Skip to Navigation

Accurate and correct timing is probably the most difficult part of a road rally or trial as you follow a physical road route while staying on schedule and is the central feature which distinguishes both rallies and trials from other forms of motor sport.

When competing on a rally or trial, you need to always be aware of your time situation, so you know exactly what time to book into each time control. Your driver should also mentally keep track of Due Time and Lateness (see below) and be able to confirm the navigator's calculations.

If you see that you are going to arrive at a time control significantly before the correct time for your arrival, have the driver pull in to the side of the road before the control board and wait. Keep in mind any conditions laid down in the Supplementary Regulations such as penalties for stopping within sight of a control as it could prove an expensive mistake.

In principle, all the officials' watches (and yours) should be synchronised to the second with 'rally time' (Telstra time is the usual Australian standard), but sometimes they're not. If you don't think you have been booked in at the correct time, ask the official to note the difference between your time and his or hers on the road card. It is not worth complaining at the control but if a notation is on the road card the results may well be adjusted later. The overall event results are not often affected greatly by the odd time penalty with the possible exception of those few crews at the top in performance.

Basically, the idea of road rally timekeeping can be summarised like this:

  • All timing is done in whole minutes, and times are rounded down, ignoring the "seconds" displayed on the clock, i.e. both 22:45:01 and 22:45:58 are considered as 22:45.
  • Cars start one minute apart, according to car number, sometimes with the more experienced competitors having lower numbers and going off first but more usually in 'entry received' order.
  • You try to book into the time controls in order, usually following a pre-defined schedule, set at some arbitrary average speed achievable in a standard road car driven in accordance with the road laws.

If you are running late, aim to stay running the same amount late, rather than racing to catch up. The organiser will often have provision in some form for detection of excess speed (and may even have the cooperation of the Police) so catching up lots of time is not an option!

Scheduled Time is the time you would book in at a given time control if not running late. Scheduled Time is predetermined by the organisers and it will be either printed on your time card or you will have to keep track of it as you go ( calculating it from the time you started and the number of minutes allowed for each section).

Due Time is the time you should try to book in at the next time control, in order to avoid being penalised. Note that this includes any previous Lateness you may have accumulated so if you were running 7 minutes late when you logged into the last control, and your original Scheduled Time at this control was 20:07, your Due Time at this control is 20:14.

Lateness is how far behind Scheduled Time you are running, expressed as a number of whole minutes, ie the difference between Due Time and Scheduled Time. If you arrive later than you should at a time control and log in after your Due Time, your Lateness increases.

Late Time Limit (LTL) is how much Lateness you are allowed to accumulate. This limit is usually 90 minutes but ask at the Drivers Briefing if it is not specified in the Supplementary Regulations. If you have more than the allowed Lateness, you are OTL (Outside Total Lateness). If you book into a time control so late that you're OTL, it is a 'missed control' as if you never visited it at all. To count as having finished the rally, you may be required to visit a minimum number of time controls, and there may be certain time controls which you must visit. More on this can be found in the 'National Rally Code' at par 3.9.

You should take the measures described below as necessary to avoid being OTL.

How to Avoid Becoming OTL
If your lateness has built up to more than 60% of the allowed maximum you need to consider taking measures to reduce it. How is a matter of judgement, since all of them cost you penalties and affect your score. Listed in order of how drastic the penalties, with the mildest first, are the options open to you but you must familiarise
yourself with the scoring system so you can decide which is least for the particular event you are engaged in.

Making Up Time
With a bit of practice, you will manage to do some rally sections in less than the specified amount of time. If you need to reduce your lateness, you may be able to book into a time control a ahead of your Due Time, instead of waiting outside. There may be significant penalties for early arrival and even harsher penalties if the average speed calculated from your elapsed time could not be achieved without excessive speed!

The next two options are collectively known as 'Cutting & Running' but the potential impact of each on your results is significantly different.

Cutting Some Route
If you are running late and you're not able to make up time by arriving early, you might consider missing out a bit of the route. If there are two time controls which are a short distance apart by road, but the rally route between them is quite contorted and much longer, you would be able to make up time by using the straightest route to the next time control. You risk missing passage controls and/or observation boards and arriving at the next control 'wrong direction'. Should you decide to do this it is wise to at least partly plot the correct route might be, so you can work out direction into the next control and make an educated guess at how many passage controls and/or observation boards you will miss. Usually, the organisers use the minimum passage controls and/or observation boards such that anyone who makes a navigational mistake misses at least one, but they are free to position them anywhere.

Cutting Controls
If you are really desperate, it is possible to skip one or more time controls and still have a chance of finishing the rally or trial. By going straight to a later control you can potentially pull back a large amount of time and make a fresh start, but you will be penalised for ALL the controls you missed so this is very much a last resort. In this case be sure to work out what time you need to book in at the control you have cut to as you don't want to arrive early (i.e. ahead of Scheduled Time).

It is very important to finish the rally, no matter how huge your penalties, since you don't know how badly everyone else might have done. You just might win an event after a performance you regard as poor because everyone else had an even more disastrous effort.