The Service Park

After a gruelling stage, there's no telling in what condition a car will come back to the service park. The crews, forewarned by radio just minutes before a car might limp home, wait to patch up the injured machine. They have just 20 minutes to make the car rally-worthy again.

As soon as the car enters the team enclosure, the clock starts ticking. Every second over the allotted time could land the team with a time penalty, potentially undoing all the time gained on a fast super stage.

Crews need to be quick, efficient, dextrous and calm under pressure.

Normally, cars are raised on four slim triangular stands and attended to by about 12 technicians, each specialists in their field. If the car comes in relatively unscathed, a routine stop would include a complete change of wheels and tyres, a fluid top-up and a 'spanner' check, which ensures every nut and bolt is tight and not loosened by the engine vibration.

The 'silver box' (the black box of World Rally Championship Cars) is downloaded for immediate analysis and data checks. The shock absorber, damper and ride-height settings may be adjusted and all four brake discs checked for wear and tear. Last but not least, the windshield is thoroughly cleaned.If, however, the car has struggled in, its bodywork battered, the windshield shattered, the bonnet crumpled and the suspension shot, the technicians have a more serious problem on their hands. Ingenious solutions have to be made up on the spot to ensure the car makes it around the next stage.

The choreographed blur of tool-wielding hands is an impressive sight in and under a World Rally Car and the 20 minutes elapse all too quickly for the frantic technicians. They work under the beady eye of their crew-chief, who monitors their progress, oversees trouble-spots and constantly watches the clock, counting the minutes down in a loud and clear voice.

Typically, a World Rally Team will consist of around 40 people at the event, with a further 60 - 100 people supporting them at the team base.

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Rally Ireland 2009 attracts 270,000 spectators

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