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GP Week : Issue 121
Kris Meeke was present in Greece making pacenotes, ready for the Mini team's return in 2012. "I love the idea of driving at night, especially here in Greece, but unless it rains the dust will make it impossible. It only takes the finest dust for the spotlights to create a blanket of fog in front of you. The first guy is going to be clear of everyone and it makes it impossible for the guys running 2,3,4,5 on the road because there is no wind at night. “I have rallied at night in the IRC on asphalt stages and the atmosphere is something pretty special. I would really like to see a lot more night stages in the world championship but there needs to be thought and consideration as to where and when – it has to be done in the right places. On this rally, as soon as you get to dusk the wind drops and there is nothing to clear it and it just hangs especially between the trees." Mikko Hirvonen: "I do like driving in the dark, but only if it works for everybody. But I was worried in this rally that only the first driver can see something if it is dry and it is not fair for everybody else. When it is dark and you have the spot-lights on you don't even need to have a lot of dust to make it impossible to see because a little bit of dust and it is just going to be like a wall. In daylight you can see quite a lot even with a lot of dust. At night you don't need much dust, just a little bit, for it to be impossible. If it is damp or wet it might be ok. Years ago in Finland we did a lot of rallies at night but it is only now and then in the world championship when we do some stages in the dark, mainly superspecials, but also two or three stages in GB and one year in Japan and in Monte Carlo. So there have not recently been many dry gravel night stages. I don't think it is a good move to do it." Jari-Matti Latvala: "I like night stages but for me we need to be careful. I don't think it will work in every rally. My concern here in Greece is that we are in a hot country and in the evening when the sun goes down there is normally no wind. And I'm afraid there is going to be a lot of dust hanging in the air. It is not only here but it is also like it in Italy at this time of the year. “So for me the rallies which we are doing in the summer time, we should be a bit careful with those. But the rallies in the spring, autumn or winter time is never a problem. Snow rallies at night are not so bad. For me it is actually easier to do night stages in the winter because you get so much light from the snowbanks, so I actually enjoy driving in the night in the snow. Hannu Mikkola, veteran rally driver in days when night gravel stages were normal, said; "In our day we reckoned that one minute gaps between cars was impossible, and even with two minutes, but usually it was fair when there were three minute gaps." Decided at the FIA’s World Council’s recent meeting was a policy that Shakedown shall be used next year as an occasion to settle Day 1 starting orders. The system of allowing cars to be tested before events under controlled conditions was a welcome development following the reduction in the length of normal WRC events from four to three days in 1996. This provided journalists with one extra day’s activities to talk about and photographers many extra chances to take pictures of each car. Originally the idea for Shakedown was something different, the chance for teams to provide rides for privileged invited guests, and of course teams soon embraced the opportunity for their own sporting reasons. Then when official timing of Shakedown was made readily available, came another aspect – something akin to unofficial practice in Formula 1. The FIA now propose to use the occasion to allow drivers to select in which order they want to start Day 1, as part of a planned revival to revert once again to reverse-order running for Days 2 and 3. Drivers at the Acropolis Rally took the chance to appeal to the FIA to continue to permit Shakedown for fine-tuning cars before the rally. In countries where all pre-event testing is banned, Shakedown is the only opportunity to test cars in the prevailing conditions. World Champion Sebastien Loeb proposed that two hours on Thursday mornings should continue to be available for free testing, like nowadays, then start the FIA’s ‘qualifying’ plan at, say, ten in the morning. Jari-Matti Latvala explained that many drivers have no chance to go to a country to test before the rally, whether allowed or not, and Shakedown is their only opportunity: “As for the qualifying idea, it will be good if this removes the need for end-of-day tactics during the rally, even if it creates more work for the drivers! It will make Thursday mornings a very intense time.” Mads Ostberg: "As Jari-Matti was saying, I am using the Shakedown for testing in many other countries. So long as we have some time during Shakedown for testing, then I think it is a good thing to have qualifying after that.” Night Stages, good or bad? FIA seeks new Shakedown role