Because the night belongs to rally (of Spain)

What’s the best, cheapest and safest way to get rid of the requests for live TV stages in WRC? Run stages at night! Not even the strangest of strange proponents of live shows would be able to counter that.

I am joking, of course, but the fact is, night stages are not the most friendly towards spectators, whether they’re on site, or hoping to catch some action on TV. Not everything, however, can be shaped and bent to meet the needs of a fan – otherwise we would have stages set on modern Race of Champions stadium tracks, so everyone and their cat can see ALL the action. Simply not possible. It’s rally, after all!

Sometimes, stages should be demanding for drivers and teams too, and in more ways than one. Marathon stages or long consecutive sets of stages with no service are some of the examples. Night stages are also an option, and the one that is gaining popularity it seems. After Acropolis Rally held it’s Friday set in the evening, similar concept is going to be used in Spain, for the Catalunya Rally later this year. To spice things up even more, organizers in Spain have decided to add another flavour to the mix – they will once again use both tarmac and gravel stages, with Sunday being dedicated almost exclusively to loose stuff. Why almost? Because, two longest stages of the day, the 35+ kilometre Terra Alta run on both surfaces. Why nobody thought of the method to add some snow to the mix is beyond me, but that surely is the next step?

According to their official press release, Catalunya Rally is also going to redefine the idea of “qualifying”. With all gravel stages set to run on Sunday, there will be no usual qualifying system to decide the starting order. Instead, overall classification after the final stage on Saturday will be used – the first placed crew will be first to pick the starting position for the final leg of the event, followed by second, etc. Hopefully, that’s what they mean by “That will also be the moment for drivers to choose the start position for the mixed stage, following their classification in the rally.” – taken from official press release, describing the final service stop after Saturday’s stages.

All this sounds like heaps of fun, and will also present some fresh challenge to the crews and teams. With long tarmac tests on Saturday, followed by the mixedy-mix of gravel and tar on Sunday, there will be little time to relax and feel safe.

Official description of 2013 RACC Catalunya Rally and it’s three days follows below.

2013: Three years of innovations gathered in one RallyRACC

In 2010, the event had its debut as a mixed rally, bravely introducing gravel sections in an event considered as an asphalt rally, a concept that has been growing along they years until becoming a symbol of identity of the Spanish WRC round. In 2011, the novelty was the reintroduction of night-run special stages, providing the event with more difficulty and at the same time bringing back to the RallyRACC some of the ingredients that were usual in the golden ages of rallying. In 2012, the event launched a new contribution with the staging of an urban SS in the heart of Salou, in addition to holding the official start in the most important urban centre, Barcelona, which was also broadcasted live. This year, the RallyRACC decided to gather all of these contributions from the last three years to create the definitive rally: Barcelona, Salou, night, day, asphalt, gravel and mixed, and choosing the start for the mixed day at the end of the asphalt section, all together in one single event.

Unanimously recognised since some years ago as a highly selective competition, precisely due to the above mentioned contributions, the 49 Rally RACC will be the penultimate scoring round of a calendar of thirteen this year and possibly the framework for the decision of some of the titles at stake, as it is a scoring round for all of the titles in the Championship. The event will be valid for the FIA Drivers, Co-Drivers and Manufacturers/Teams Championship, the WRC-2 and Production Championship, the WRC-3 and the Junior Championship. This should allow for a crowded entry list, in accordance with the interest arisen by the RallyRACC internationally.

2013 will be the ninth consecutive year in which the Spanish round of the WRC will be staged completely in the Costa Daurada, with nerve centres in Salou and the PortAventura theme park, and the second year in a row with the official start in Barcelona.

Day 0: Thursday, 24 October

•Shakedown in Salou, on asphalt and in the afternoon

The pre-race day, a true Day 0 for the Spanish Rally, will move the staging of the Shakedown to the afternoon and, as in recent years, it will be located in the area of Emprius in Salou, although this time it will be run completely on asphalt.

Day 1: Friday, 25 October

•Start from Barcelona and 3 asphalt stages, all run at night, heading for PortAventura

The magnificent start in Barcelona, one of the most beautiful images that remained from the 2012 WRC, will be repeated this year, but, as opposed to twelve months ago, it will be an official and at the same time real start, as the cars will be running three timed stages on asphalt, at night, to get to PortAventura, thus making-up a rally day with several challenges, including the almost 62 timed kilometres. The special stages will be those run for the last time in 2009, Querol (Pontils-Esblada-El Pont d’Armentera/21.26 km) and Montmell (Vila-rodona-Sant Jaume dels Domenys/24.14 km), as well as the well-known Riudecanyes (16.35 km), inlcudingcon –as in 2012– the “donut” at the Coll de la Teixeta roundabout.

Day 2: Saturday, 26 October

•5 special stages on aasphalt, 1 mixed stage in Salou, start and arrival in PortAventura

The nerve centre of the two last days of the race will be located at the Costa Daurada, the second of them being very similar to last year, although with some changes. To begin with, the Riudecanyes stages of the previous day will be repeated, to continue with two passages of El Priorat (42.04 km), just as in 2012 but some 4 km shorter at the finish, since the cars will turn in La Palma d’Ebre, following the T-2237 to Vinebre, and two passages of Colldejou (26.48 km), a stage run in 2007, but actually the stage run in 2012 as Santa Marina in opposite direction. The day will end like twelve months ago with the excellent urban mixed stage in Salou (2 km), with the sea in the back and spectators enjoying the action on the stage only a few metres away. On that day, at the end-of-theday service in PortAventura (1h.15’) the car settings will be changed to gravel specs. That will also be the moment for drivers to choose the start position for the mixed stage, following their classification in the rally.

Day 3: Sunday, 27 October

•4 special stages on gravel and 2 on mixed surface, with start in PortAventura and finish in Salou

The sporting climax will arrive on the last day, as the RACC has replaced the asphalt, which had been usual so far due to the mixed and gravel surface opening the rally in the three last seasons. This implies that the difficulty will be the utmost and nothing shall be considered as final until the end of this difficult day. In any case, the three stages that will be run twice will be the same as last year: the gravel stages of Gandesa (7 km) and Pesells (26.59 km) and the mixed stage of Terra Alta (35.73 km), although the latter will be run in its 2011 version, i.e. starting from Vilalba dels Arcs, leaving out the previous loop made in 2012. The finish will be splendorous on the podium in Salou