Inside a Rally: Working on the Riponian Stages

I’m a lifelong rallying fan, spectated on more rallies than I care to remember, and even marshalled once or twice. But I want to get more involved on the organisation side so, to that end, I joined Ripon Motor Sport Club.

Club secretary Alan Hill asked me to run the event’s information app, Sportity, for the Riponian Stages Rally, posting documents for competitors and officials to view before and during the event. I was invited to a couple of pre-event meetings, helped out in Rally HQ at Thirsk Auction Mart before the event, and spent the day of the rally stationed in Rally Control at Wombleton Airfield.

I only got a fairly limited insight into what goes into organising a rally, but it was eye-opening to see the sheer scale of the operation. It’s a vast jigsaw puzzle; each piece has to fit together perfectly for the for the event to run seamlessly, from route planning to documentation, signage, medical coverage, timing and tracking, etc., etc., etc.! And each one of those pieces takes endless phone calls, emails, and paperwork to put in place.

Full credit to Alan Hill who, as Clerk of the Course for the event, runs the whole show. I was under the impression that he just ran it on the day but he essentially acts as managing director. He makes sure all the pieces of the puzzle come together, he puts a lot of them in place himself, but he also delegates to a fantastic team that do a lot of the legwork. The time, energy, and passion that everyone puts into the rally is truly remarkable to see.

You could argue that the hard work is done before the event starts but Rally Control is a hive of activity throughout the day. There’s a vast amount of chatter on the radio, people come and go, situations are dealt with. But it’s a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, problems are discussed and solved without fuss.

Regrettably, there was a serious incident on the event this year, but it barely raised the temperature in Rally Control. Information was sought and discussed, action was taken quickly and decisively. Yet no-one lost sight of the bigger picture, there was still a rally to run.

By all accounts, the competitors and spectators were very happy with how the rally was run this year. Even from the small window I got into it, it’s not hard to see why. It’s down to the dedication and professionalism of the organising team and the leadership they give to the hundreds of on-event personnel.

And let’s not forget, everyone involved is a volunteer, many of whom give a large part of their entire year to the event.

I can’t wait to get stuck in helping out next year.

Image with permission from GF Rally Images