Pro Rallies, also defined as performance rallies, pit men, women and their machines against and mother nature and the clock. In a performance rally, simply refered to as a rally from here on, teams travel a predetermined set of roads that are kept a secret until just before the event. These events take place all over the country, and all over the world, in any kind of weather: rain, snow, dark of night, etc.
The route is the series of roads that rally teams follow throughout the course of a rally. There are sections of the route where the teams are timed, and race as fast as they possibly can, one team at a time. These sections are called special stages, and are run on roads that are closed to the public during the rally. At the end of the rally the team with the lowest cumulative special stage time wins. In order to get form one special stage to another the teams travel at or below the speed limit along other sections of the route. These secions are called transits, and consist of regular roads that remain open for the public to drive on.
At this point your probably asking yourself what makes up a rally team, and just what kind of cars do they drive? Each team consists of two main parts, the first bieng the driver and navigator, who actually operate the rally car in competition. The driver pilots the car using what he or she sees, and the information the navigator tells him. Some of this information comes from what the organizers tell the competitors about the route, while some of it comes from what the driver and navigator remember from previous experience.
The second part of the team is the service crew, who work on the car throughout an event. The service crew is also given a specific route to follow, similar to the ones the driver and navigator are given. These routes tells the service crew where they are to go to meet their rally car and work on it. Service crews can cover almost as many miles in the couse of the event as the actual competitors in their rally cars. The service crews are only allowed to work on the rally car in the designated areas, work in any other are must be done by the driver and navigator with whatever they have with them in the rally car.
A rally car can basically be any production based, gasoline burning, four wheeled, fully bodied vehicle. Every rally car is required to have certain safety equipment installed, such as a full roll cage, five-point safety belts, fire extinguishers, skid plates, and so on. Also, both the driver and navigator are required to wear a helmet and flame-retardant driving suit. In addition to the safety equipment, every rally car is equiped with a rally odometer, or rally computer, capable of registering the distance traveled to the hundreth of a mile. Depending on the class the team wants to compete in, Other modification to the vehicle are allowed. Cars in the Production classes are almost identical to those in the showroom. While in the other classes, just about anything goes! A car's displacement and amount of modification are also taken into consideration when determining its class.
I hope that this has been an informative, but not too boring, introduction to the who, what, when, and where of rallying.