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Do you know what a rally is? Not everybody does. There are also some people that think they know what it is but really don’t. So, what is it?

When asked what a rally is, a lot of people will more than likely say it’s a timed event running on closed public roads, both paved and gravel, to specific checkpoints as quickly as possible, all the while enduring all types of weather conditions. That definition is true. But that’s only one type of rally. That’s is the definition closely associated with the World Rally Championship or SCCA type of road racing. 

There are Different Types

So, what is a rally then? The basic answer is that a rally is a race. But, they are not all speed-related. There are location, points-based, or even scavenger hunt rallies. In fact, some rally organizers emphasize that it is not about speed, and they will actually disqualify a team for getting a ticket. Other rallies will go so far as to make sure participants don’t have race-prepared vehicles and require that rally cars must be purchased for under $500.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan racing in the 2019 Rebelle Rally
Rolls-Royce Cullinan racing in the 2019 Rebelle Rally | Rebelle Rally

Not Just About Speed

It’s not just the cars or their speed either. Rallies can have many odd and funny requirements. Extra points for pictures with a horse, roadkill, or another oddity? Yup, and even being required to run around a tree at a certain location? Yup, that can be part of a rally too!


Ever considered entering a rally? Not everyone that enters a rally has to be the driver. Although drivers can tag-team the driving duties, there’s also typically a need for a navigator. This person has the route of the rally mapped out. The routes are given to the teams prior to its start. The Navigator plots the course out on their choice of mapping device, such as Google Maps, Mapquest, etc., and informs the driver appropriately.

Support Team

Support team members are also needed for rallies. Depending on the type of rally, this could mean a few extra crew members for each team to have in the event that a repair of the vehicle is necessary. Support team members could also mean a person to drive the equipment/gear from location to location. Or, a support team member could be somebody that rides along for moral support.

Team for the Cannonball Run
REDONDO BEACH, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Roscoe Anderson, John Ficarra and Carl “Yumi” Dietz pose for photos September 19, 2016 in Redondo Beach, CA. They finished in second with a time of 37 hours and five minutes. | Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images


The World Rally Championship series runs through several countries in all types of weather in specially prepared race cars. Drivers involved in this series are part of professional teams and have incredibly precise driving skills that take their vehicles through terrain that could be loose, at extreme speeds, through roads that have crowds lined up on both sides of the road. This is not for the squeamish.


For non-professional beginners, point-to-point rallies have been increasing in popularity. These rallies take teams from place to place. Then, at each location, a task or a driving skill has to be completed. For example, there may be a requirement to go from scenic point A to scenic point B in a day, and then once there, do a slalom course or run the drag strip a few times. Finally, it’s off to another location the following morning. Often, these types of rallies permit the use of normal personal streetcars or even rentals for the event.

Jump Into The Experience

Not knowing what a rally is can be intimidating to a young enthusiast. However, knowing what a rally is, what types there are, and where they are is something most every automotive enthusiast can study beginning on the internet. The worldwide locations for these events also make them something that is approachable for just about anybody to experience either by spectating or even being involved in them in some capacity. Don’t be afraid to explore. But do it safely.


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