Against the Clock

All competitive forms of rallying involves some form of timing which inevitably contributes to your final result. As non-competitive events, Scenic Tours do not use any form of timing other than the departure times of the main road sections.

There are a number of different types of timing, a number of different methods in which they are recorded, and often a mixture of these on any one event.

As a basic set-up you will need – either in analogue or digital form – a stopwatch and a real time clock displaying local time. Experienced crews develop their own preference and for example, often use two stopwatches or have additional time pieces as back-up.


UK Rallies are usually timed using BBC time. At each time control, either as you depart or as you enter, the current time of day is recorded. From this your time for each section can be calculated and, depending on the type of section, your penalties can be computed.

The type of timing involved and the way in which penalties are incurred will be detailed in the Regulations document of the event. Understanding this information is important, so take time to read them and understand how time penalties are incurred where the biggest penalties lie. This may be invaluable on the event if you have problems and have to miss or ‘cut’ sections.


Throughout an event there will be a number of different points where your time is recorded. Sometimes your time will be to the minute, other times to the second. The points where these times are recorded are called Time Controls.

The different types of time controls and the type of time that is recorded at them is detailed in the event regulations. On the route each time control is identified by a symbol – usually displayed on a board by the side of the road – that tells you what type of control it is and the exact position of it’s timing point. In general, control boards with a yellow background warn you of entering a control and boards with a red background are the point where your time is recorded.


On an event you will be issued with a number of timecards. These are used to document your progress and record your times at Time Controls.

As each piece of information is entered it must be accompanied by the marshal’s signature in order for it to be valid. You must hand in each time card when requested en route and move on to the next one. Losing or being unable to present your timecard when requested means you have no proof of visiting controls or of any times being recorded – so keeping it safe is very important. On some timecards you may need to enter info yourself from a code board or unmanned passage control. When you do this must always use ink and not pencil.

On receiving your timecards (normally at Signing On) you are often required to add you car number in the appropriate box and there is normally a sequence of boxes where you can enter your Scheduled Time for controls (explained below). These are next to the actual times that are recorded by the marshals and it enables you to instantly see if you are running early or late.


In historic rallying, there’s more than one type of time. Here are the main ones you need to know.

Standard time

The basic method of timing for rallies is known as Scheduled Timing. At specified time controls the organisers will allocate a time of day at which a notional Car ‘0’ will arrive. This constitutes the event schedule and this time is known as Standard Time.

Scheduled time

A competitor’s Scheduled Time is the time they are due at controls. Based on the Standard Time of Car ‘0’ and there being one minute intervals between each car, then each competitor can calculate their Scheduled Time at any control by adding their start number in minutes to the Standard Time given for the control.

EXAMPLE: So if the time for Car ‘0’ at a control is given as 9:55 and your car number is 25, your Scheduled Time is 9:55 + 25 = 10:20.

Target time

A target time is the time allowed by event organisers on non-competitive sections to get from one control to another. This defines the timings for the standard time of Car ‘0’ at controls and therefore the timings for the scheduled time of competitors.

Maximum permitted lateness (OTL)

Maximum Permitted Lateness (or Maximum Time Lateness) is the total amount of time (usually 30 minutes) that the organisers will allow you to be late at main controls over and above your scheduled time. If for whatever reason you do not visit a control within this time, you are deemed to have gone OTL (Outside or Over Time Limit) which will result in a major penalty as defined in your event regulations.

There are occasions on events where any lateness can be made up (e.g. lunch halts) and you depart from the outgoing control back on your scheduled time. However, because penalties for going OTL are very severe, if you are running late, there may be times when missing out competitive sections in order to reach a main control without going OTL may incur fewer penalties.
Always remember that being early at a control can incur even greater penalties than being late, so read the regulations in detail.

Due time

If you have clocked in to a control and dropped a number of minutes as a result of arriving late, you will need to adjust the scheduled time of your next control to account for this lateness. This is called your Due Time.

This is important if subsequent sections do NOT allow you to make up lateness or restrict the amount of time you can make up (e.g. 3/4 rule), in which case you could end up clocking in early if not careful.

EXAMPLE: So if your Scheduled Time at a control is 10:20 and you arrive 5 minutes late at 10:25, and the time allowed for the next section was 10 minutes, your Due Time at the next control would be 10:25 + 10 = 10:35 (instead of your Scheduled Time of 10:30).

If the difference between your Scheduled Time and your Due Time reaches 30 minutes then you are deemed to have gone OTL.

Delay allowance

If there is a delay to the event, for whatever reason, that the event organisers acknowledge (e.g. queueing at the start of a stage or special test) they will allow you to request a delay allowance to be marked and signed on your timecard by the marshal. This will prevent this delay being added to your maximum permitted lateness.

Bogey time

A bogey time is, depending on the type of event and organiser, a phrase used to define either the maximum or minimum time allowed for a special test or stage.

The specifics of this will be found in the regulations of the event but it means that if you are faster than the section allows (which is unlikely) you will be given the ‘minimum or bogey time’ – limiting your time gain, or depending on it’s use, if you take longer than is allowed for the section (which is possible) you will be given the ‘maximum or bogey time’ – limiting your time loss.


In the main there are three different types of sections on a road rally: Transport Sections, Regularities and Special Tests.

Transport sections

Transport sections are there to get you to and from the competitively timed regularities and special tests. They allow you enough time to comfortably travel to the next control, and if you are quick even get fuel, but you still have to remain on your scheduled time so don’t take too long or you’ll incur lateness.


This is where the skill comes in. A regularity section combines a navigational test with accurately maintaining a set average speed at the same time. As these take place on open public roads, the average speeds set are limited to a maximum of 30mph (in the UK) and crews are expected to drive in accordance with the law. Along the route you will come across a number of secret Intermediate Time Controls (ITC’s) where you will be timed to the second. Assuming you have taken the correct route and maintained the correct average speed you will arrive at the ITC at an exact number of minutes and seconds. If you haven’t then your penalty is based on the number of seconds you are either early or late.

Multitasking is the order of the day and the skill is being able to work out the route and navigate along it correctly whilst also calculating your average speed at regular points and adjusting your speed to ensure it’s correct. However, your average speed has to be worked out manually by the use of speed tables and a stopwatch and you CANNOT use any other mechanical or electronic device to help you (which historically is how rally crews had to do it).

Speed tables use a matrix of figures to enable you to work out how long it takes to cover exact distances at set average speeds.

Timing begins at the regularity start where you are counted down to start on an exact minute. Your appearances at ITCs within the section are recorded to the second including the regularity finish. Once the regularity has ended and your time recorded you enter the transport section to the next control working to your scheduled time, or due time if you have dropped time
On paper you may think this is easy, but the combination of testing country roads, challenging navigation, secret controls, junctions, tractors, cattle grids, mud covered roads and the british weather, means you’ll have loads of fun trying to stay on time.

Regularities take a while to perfect and require a lot of teamwork but are extremely rewarding when you get them right. We haven’t enough space here to explain how to master them, but full details can be found in our free guides below which you can view and download.


Jogularity is a system developed by innovative rally organiser John Brown for the ‘LE JOG’ – the Land’s End to John O’Groats classic reliability trial.

Since then it has been adopted by other event organisers and adapted in to a number of other forms. The principle is that it simplifies regularities without making them any less competitive, and as such are perfect for novices.

The format uses either tulip diagrams, or written descriptions to identify landmarks or junctions along the route. Alongside these are distances and the exact time at which you should arrive at these points based on the set average speed. Secret time controls are then positioned at any of these points.

The benefit for beginners is that you can do them with less equipment and it doesn’t take too long to get in to the pattern and flow of how it works.

Special tests

In between regularity sections, events frequently take crews on to private land to take part in a short driving challenge where they have to achieve the quickest time possible. These Special Tests are very exciting and vary enormously depending on the location (e.g. airfield, car park, forest track, farm yard, country park) but they all include the negotiation of a sequence of cones. Failure to follow the correct route or manoeuvre, or hitting a cone results in additional penalties being added to your time. They are timed to the second and begin at the start line by being counted down to the start of the minute given to you by the marshal. Your time stops when you stop astride (and NOT go beyond) the finish line.

Your result at the end of the event is a combination of time penalties incurred during the regularities and special tests – plus any additional penalties if you have gone OTL.


Timing is usually undertaken with the aid of a light/timing beam so cars will be required to have a ‘strut’ fitted to ensure that the beam is broken cleanly. The timing strut is a 10” x 2” vertical blade, painted black and fixed to be at the very front of the car – often fixed to the number plate mountings of road legal cars.

Timed runs then take place from the start line. Usually you will be guided up to the starting line by a marshal who will help you position your car so that your ‘strut’ will be in line with the timing beam. In front of you a red light will be displayed, which will turn green for you to start. The green light actually indicates that the track is clear and ready for you so you can start your run in your own time. Your time then starts when you move forward and break the timing beam. The finish is then a ‘flying finish’ over the finishing line where once again you break a timing beam to record your time.

Events are comprised of a minimum of two runs along the course and up to a maximum of four or five. This gives you the opportunity to concentrate and hone your technique to shave off fractions of a second and home in on the perfect run. Final overall and class positions are based on the quickest times.


Just like road rallies there are several different timing points on a stage rally and different times recorded.

Road sections

The main control is TC1 – the start – where you leave in numerical order on your scheduled time. On the following Road Section you will be given a target time allowed for you to travel the section to arrive at a Stage Arrival point. If you arrive earlier than your scheduled time at the stage start you are allowed to queue outside the control area until the preceding minute. (i.e. if your scheduled time is 9:46, you can enter the control area at 9:45:01, but ensure you only hand your card over at 9.46.) You then go forward to the stage start where there is normally three minutes or so to get your helmets on etc., as you must be ready to start the stage when instructed by the marshals as shown in your time card.

If you arrive late enter the control safely and take the minute available and get ready to do the stage. The minute or minutes you have lost go towards your Maximum Time Lateness. This is usually 30 minutes.

If there is a delay at the stage start, for whatever reason you can ask the marshal to sign your card so you can get a delay allowance.


At the stage start you will be counted down by the second to your start time for the stage. Your time for completing the stage is recorded as a ‘flying finish’ whereby you pass over the finish line control point at speed to achieve the quickest time. You then slow down to a further control and stop where marshals await to fill in your time card. All these points are defined by a series of yellow and red code boards respectively.

Having successfully completed the stage your card is marked with a time including seconds. The whole minute is your start time for the next road section, to which you add the target time allowed and move on.

At service areas you will have a clocking in and out time which will cover the 30 minutes or whatever service time allowed. The time you leave will be your stage time for the next road section.

At the end of the Rally you must clock into the final time control at your scheduled time or no later than with 29 minutes OTL to be qualified as a finisher.