INTRODUCTION Rapid-access carotid endarterectomy (RACE) is an evidence-based treatment for symptomatic carotid stenosis. Our vascular centre aims to provide this service within 48 h of symptoms in appropriate patients. This study audits safety and efficacy of the first year of RACE. SUBJECTS AND METHODS A clear trust protocol was publicised for the RACE pathway. A prospective database was established for all carotid endarterectomies (CEAs) performed. Outcomes were compared between elective (ECE) and rapid-access operations. RESULTS In 1 year, 96 patients received CE; 20 were performed urgently. There were no significant differences in age or gender between ECE and RACE groups. Twenty-three (30%) of ECE were for asymptomatic stenoses; no other significant differences in surgical indication were seen. Of symptomatic ECE, 43% were for completed stroke versus 55% for RACE. Median delay between diagnosis and surgery was 113 days for elective and 2 days for RACE patients. There was one death following ECE (1.3%) and one stroke after RACE (5%), all not significant. Anaesthetic method did not influence outcome. The main reasons for delaying surgery in RACE patients were optimisation of patient fitness and availability of theatre time. CONCLUSIONS The RACE pathway dramatically reduces delay without compromising patient safety. In the first year of service, we have treated 50% of suitable patients within 48 h. Further education of patients and colleagues should reduce delay and improve outcomes for symptomatic carotid disease.