seconds!).
A Course rally is also a time-speed-distance event, but requires logic to determine where the course goes, as well as the skills to remain at the assigned average speed. These contests emphasize mental agility as much as on the road skills. The ability to think quickly is necessary, often described as “Chess on wheels.” If you are a “puzzle” person, then Course rallying is for you. Scores are generally higher as navigating the course correctly by solving the “traps” laid by the rallymaster plays a much bigger role in final scores than very accurate timekeeping.
A GTA rally is not a time-speed-distance event, but following the course may be as challenging as a Course rally. Or it may be simple, but finding certain signs and landmarks may be the challenge. From knowing Santa’s reindeer on a Christmas rally to finding the oldest gravestone in an old cemetery at night on a Halloween rally, GTA rallies have a wide range of formats and challenges.