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GP Week : Issue 47
>>GPWEEKOPINION an be in the pits faster on slick tyres. Plenty of tension, just in that. But as an obvious consequence, some slower riders were catapulted up the running order, while fast ones dropped to the back. Then they had to sort themselves out all over again, by really racing each other. Overtaking make a come-back. The bottom line is: pit stops are great. Maybe they should be compulsory. Maybe the F1 trick should be adopted: compulsion. Problem is, at around 115 to 120 km, MotoGP races are too short to need refuelling. Indeed, they lend themselves to the opposite discipline, of restricting fuel: each bike is allowed just 21 litres for the distance. And changing tyres would be a contravention of the spirit of cost- cutting single-tyre rules. Even so, it’s not necessary to rely on rain. Without any intervention by the weather, the whole thing could be just a stopwatch charade. Not allowed to change tyres, or refuel, or running repairs. Just everyone has to come to a stop at some point during the race, for some prescribed time. It’s more or less what’s being considered anyway, in line with next year’s single-bike proposal, for races in which the weather does turn nasty: a fixed-time stop allowing time to change tyres and brakes. Very F1, this way of thinking. And why not? At least there are efforts to spice up the show. Nonetheless, the F1 parallel is uncomfortable, for deeper reasons. If Grand Prix motorbike racing now needs the reshuffle of pit stops to make it exciting again, then something has gone seriously, seriously wrong. THE World Rally Championship calendar for 2010 is at the heart of our worries about the future of rallying. Even though International Sportsworld Communicators has now issued its first draft calendar for 2010, there are many issues to be identified and clarified before the 2010 season can finally be settled. The task of ISC cannot be underestimated; the withdrawal of Monte Carlo, Indonesia and Russia from the original 2010 list means that there are three vacancies to be filled if a full 12-event calendar is to happen. So, how to do it? Do you break the rotation agreement and invite rallies that were run in 2009? And if so, which ones will give a good balance to the 2010 season? Or, do you keep the rotation agreement and bring new events into the established 24-event consortium. Or, scrap the proposed 2010 calendar altogether, pretend it never existed and start all over again? The 2009 season was badly unbalanced. This year there are only two long-haul events, and only four of the 12 rounds are in the second six months of the season. And, in the matter of the remaining nine events scheduled for 2010, the balance gets even worse. The loss of the three MArtin HolMes rallies editor events means that there are now only four European rallies left in the 2010 WRC (Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany and Corsica) and only one of them, Sweden, before August. Also, three of the nine events are asphalt (Bulgaria, Germany and Corsica), a far higher proportion than is traditional in the championship. If the criteria of balance was to win the day, 2010 looked bad for Argentina (long- haul), Ireland (asphalt), Norway (a second winter rally), Australia (long-haul), Spain (asphalt) or Britain and Finland, if they each wished to stay at the latter end of the season. But then, should another completely new event be invited instead? The problem with choosing a newcomer is that there is now no time for a new event to be prepared, run and observed. A major upheaval is also out of the question; since the lists for 2010 were published at the end of 2007, the event organisers are well into preparing their organisation and commercial contracts. Information was leaked at Sardinia as to what ISC was proposing. This was (a) break the rotation system in inviting some of the 2009 events into the 2010 season, (b) make the first half of the season long-haul and the second half mainly European, (c) make the first half mostly gravel and the second half mostly asphalt, (d) prepare for an increase in the number of events from 12 to 13 and (e) demand some teams change the dates they were originally offered. Now comes the long wait till the FIA’s World Council meeting to see what they think. The war is not over. Quite apart from the anger expected from the existing events who are being told to change their dates, or other 2009 events which were passed over, there is also a massive timing pressure on the ISC. Their proposals do not simply include a list of events on paper, there must first have been confirmation by the candidates of their acceptance of Promoters’ terms, a legal process which normally takes months. There has been almost no time for change at all. 23 opinion