A truly global phenomenon, the World Rally Championship has reached all-corners of the globe through the years. Given free-reign to take in some of the planet’s finest and most extreme conditions at truly break-neck speed, is it any wonder fans flock from all over the planet to watch some of the greatest drivers of modern times do battle, gladiator style, against the clock. Here, we go behind the scenes to bring you what we consider to be the top five global rally stages. Most of the cars need a jolly good clean once they’ve finished blitzing the timed stages, so there’s a place for Autoglym’s new rally-speed, pressure-washer applied, pre-wash, wash & protect system, Polar Series, to feature heavily in the clean up phase of most WRC teams.
Anyway, here goes… mud, sweat and gears it is. Okay, so we’ve written about six stages, but it’s so hard to choose between them, we hope you don’t mind a little bit of over-enthusiasm.
Saint Auban / Col Du Turini Monte Carlo Rally
Arguably the most famous of them all. For what seems like time immemorial the Monte Carlo Rally has been a firm favourite of fans across the world. Tight, intricate, twisty cliff top roads that wind through tunnels with impossible drops to almost certain death one side and sheer rock face the other. Imagine if Bilbo, Samwise Gamgee and Gollum suddenly took a liking to motorsport, this is where you’ll find them. Sheer cliff faces feature single track roads barely big enough to fit a rally car along, let alone drive down at 100+mph. For total lunacy, staggering scenery and extreme weather conditions, it’s really hard to top the Monte Carlo for outright jaw-dropping magnificence. Although we’d question the sanity of anyone who sets foot inside a rally car, there’s no way we’d get in one of the cars set to the compete on any of the Monte Carlo stages.
EL Condor – Rally Argentina
Located high in the Traslasierra mountains, El Cóndor boasts stunning views in good weather, but fog and rain transform it into hell. If the weather gods are really in a bad mood, then there could even be snow and ice. The road becomes increasingly rough and the test ends by snaking around massive rocks, which offer remarkable vantage points for precariously perched fans. Such is the fervour for El Cóndor that spectators pitch their tents and camp out several days before the rally arrives to ensure a prime viewing position. It’s not warm but once the asados (barbeques) are under way and the alcohol starts flowing, the atmosphere sizzles as much as the cooking meat.
Rift Valley – Nairobi, Safari Rally Kenya
An truly iconic stage that last featured in 2002, but looks set to make a return in 2020 according to WRC insiders. The Rift valley stage was, and arguably still is, considered one of the most arduous stages on the world tour. Gravel roads, wildlife, and extremely long stages held just north west of the capital city, Nairobi, towards Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru have cemented the Africa rally as one of the greatest of all time, but the stunning scenery and cliff top peril of the Rift Valley cements it as a total classic on the calendar. The enormous geographical trenches that run north south from Lebanon to eastern Africa, lend the safari rally a unique backdrop for some truly breath-taking racing. With plans afoot to reinstate the race for three years from 2020 as part of the WRC calendar, it might not be long until we see it on our screens once again.
Let’s face it, when you’re at the home of some of the world’s greatest ever drivers, it’s no surprise the roads are pretty spectacular. If you seek air miles, then this is the rally for you. Hell, in 2018 this stage was virtually banned from the calendar because the powers that be deemed that the ever-faster WRC cars were capable of such speeds that it would be ‘dangerous’ to use the fast, sweeping, open roads. Jumps, lumps and bumps abound and it’s rare that any of the cars leave Finland without accruing a head for heights. For the ultimate flying rally cars, airtime is inescapable in Finland. Fearless drivers? You bet, but then as Colin McRae used to say, “When in doubt, go flat out.”
Dyfi, Wales Rally GB
Mud, glorious mud! That’s the Dyfi rally stage contained within a forest of the Cambrian Mountains, between Dolgellau and Machynlleth. The age old RAC rally still takes place all over Wales. The Dyfi stage is located at the southern tip of the Snowdonia national park in the county of Ceredigion and promises the hard-packed gravel stages that are well known for becoming muddy when wet. People camp in the forests for days just to hear the pop, crackle and anti-lag systems cracking and farting through the tree strewn wilderness of the west coast of Wales. Fog, rain and general UK-centric weather conditions make it particularly testing. Hosted in September every year, Wales Rally GB often takes place on closed public roads following law changes in both Westminster and Cardiff. It’s the final event of the WRC calendar, so championships are won and lost in Wales, but the epic Dyfi forest stage has been in place for many, many years.
Whaanga Coast, Rally New Zealand
The Whannga coast stage is a notoriously tricky stage and a true NZ Classic. The Whaanga Coast is set in the most stunning green scenery, which is not that unusual for New Zealand. The stage itself is situated to the South of Auckland, just outside the town of Raglan, and it takes the crews along the Western coast of this most scenic landscape. Think Lord of The Rings meets Mad Max and then you’ll have some idea of the automotive carnage that can ensue. Sheer cliff faces again provide an adrenaline fuelled stage. The drivers love it, too, or for the ones who don’t love it so much, there’s always Odour Eliminator! It’s so iconic that this particular stage has even featured in Dirt 2.0, a Codemasters computer game, which hints at how spectacular and visceral this WRC legend has become.
Do you have a favourite rally stage? Let us know by commenting below.