How Close Each 2019 Rally Was

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The great thing about the World Rally Championship is the variety of conditions the calendar presents – weather, altitude, accent/descent, surface type, traction, number of corners, speeds etc, etc. These all go in to affect the level of attack. This is what makes Rally special compared to circuit racing. Their aim is to drive with elbows out and win driving flat out, perhaps a circuit may have more straights or bends that suit one car over another but in general that is it. Rally however is a race against the road ahead, and a rally stage can take you out just as well as a rival on a track. A Rally driver needs to measure their approach and attack. Anyway I’m sure you already knew this…

As part of picking which events to travel to in 2020 I began thinking of the profiles of each rally. Looking at results from this year I wanted to see whether the fastest rallies were the closest. If time is mostly lost in cornering, with braking too early or too much sideways attack. In simple terms was there a maximum speed that makes a faster rally tighter in competition because it is ‘easy’ to hold the foot down? That is what led me to pull the below chart and subsequently this post.

In the below chart is each WRC driver’s result for each rally in s/km behind stage wins. But for added entertainment, I’ve ignored missed stages for anybody who retired, this shows the level of pace they were on. Then, I’ve arranged the rally’s column by average speed.

The second image is a zoom in of the central section. Rally GB and Tour de Corse have very similar average speeds, as do Argentina and Spain/Catalunya despite their differences in surface and many other factors.

What We Are Looking At

Firstly, you may question the average speeds. I’ve calculated these from a rally made of stage wins rather than the winning time. For me this is more suitable and will be used from now on. The reason being a rally winner may have all but won by Saturday and cruised the rest of the way. This doesn’t paint the profile of the rally as well stage wins do.

To answer my original question – Rally Finland is fast and close, but rallies don’t have to be fast to be close – as was the case in Rally Mexico. But I’m open to the argument on that for what defines a close rally? Places 2-9 in Sweden are close but the winner Tanak is way out front. GB and Tour de Corse have similar average speeds but a variation in spread.

Obviously Turkey was the least close rally and with Rally Sardegna at the slower end their winners were the furthest from a rally of scratch times. These rallies favour the bold or the smart, push too much and they will bite. Going back to Mexico, does the effect of altitude on the engines affect the competition?

Clearly the trickiest rally is Monte Carlo. Neuville and Ogier pushed each for every kilometre of the rally so it is not the ‘worst’ win. But third place here however is the lowest podium position of the season, with the rest of the WRC field spread to beyond the boundary of the chart. Tanak stopped to change a wheel here.

That point highlights the flaw in this approach, so I need to redraw this with all expected classification times. The chart above punishes drivers who have stopped to change a wheel for example but not those who retired completely. That post should come soon, but doesn’t write this one off yet. It may come in handy as a ‘what to expect’ spectator guide. If you are thinking of travelling to visit a WRC rally, this may help evaluate the entertainment.

As always any thoughts, opinions, conclusions and comments will be most welcome. You don’t have to let me know this post wasted your time, I already know, but if you want to @PushingPace on Twitter, the contact form or the thumbs below.

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