Rally: the original motorsport
Photo Courtesy of Tim Winker
Photo Courtesy of Warwick Patterson
unknown photographer
Photo Courtesy of plaftaphoto
Introduction to Stage Notes

Stage notes are intended to give a description of the stage roads, including hazards that are known at the time the notes were made. They do not suggest the speed at which to drive the road. Competitors must realize that the information contained in these notes is a subjective matter which cannot fully take into account the capabilities of the individual cars, the competitors, or the prevailing conditions at the time of competition. The responsibility rests with the competitors to drive safely within their capabilities at all times.

Stage notes are NOT pace notes. Pace notes are notes that an individual driver would use to describe his/her lines and/or speed through a stage. Pace notes are highly subjective and could vary widely depending on the vehicle being used and the driver’s style and preferences. Stage notes provide information that describes the various attributes of the road. They provide much more detail than traditional route books, as the notes attempt to describe all characteristics of the stage.

Description of the Stage Note System

The stage note system uses a numerical identifier to describe the degree of the corner (where 6 represent the fastest corner and 1 tighter/slower corner).

Grade/Radius of Corner

In stage note systems, each corner is defined with a number or term that is used to indicate the grade or radius of the corner. This will directly correspond to the speed at which one can take the corner. The following diagram is intended to indicate the relationship between the
degrees of each type of corner. Please note the length of the arc is used to clarify the difference of each degree of corner – not the duration of the corner.

This is an example of Right Curves and the corresponding term used. The same is applied to Left Curves.

The system will also use a "+" (plus) to indicate
a slightly faster corner or "-" (minus) to indicate a slightly slower corner than the other indicator. For example: 4R- is a tighter corner than a 4R but not as tight as a 3R+.

Duration of Corner

The degree of corner note may be accompanied by a term used to indicate the duration of the corner if the length of corner is out of character with other corners on the road.

length in meters is less than a normal corner of the same grade
normal duration
a corner of longer than normal duration
very long duration
even longer duration

Other Corner Terms

In addition to the corner degree and duration, the following modifiers may also be given:

"tightens" – a decreasing radius corner
"opens" – an increasing radius corner
"late" - late apex


Numbers (40, 60, 100, 250, etc) included in the instructions represent the approximate distance between instructions in meters. They provide relative information to the driver so that he knows what to anticipate at the exit of a corner.

The inclusion of these numbers is highly dependent on the nature of the stage. On a very fast stage, 50 meters will pass almost as quickly as you can say "Fifty". For that reason distances of less than 50 meters (unless deemed important) are not usually provided.

When reading the instructions, the distances are typically followed by a pause (represented here by "_____"). This is a good time for the co-driver to breathe.

(eg. "R3 250 R6>4" = right three ____ two fifty ____ right six tightens four)

Distances may be included in the descriptions to identify specific features.

Cautions - warnings

Cautions are given to all instructions that denote hazardous sections. These are sections that need to be taken slower than they would normally:

"Caution" – Drive with care; you may need to reduce speed to maintain control and to avoid damage to the vehicle.
"Double Caution" – DANGER; reduce speed and drive with care or damage is likely.
"Triple Caution" – EXTREME DANGER; reduce speed and drive with utmost care or damage is certain.

Other Terms/Symbols

In addition to the above, the following terms/symbols may be given for additional information about road/corner condition:

"into" – one element is immediately followed by another with a brief distance that may or may not allow a change of line.
"kinks" - you have a view along a road segment with undefined slight corners/crests. – Often combined with a distance ("kinks 300").
"Crest" – a crest/brow where you usually don’t see the road beyond it.
"Small Crest" – a small crest/brow.
sml Cr
"Big Crest" – a large crest/brow.
big Cr
"Jump" – a jump where your car MAY leave the ground.
"Big Jump" – a jump where your car WILL leave the ground.
big jmp
"Over" – Usually associated with Crest, which begins before the
end of a corner so the crest may cause change of grip in the
corner. May also be used with a bridge or other object.
(eg: "R3 /Cr" = Right three over crest)
"Junction" – Junction which you pass but do not turn
"Turn" – junction where you turn. Distance from start to junction is given under note (eg: "jct turn R4" = junction turn right four)
"Brake" – indicates a reduction in pace from a faster section to a
generally slower portion of the route
"Don’t Cut" – a rock or other potentially damaging object on the inside
of a corner.
"Exposure/drop right" – this implies exposure or a dropoff on the right side of the road. (eg. "R5 drop left" = right five exposure on left)
"Exposure/drop left" – this implies exposure or a dropoff on the left side of the road.
"Off Camber" – corner slopes to outside
"Deceptive" – what you think you see may not be what you get.
"Rough" – rough road.
"Bump" - Bump, bumps, or bumpy
2 similar elements
(eg: "2*Cr = crest followed by another crest" )
"Stay R" – used to define the position of the car on the road.
(eg: "Stay R / Cr" = stay right over crest)
stay R
"Stay L" - used to define the position of the car on the road.
stay L
"Stay Middle" - used to define the position of the car on the road.
stay middle
"Uphill" - road goes up
"Downhill" – road goes down
"Narrow" – road surface narrows relative to current width.
"Through" – eg: "R4 through gate"
"Dip" – a sharp down then up change in the road surface
"Ruts" – portions of the road surface are rutted.
"Washout" – the road surface has been washed away due to water flow, resulting in a Dip. May also contain water and could be very rough.
"Water on road" – water crossing the road surface
"Loose" – followed by a surface type; gravel, sand, rocks, etc. to denote low traction or soft road sections. (eg. "R4 into L3 ! loose gravel" = right four into left three caution loose gravel)

Underlining-linked instructions

Tricky combinations may be underlined to indicate that parts belong to the same combination. This is often used to indicate that a fast corner is closely followed by a slow corner which the driver should be made aware of early.

A sequence of notes could look like:

to end
  R6 120 ! Cr L6>4
  R5/Cr into Jct turn L4-lg
  50 ][ R3 NC

So put it all together and the above would be read as follows:

     Right six ____ one twenty ____ caution crest left six tightens four
     right five over crest into junction turn left four minus long
     fifty ____ bridge ____ right three no cut

Quite a mouthful isn't it! So do you think you've got what it takes to read those cryptic symbols and translate it into that sentence in a bouncing rally car going 80mph on a twisty one lane dirt road?

© 2004 Team Saabworks
Team Saabworks is in no way affiliated with Saab AB or Saab USA (although they could sponsor us, really we wouldn't complain!)