The Power Stage is a special stage in a WRC rally’s itinerary where the five fastest crews earn bonus points.
Power Stage Points
Power Stage Points are available only in the driver and co-driver championships, manufacturers are not eligible. Points go to the stage winners to fifth place, from 5,4,3,2 and 1 points. Because of the close competition of modern rallying and the value of the points, runs are timed in milliseconds. The overall time for the rally is still counted in tenths of a second as is every other special stage.
A modern rule states all crews must start in the official running order to receive points. This prevents a tactical late check in by a team or crew to run last on a loose surface. This happens usually when their overall classification is far out the points. Not only would a crew gain ‘sweepers’, but their rivals would have one less car sweeping.
There are no class based points available, such as for WRC2 or WRC3. Only the top 5 finishers score no matter what their car or eligibility.
The rules state the Power Stage must be the final special stage and indicative of the rally. This means the roads used must be typical of the rally, i.e. not a super special. There was an occasion in Rally GB 2018 when the final stage was all asphalt and outside the usual forestry and hills. As the rally is a gravel forest rally, the FIA gave permission for the penultimate stage to be used as the power stage and the itinerary to remain.
There are no restrictions on length for the power stage. They vary between events from short to long ~5km to >20km.
The points were introduced in 2011 but only the top 3 scored before being extended to top 5 in 2017. In 1999 however, two events gave bonus points for the exact same rules. It took 12 years to introduce the rules all season.
Why Have The Power Stage?
Use of the Power Stage is primarily to serve the TV audience on a Sunday afternoon. Indeed all European power stages start at the same time on a Sunday. The stage is usually followed by a podium ceremony although the rally does not end until cars are back in parc-ferme.The theory is all drivers will push in order to gain extra points, but this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes driver’s will not risk their position, a leading driver may not risk the win, the reward nor the 25 points for 5 more points. Quite often though a driver who has excelled on a certain event can show dominance by winning the power stage as well. Other times, team orders may require second and third seed drivers to drive with restraint to help their drivers championship fighting teammate. Conversely they may also push for exactly the same reason depending on circumstances.
Some rallies, mostly the heavy-gravel rallies, can turn into slow processions on a Sunday, so the power stage can inject some fight back into the day’s action. They can also provide purpose for a restarting crew, or a crew who have suffered other significant time-loss.
Article 50 of the WRC sporting regulations explains every rule in detail.