Henry Ford famously said “Auto racing began 5 minutes after the second car was built.” That spirit of competition, fueled by the will and passion to endure and win has been the motivating force for every athletic contest since the dawn of time.

In the entire realm of motorsports there is perhaps no other competition quite like a road rally. The term “rally” came into being in January 1907 from the first Monte Carlo Rally in France. The etymology of the word rally comes from the old French word ralier which means to unite, to bring together, or make a shared effort. In many ways rally racing although competitive is about a shared effort. The synergy between driver and co-driver and the joint action of competition between participants. Unique in the world of motorsport, road rallying creates competition through collaboration.

Drivers in modified production cars on closed public and private roads along with a co-driver reading maps, and pages of notes describing the road ahead navigate each prescribed feature of a rally course. What’s unique about these cars is that they were in fact designed to be driven on the street. By modifying them they are transformed, and now suitable to rally. The driver and co-driver unite in the shared goal of navigating the road through grueling heat, freezing cold, ice, and snow in an attempt to drive one’s best. Participants have individual start times and race for the best time on the road section which is called a “stage.” Often, they then travel on public roads to the next stage. The times from each stage are added up and the fastest accumulated time wins. These events can also be won by speed. Stage rallies take place on roads closed to the public. Road rallies are the original form and are held on highways that are open to normal traffic.

Motorcar rallying dates back to an 1894 race sponsored by Le Petit Journal, it was given the name Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition. This competition generated an interest and love of this unique sport that would stand the test of time. Sparked by the excitement generated and interest in the Paris-Rouen rally competitions many city-to-city road races throughout Europe were founded. These early rally races had all the features that we find in the events today, cars running against the clock as opposed to each other, individual start times, entry and exit points, use of road maps and driving notes, long distance driving and hazardous weather conditions.

In the early rally races speed exceeded safety and in 1903 many governments in Europe banned rallying due to safety reasons. Then in the 1920’s road rallies were revived in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. The 1950’s is thought though to be the Golden Age of the long-distance road rally. From the Monte Carlo Rally, to the Safari Rally, to the Gran Premio del Norte in South America these races were addictive for both the racers, and spectators.

Today, many of the most challenging and fun rally competitions like, Mille Miglia, The Great South American Challenge and Peking to Paris have hundreds of people racing in them. These endurance rallies are fun, competitive, and safe, but they still put each competitor and team to the test. New England has its very own rally, The Great American Mountain Rallye Revival. Sanctioned, legal road rally racing continues throughout the world. In the United States, the American Rally Association, and Road Rally America are model organizations for safety, competition, promotion, and education. In these staged races amateurs and professionals compete to finish the event with the lowest time possible. One of the most successful US rally drivers John Buffman said, “A rally driver will do 1,000 corners, every one different, at different speeds, so his skill lies in adaptation. A race driver will do 10 corners 100 times, so his skill likes in duplication.” The competitors in this sport have developed immense skill, passion, and expertise. The fans of this unique sport are devoted to rally racing and will travel far and wide to experience a spirited contest.