Rally 101 | Fixed Penalties

This is first of what is planned to be a series which will attempt to explain, in layman terms, various aspects of Cross Country Rallying.

This particular post should ideally have been preceded by several others which would have explained the terminology and provided background information clarifying the relevance of this topic. Anyway, in the coming days as the background posts are updated, we will rearrange the topics in a better & clearer manner


Cross Country events are long distance endurance events that require large commitments of time and money in preparation and participation. Sometimes a minor mistake or a small mechanical problem prevents a competitor from completing a portion of the event laying waste to the competitor’s effort & investment.

In Stage Rallies, this problem was addressed by what became to be called a “Super Rally” format. Under this these participants could continue to compete for subsequent day or leg prizes. Cross Country Rallies are usually run over several legs and have several Groups and Classes under which the participants are grouped. This made the Super Rally format impractical so a few years ago a new provision called “Fixed Penalty” or “Restarts” was incorporated by the FIA.

Article 20 of the 2016 FIA Cross Country General Prescriptions details the broad parameters of the provision. This has been adopted & incorporated by all the Cross Country Championship events and the Dakar, each of whom have further detailed the process as is applicable to each of them. The articles are reproduced at the end of this post for further reference.

Of the two cross country events currently being organized by Northern Motorsport, fixed penalty does not apply in the “India Baja” as it is a single continuous day & night event. However, the relief is available in the “Desert Storm” and is detailed under Article 23.10 of the 2016 Supplementary Regulations.

The key salient points of this provision are:

  • Any competitor failing to complete a leg of the rally (i.e. failure to report at the TC at the finish of a day within the closing time) will be given a fixed penalty of 60 minutes & designated as a ‘DNF’ (Did Not Finish)
    This clause determines who is or is not a regular finisher. A participant is by default designated as a DNF until he/she applies for a Restart for the next leg.
  • It is compulsory for a competitor to take the start of each day.
    This means that no competitor can skip the next consequent leg /day
  • No competitor may take a benefit of this rule more than once in the entire event.
    This restricts the number of restarts available to a competitor. The logic is that one mistake can be forgiven but a badly prepared competitor who repeatedly breaks down is a hazard to himself and the rest of the competitors.
    This provision is sometimes relaxed by the Clerk of the Course in consultation with the Stewards on a case to case basis depending on unique situations. Usually in these cases the competitor is required to undertake that he/she would not be entitled for any prizes and is continuing participation purely to gain experience
  • Any competitor failing to complete a section of the rally (i.e. failure to report at the TC at the start or finish of a stage within the control closing time) will be given a penalty calculated by adding the following:
    i. 30 minutes for each Start of Stage Time Control
    ii. 15 Minutes each for all other controls.
    iii. Scratch time (25.19 c) authorised for the Selective Section(s) or Road Section(s) not covered + 15 minutes.
    This details the penalties which will be applied in case of a Restart. The CCR recommends a flat penalty of 100 hours and the Dakar has added Maximum Time for each section to the Fixed Penalty.

In all cases, the penalty for not completing a section is meant to be severe enough to differentiate between competitors who have actually completed a Leg and those that could not.

As specified in the CCR regulations, all competitors with no restarts must be classified ahead of any restarted competitor. However, if despite the penalties imposed if a competitor does manage to classify for a podium award then there is no provision debarring the organiser from awarding the prize. This can sometimes happen when there are so few competitors left in the fray that a competitor who has suffered a drop out still ranks in the podium list.
Extract from the 2016 Cross Country Rallies General Prescriptions


20.1  A fixed penalty is used to enable a competitor to remain in the competition when they would otherwise be excluded due to failing to visit certain controls or report within the time limits imposed.

20.2 Any competitor failing to complete a leg of the rally as required by the regulations (i.e. failure to report at the TCs at the start or finish of a day within their opening times, or failure to complete a selective section within the maximum time allowed) will be given a fixed penalty of “one leg”.

20.3 For the purposes of establishing a classification all competitors with zero day penalties will be classified ahead of those with one day penalties who will in turn be classified ahead of those with two day penalties and so on.


  • 1st Car A 0 legs 14h 37m 46s
  • 2nd Car B 0 legs 14h 55m 33s
  • 3rd Car C 0 legs 16h 21m 56s
  • 4th Car D 0 legs 21h 33m 21s
  • 5th Car E 1 leg 15h 35m 45s
  • 6th Car F 2 legs 12h 34m 44s

20.4 To facilitate the use of existing results software, an organiser may substitute a penalty of 100 hours for the Leg.

20.5 In no case may a fixed penalty be used by a competitor who has been excluded by the Stewards.

20.6 To be classified a competitor must not have received a fixed penalty on more than 50% of the legs of a rally. A fixed penalty will not be applied on the final day of an event.

20.7 The use of the fixed penalty is optional in Bajas where organisers may instead use maximum selective section penalties. A maximum selective section penalty must be at least the double of the maximum time allowed for the same selective section.

Extract from the 2016 Dakar Regulations


  1. Road Section A target time is given for each Road Section. Any difference in this target time will incur a penalty of one minute per minute. Clocking in ahead of time is authorised at the Time Control at the Finish of a Road Section at the entrance of the Bivouac.
  2. Selective Sections Selective Sections will be run in real time, with a maximum time allowed. Crews checking-in after this maximum time will incur the Fixed Penalty for the day. The time that will be held in this case will be the real time done in the Selective Section plus the Fixed Penalty. If the Finish of the Selective Section is also the finish of the Stage, the procedures laid down in Article 36P5 will apply. The arrival time will be taken no more than to the second.

And further detailed in Article 20

29)  Fixed Penalty

a) A Fixed Penalty has been created to replace certain sanctions leading to Disqualification for failing to respect certain clauses of the Regulations. It allows the penalised Competitor to continue the Event in normal competition conditions, still being sanctioned.
b) The Fixed Penalty is expressed in a time which is added to the penalties already incurred by the Competitor.
c) The Fixed Penalty may be of a different figure for each Selective Section, Road Section or Passage Control, calculated according to the profile and the difficulty of each of these.