The history of rally driving goes back to the late 1800’s. It is believed that the first sanctioned race was in Paris, France in 1894 and was sponsored by a French newspaper, The Le Petit Journal. The winners won the race based on the discretion of observers who traveled with each driver.
Once the first event was held in Paris, the flood gates were open and road races became a regular occurrence throughout all of France and Europe. As rally racing became more popular and the speeds began to increase to dangerous levels, steps were taken to begin racing on closed course circuits.
Not many people know that the Tour De France was an automobile endurance test also. The Tour De France Rally ran from 1906 to 1937 and was one of the most popular rally races in the world. The most notable event of this time though, was the Monte Carlo Rally, which began in 1911 and set the bar for the future of rally racing. The Monte Carlo Rally would become a regular event with the exception of dark periods during World War I and World War II. The Monte Carlo Rally is still one of the staples of the World Rally Championship (WRC) to this day.
Italy, Germany and England all staged their own versions of races. Italy’s rally races began in 1895 and included rally’s through the mountains and around islands. Britain staged the 1000 Mile Trial, a 15 Day rally that linked all the cities. While Germany staged rally races beginning in 1906 which included hill climbs and time trials.
In 1961 the beginnings of what rally racing has now become were established. Britain’s laws would not allow for closure of their highways so they began to hold the races on the gravel forestry roads. Soon other countries followed suit but it was not until 1973 that the World Rally Championship combined all the rally events under one auspices.
The WRC now has a 13 race schedule that travels throughout Europe and includes one race through Mexico. All of the courses now travel through the back roads of the host countries and are tests of extreme endurance to the rally cars and the drivers. The WRC schedule takes the drivers through snow in the winter to extreme heat in the summer.