You must have heard of Colin McRae. Even if you are not a rally fan, Colin McRae has been globally popular both for his success in the rally championship and for the franchise of racing video games with his name that are among the best-selling of all time, along with Gran Turismo and some others. You may also know who Carlos Sainz Sr. and Sebastien Loeb. But if ask you to name some more rally champions, you might remember the current champion Sebastien Ogier and that’s about it. And the reason is that the WRC is not getting the popularity it deserves.
The WRC, as the highest level of global competition in the motorsport discipline of rallying, does not even have the fraction of popularity that F1 has for example, another global motorsport competition governed by the FIA. But what most people know, at least most motorsport fans, is that rally is probably the most challenging discipline. The answer to the question is rally driving is really the hardest type of auto racing for drivers as well as the answers to some other questions you can find out in this article.
Is rally driving is really the hardest type of auto racing for drivers?
It is difficult to give a simple answer to this question. There are so many types of races that are extremely demanding in terms of both skill and physical fitness. That is why it is not easy to claim that the rally is more difficult than F1, for example. Some will think that rally is the hardest, and some will say that it is F1, while many will give their vote to MotoGP which is not auto racing but is equally challenging and dangerous.
When you visit https://dirtxtreme.com/ you will also see one more ultra-demanding type of racing, which is dirt bike racing.
It is also difficult to determine which race is the most demanding. Usually on that list are Baja 1000, Dakar Rally and 24 Hours of Le Mans, but also many others such as 24 Hours Nürburgring Race, The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy and so on.
We will try to make the case that rally is the hardest type of auto racing for drivers.
Reasons why rally is hardest type of auto racing
There are many reasons in favor of this claim, and we will mention some of them.
1. Taking care of vehicle setup
The WRC drivers use cars that are specially designed for rallies and are based on models you can see on the streets. Especially popular are Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza, Citroen C4, the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale, Ford Focus, Toyota Yaris and so on. Of course, these cars are upgraded to meet all the challenges.
But each track, and even each stage requires special vehicle adjustments. This is not surprising, when we know that rallies are driven on tarmac, snow and gravel, so different setups and tiers are needed. The situation is similar in F1, although the surface is always the same. But what is a big difference is that rally drivers set up vehicles all by themselves or with the help of their mechanics, while in F1 the driver gives suggestions, but mechanics adjust the vehicle both before the race and during the race. In the rally there is no possibility to change anything during the race, and also the driver must have the knowledge of a mechanic.
Although the average speed in rally racing is incomparably lower than when we talk about most other racing competitions, the speeds are extremely high when we take into account that drivers can encounter something completely unexpected at any time. Tarmac on F1 tracks is perfectly smooth, with the exception of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, but that track will also be renovated soon. That is why drivers know every millimeter and how it looks like and what awaits them in the next corner. Every track in the WRC Championship is “wild”. The driver does not know where the holes are, whether the branch will interfere with his ride and many other things. That is why rallying requires incredible reflexes, and it is also significantly more dangerous despite lower speeds. Safety has been improved thanks to roll cage, but it is still a very dangerous sport.
To be a rally co-driver, you probably need to be the bravest man in the world. The driver would not be able to drive without a co-driver telling him what awaits him next. The driver must fully trust his co-driver, and the co-driver must maintain concentration at those speeds and bumps, because his mistake can be not only fatal to the outcome of the race, but also deadly for both. How early the co-driver will inform the driver about the next curve and the like depends solely on the driver’s preferences, so the driver and co-driver must be a perfect team and act like one to be successful.
Other types of auto racing
We definitely have to mention a few more types of racing that are similarly hard.
1. Formula 1
One cannot talk about auto racing without mentioning F1. Drivers reach speeds of over 350km per hour and the acceleration is amazing. At such speeds, Formula 1 cars are wheel to wheel, sometimes only a few centimeters apart. Therefore, at least one collision usually occurs in each race, although serious injuries and other tragic outcomes are significantly reduced due to improved safety. The crash-protection system symbolically named Halo is the biggest step towards driver safety, which we could see when Verstappen’s car literally landed on Hamilton’s head, but without consequences.
Nascar is hugely popular in the USA, and the reason is that it is very attractive. It’s not nearly as demanding in terms of driving skills as rally and F1, but the speeds are huge and crashes are very common, so it’s so hard.
In order to be a successful racing driver, it is necessary for a person to be born with great talent, and to dedicate his whole life to training, both riding and his body. When you watch documentaries like the mega-popular “Drive to Survive,” you realize that all drivers from an early age feel a passion for racing and don’t feel fear. All we have left is to enjoy their bravado.