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GP Week : Issue 49
>>WRCINSIGHT turn bad ... started the final day in second position overall, dropped during the day to third, and only got back to second because of Makinen’s exclusion. It took 15 months before the FIA thought of a way to overcome the unfairness which Burns had deeply perceived. As from Monte Carlo 2002 the top 15 classified cars ran the subsequent days in reverse order. This rule initially seemed fine, but three events into the season it all went horribly wrong. Corsica 2002 saw Colin McRae lying second overall, therefore running fourteenth car on the road, when he crashed injuring his hand. The stage had to be stopped on safety grounds, leaving the rally leader Gilles Panizzi waiting on the start line with no stage to drive. Quiet apart from the unenviable problem of having to decide what interruption time to give to the rally leader, there were far more disagreeable consequences. There was one more stage before service, which Panizzi had the chance of tackling on still pristine tyres, against rivals whose tyres were already worn by the stage that Panizzi did not tackle. Panizzi, therefore, won the rally, having covered one stage fewer at competitive speed than his rivals. It took the FIA another six years before the inequity of reverse seeding finally sunk in and the original system was restored in 2008. In gravel rallying the debate about running orders and tactics will never be far away. Is the current arrangement, that the running order for Days 2 and 3 be based on the classification order at the end of the last stage of the previous day, satisfactory? The unsatisfactory aspect is the way that this rule invites tactic games, which defy any effective method of control. It leads to the ungainly sight of drivers slowing down before the end of a stage, or incurring unnecessary time control penalties, to force a rival to run ahead of them. But then, drivers will only want to slow down at certain and clearly identifiable places. At all other places they will want to go as fast as possible. And, if the system has its disadvantages, does it really matter? There is no simple answer. World Rally Championship Commission President Morrie Chandler suggested “there are many sides to this argument. Personally I prefer the current system that means that the leader has a disadvantage, so it bunches up the competition. When we had the reverse order system, the rally leader had better conditions and therefore drew further ahead.” And anyway, are tactics actually unsporting? Please name a sport in which the winner has no chance to use tactics. What goes through the mind of a football captain when he decides which end of the pitch he prefers to play for the first half of the game? Or a cricket captain deciding when to declare his innings closed? Or a long distance cyclist or runner the moment he decides to put in a winning spurt. Successful sport demands more than pace behind the wheel or the skill to kick a ball. Perhaps tactics should be part of the game after all? It is all part of the sport, whether you like it or not. 43