The World Rally Championship was first launched in 1973 and has grown in stature since then. The championship is operated by the FIA and is run over 13 different venues which vary in terrain from tarmac to gravel to ice. As with Formula 1, there are 2 championships, one for drivers and one for car manufacturers. The points system is much the same as well, so if you are familiar with F1 then you can follow WRC easily.
The cars must meet certain criteria and in fact in the 1980s one of the most recognisable rally turned road cars was the Audi Quattro which was developed for rallying and then became very popular with young motorists. Cars competing at the top level are based on four-cylinder 2 litre production cars but with several modifications including; upgrades to the engine and suspension, 4 wheel drive and turbo charge which mean that these vehicles can accelerate to about 100kph from a standing start in approximately 3 seconds – now that is fast!
Each rally is divided into between 15 and 25 gruelling stages which includes timed sections on closed roads. Competitors then drive to and from these special stages on normal highways, during which time they must observe the road traffic laws of that country. In each country the cars are modified to run to their optimum performance depending on the conditions and terrain. Team engineers are always on hand to make whatever modifications are needed whether it is to tighten the suspension, change the tyres or whatever else is required.
WRC also run the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC), the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) and the Production World Rally Championship. These competitions are run in a similar way to the WRC but with different criteria for the vehicles.