Rally Timing and Control Etiquette


Rally Time Control

Rally Time Control

In Rallying timing is everything and the Co-driver is completely in charge of this element of the sport.

As is often said… a Co-driver can’t win a rally but he can lose it and it’s the timing where a seemingly easy mistake such as miscalculating the maths, can ruin your day.

In stage rallying there are currently three timing systems in use.

  • International Timing, as used on the WRC (Wales Rally GB etc) in Europe and around the world.
  • Target Timing, used on the majority of British Stage Rallys.
  • Scheduled Timing, a system that at the time of writing is starting to be used by some organisers in the hope that it keeps competitors in events.

This page will talk about the first two systems and control etiquette and as time goes by it will include Scheduled Timing.

International Timing

In my opinion this is the easiest form of timing system for the competitor currently in use but because it’s used on the WRC and International events has some form of mystercism about it.

In very simple terms the timing is from Stage Start to the next Stage Arrival and so if you have an 40 minutes to do a section and you start the stage at 09:00 your due time at the next arrival is 09:40, including how long it takes you to do the stage and the following road section that is usually timed at 30mph or the KM equivalent.

Click the link for an example of a Time Card used on WRGB

2015 National Rally Time Cards

The advantages of this system are that you, the Co-driver, can workout your due time for the next control, so at the end of the stage you have one less job to do or, if you ask some co-drivers the main advantage… if you have an issue in stage you know how long you have to get to the next control and therefore time, if possible, can be made up on the next road section.

The disadvantage is that it can encourage/lead to speeding on the road section if you do have an issue on the stages, rather than eat into their lateness crews can be tempted to drive too quickly on the liaison sections. The stage time you took still stands as this is timed from Start (SSS) to Flying Finish (FF).

Target Timing

As previously mentioned Target Timing is the most common timing method in UK rallying and is used to time competitors on the non-competitive sections of events, from Stage Finish to Stage Arrival (SSA).

So if you finish a stage at 09:20 and you have 40 minutes your due time at the next SSA is 10:00.

The road timing is the whole minute ignoring the seconds so if you finished the stage at 10:03:01 or 10:03:58 and your target road time is 38 minutes you are due at 10:41 at the next SSA.


Click the link below for an example time card from the Nicky Grist Stages in 2015

Time Card 1-2 and click the following for the 2015 Nicky Grist Schedule so you can see how it all fits together.

Road sections are generally timed at 30mph or less, with the exception of motorways which are timed at 60mph or narrow country lanes that can be timed at 20mph (Please refer to R2.3.2 of the MSA Blue Book for full details)

The advantage of this system is that as a competitor you know how long you have to get to the next control after the stage and with timing generally being set at an average of 30mph or less you know that speeding is not required. If do have an issue on a road section time can be made up in sections that have a speed limit higher than 30mph.

Rally Controls

Rally Controls

Control Procedure and Etiquette.

The crew must wait at the Yellow Control Board and the time card must not be handed to the Marshal at the SSA until you are within your due minute e.g. 10:41:01 to 10:41:59 in theory.

In practice, you can drive past the Yellow board towards the Marshal stood at the Red board in the proceeding minute but you should NOT handover your time card until you are within your minute.

The Marshals are within their rights to write the time on the card at which point you handover the card to them, and on International events they will do so. This could lead to the cardinal sin of co-driving – booking in early.

The safest thing to do at an SSA is not cross the Yellow board until you are a few seconds within the minute you are due, e.g. 10:41:05, and when you get to the Marshal confirm the time you want and hopefully have confirmation from them that it is that time that they will give you, then pass the time card to them.

Once the time card has been returned, take a moment to check that the time on the card is correct,  they have signed in the appropriate box and have given a Provisional Start Time that is at least 3 minutes from your arrival time e.g. 10:44:00.

The 3 minutes from the SSA to SSS is for you to prepare for the stage, this may mean putting on your helmet and HANS device or just opening the right page on your road book for the proceeding road section and zero the trip meter if you have one.

Time Card


At the end of the stage your job is not over. As you draw a breath after calling the stage your driver is throwing you his helmet to put away, asking ‘what time we do’ and a marshal is stood at your window waiting for your time card.

Take a moment to sort yourself out, the driver can wait and the helmet can go away when you’ve given the time card to the marshal.

When it’s handed back to you check that the hours and minutes are correct (it doesn’t matter if you didn’t time the stage on a stop watch but did you look at time of day on your watch as you crossed the FF?) have they put the time in the right box, have they signed the time card?

The most important thing is to get your time card back from the Marshal and thank them before allowing your driver to proceed from the control.

Depending on what timing system the event is using you either now have to do some maths as well as guide your driver or just tell him how to get him to the next control, keeping him on the correct time schedule and NEVER EVER book in early. If in doubt book in late, the penalty is less.

Remember: You can never win a rally, you can only lose it……….







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