Rallyis a form of motor competition that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. This motorsport is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages.

The term "rally", as a branch of motorsport, dates from the first Monte Carlo Rally of January 1907. Until the late 1920s, few if any other events used the term. Rallying itself can be traced back to the 1894 Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition (Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux), sponsored by a Paris newspaper, Le Petit Journal, which attracted considerable public interest and entries from leading manufacturers. Prizes were awarded to the vehicles by a jury based on the reports of the observers who rode in each car; the joint winners were Panhard et Levassor and Peugeot.

This event led directly to a period of city-to-city road races in France and other European countries, which introduced many of the features found in later rallies: individual start times with cars running against the clock rather than head to head; time controls at the entry and exit points of towns along the way; road books and route notes; and driving over long distances on ordinary, mainly gravel, roads, facing hazards such as dust, traffic, pedestrians and farm animals.

Marcel Renault during the 1903 Paris-Madrid.The first of these great races was the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris of June 1895, won by Emile Levassor in a Panhard-et-Levassor. His time for the 1,178 km (732 mile) course, running virtually without a break, was 48 hours and 48 minutes, an average speed of 24 km/h (15 mph). Just eight years later, in the Paris-Madrid race of May 1903, the Mors of Fernand Gabriel, running over the same roads, took just under five and a quarter hours for the 550 km (342 miles) to Bordeaux, an average of 105 km/h (65.3 mph). Speeds had now far outstripped the safe limits of dusty highways thronged with spectators and open to other traffic, people and animals; there were numerous crashes, many injuries and eight deaths. The French government stopped the race and banned this style of event. From now on, racing in Europe (apart from Italy) would be on closed circuits, initially on long loops of public highway and then, in 1907, on the first purpose-built track, England's Brooklands. Racing was going its own separate way.

Italy had been running road events since 1895, when a reliability trial was run from Turin to Asti and back. The country's first true motor race was held in 1897 along the shore of Lake Maggiore, from Arona to Stresa and back. This led to a long and thriving tradition of road racing, including events like Sicily's Targa Florio (from 1906) and Giro di Sicilia (Lap of Sicily, 1912), which went right round the island, both of which continued on and off until after World War II. The first Alpine event was held in 1898, the Austrian Touring Club's three-day Automobile Run through South Tyrol, which included the infamous Stelvio Pass.

In April and May 1900, the Automobile Club of Great Britain (the forerunner of the Royal Automobile Club) organised the Thousand Mile Trial, a 15-day event linking Britain's major cities, in object to promote this novel form of transport. Seventy vehicles took part, the majority of them trade entries. They had to complete thirteen stages of route varying in length from 43 to 123 miles at average speeds of up to the legal limit of 12 mph, and tackle six hillclimb or speed tests. On rest days and at lunch halts, the cars were shown to the public in exhibition halls.

In Germany, the challenging Herkomer Trophy Trial was first held in 1905, an 800km (500mi) event which included a hillclimb and a speed trial. The first year, only tourers were allowed. In 1906, pure racers appeared, and the win went to Dr. Rudolf Stoess in a Horch (actually with the smallest engine).[1]

Also in 1905, France got in the act, when L'Auto sponsored the Coupe de l'Auto for small sporters; entrants included the Peugeot Lion, Sizaire-Naudin, Isotta Fraschini (which resembled the contemporary Mercer Raceabout), Bugatti Type 13, and Martini. For the 1911 event, Louis Bablot ran a Delage, which was subsequently detuned into a road car.[2]

These was joined by the famous Prinz Heinrich Fahrt (Prince Henry Trial) in 1908, and the first sports cars, a 3 liter 20hp[3] (15kW) Vauxhall (from which tuner Lawrence Pomeroy had gotten 60hp {45kW}, against the stock 38hp {28kW} at the flywheel)[4] and the advanced 5.4 liter 27/80 PS four-cylinder Austro-Daimler (designed, and driven to a win, by Ferdinand Porsche), with eleven entrants and a 1-2-3 finish.[5] The first Alpine Trial was held in 1909, in Austria; by 1914, this was the toughest event of its kind, producing a star performance from Britain's James Radley in his Rolls Royce Alpine Eagle. Then in 1911 came the first Monte Carlo Rally (later known colloquially as "the Monte"), organised by the operators of the famous casino[citation needed] to attract wealthy sporting motorists. The competitive elements were slight, but getting to Monaco in winter was a challenge in itself. A second event was held in 1912.

Two ultra long distance challenges took place at this time, the Peking-Paris of 1907 (won by Prince Scipio Borghese and Luigi Barzini in an Itala) and the New York-Paris of the following year (won by George Schuster and others in a Thomas Flyer), which went via Japan and Siberia. Each event attracted only a handful of adventurous souls, but in both cases the winners exhibited characteristics modern rally drivers would recognise: meticulous preparation, mechanical skill, resourcefulness, perseverance and a certain single-minded ruthlessness. The New York-Seattle race of 1909, if shorter, was no easier. Rather gentler (and more akin to modern rallying) was the Glidden Tour, run by the American Automobile Association between 1902 and 1913, which had timed legs between control points and a marking system to determine the winners.

In Britain meanwhile, the Scottish Automobile Club started its tough annual trial in 1902, the Motor Cycling Club allowed cars to enter its trials and runs from 1904 (London-Edinburgh, London-Land's End, London-Exeter — all still in being as mud-plugging classic trials). In 1908 the Royal Automobile Club held its 2,000mi (3200km) International Touring Car Trial, and 1914 the important Light Car Trial for manufacturers of cars up to 1400 cc, to test comparative performances and improve the breed. In 1924, the exercise was repeated as the Small Car Trials.

[edit] Outside Europe

Checkpoint during the 1973 Safari Rally.In countries where there was no shortage of demanding roads across remote terrain, other events sprang up. In South America, the biggest of these took the form of long distance city to city races, each of around 5,000 to 6,000 miles (8,000-9,500 km), divided into daily legs. The first was the Gran Premio del Norte of 1940, run from Buenos Aires to Lima and back; it was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in a much modified Chevrolet coupé. This event was repeated in 1947, and in 1948 an even more ambitious one was held, the Gran Premio de la América del Sur from Buenos Aires to Caracas, Venezuela — Fangio had an accident in which his co-driver was killed. Then in 1950 came the fast and dangerous Carrera Panamericana, a 1,911 mile (3,075 km) road race in stages to celebrate the opening of the asphalt highway between the Guatemala and US borders, which ran until 1954. All these events fell victim to the cost of putting them on in an increasingly complex and developed world, although smaller road races continued long after, and a few still do in countries like Bolivia.

In Africa, 1950 saw the first French-run Méditerranée-le Cap, a 10,000 mile (16,000 km) rally from the Mediterranean to South Africa; it was run on and off until 1961, when the new political situation hastened its demise. In 1953 East Africa saw the demanding Coronation Safari, which went on to become the Safari Rally and a World Championship round, to be followed in due course by the Rallye du Maroc in Morocco, and the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire in the Ivory Coast. Australia's RedeX Round Australia Trial also dates from 1953, although this remained isolated from the rest of the rallying world.

Canada hosted one of the world's longest and most gruelling rallies during the 1960s, the Shell 4000 Rally. It was also the only one sanctioned by FIA in North America.[1]

[edit] Modern times

Juuso Pykälistö in his Peugeot 206 WRC at the 2003 Swedish Rally.Rallying became very popular in Sweden and Finland in the 1950s, thanks in part to the invention there of the "specialsträcka" (Swedish) or "erikoiskoe" (Finnish), or special stage: shorter sections of route, usually on minor or private roads — predominantly gravel in these countries — away from habitation and traffic, which were separately timed. These at long last provided the solution to the conflict inherent in the notion of driving as fast as possible on ordinary roads. The idea spread to other countries, albeit more slowly to the most demanding events.

The Liège continued as uncompromisingly an open road event run to an impossible time schedule, and remained Europe's toughest rally until 1964, by which time it had turned to the wilds of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to find traffic-free roads; but in the end the pressures were irresistible. The Coupe des Alpes struggled on until 1973 until it too succumbed, its demise no doubt hastened by the decision of the French motor sporting authorities to select the Tour de Corse as its representative event in international rally championships.

Jari-Matti Latvala on the muddy gravel roads of the 2007 Wales Rally GB.The RAC Rally had formally become an International event in 1951, but Britain's laws precluded the closure of public highways for special stages. This meant that it had to rely on short manoeuvrability tests, regularity sections and night map-reading navigation to find a winner, which made it unattractive to foreign crews. Then in 1961 Jack Kemsley was able to persuade the Forestry Commission to open their many hundreds of miles of well surfaced and sinuous gravel roads, and the event was transformed into one of the most demanding and popular in the calendar, by 1983 having over 600 miles of stage. It is now called the Wales Rally GB.

The introduction of the special stage brought rallying effectively into the modern era. It placed a premium on fast driving, and enabled healthy programmes of smaller events to spring up in Britain, France, Scandinavia, Finland, Belgium and elsewhere.

Since then, the nature of the events themselves has evolved relatively slowly. The increasing costs both of organization and of competing as well as safety concerns have over the last twenty years brought progressively shorter rallies, shorter stages and the elimination of nighttime running, scornfully referred to as "office hours rallying" by older hands. Some of the older international events have gone, replaced by others from a much wider spread of countries around the world, until today rallying is truly a worldwide sport. At the same time, fields have shrunk dramatically, as the amateur in his near-standard car is squeezed out. This was in the TOCA Series.