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GP Week : Issue 144
The 2012 WRC season remains at 13 events but this time with only three long-haul events (Mexico, Argentina and New zealand) and all of them in the first half of the season. From January till the end of July there will only be four WRC events in Europe. Jordan was dropped on account of the wish of another Middle East event, Abu Dhabi, to enter the series, but then Abu Dhabi never happened! The big news is the return of Monte Carlo to the series, bringing with it specific rule changes – for example the use of special 18 inch winter tyres and the provision that SuperRally will not be available for retired crews on that event. This will be an event which stretches over five days, although the total rally distance is less than Sweden and Rally GB in 2011. The other major news, recently announced, is that the Italian event moves from Sardinia to Sicily. Two of the six rounds tackled by the WRC Academy cars have also been changed. Rules about stage distances are unchanged but organisers are being encouraged to run events with stage lengths totalling closer to the maximum (500km) rather than the minimum (300km) permitted lengths. The maximum allowed stage distance between tyre changing points remains at 80km, but the number of times the tyres can be changed during an event is reduced from eight to seven. One way that the total number of tyres will be restricted is that only one spare tyre can be carried. except for the Acropolis Rally. The FIA’s policy of cost reduction continues with a new limitation on the number of engines that can be used. In 2011, the FIA demanded that only three engines could be used in the final nine events of the season, in 2012 three engines can only be used for all 13 events. Following difficulties experienced when Rally Argentina ran mixed surfaced stages in 2011, organisers must now never run gravel sections within stages on all-asphalt events and only short stretches of asphalt surfaces may be used on all gravel events. It is not allowed to change surface of stages on the same day between overnight halts. The next major change is in the running order rules, and the consequent new dual purpose of Shakedown, a change in which priority drivers select their preferred starting order for the first day of the rally, making their selection in their scored times order following a special qualifying session of the Shakedown course. For two hours drivers will use the Shakedown course for ‘Free Practice’, then in late morning the course will be used as the ‘Qualifying stage’. In 2012, this rule will apply for all gravel events. Car rules are not changed, except that new generation 1.6 litre turbo Super 2000s will be eligible to run in the SWRC support championship, if fitted with a 30mm turbo restrictor, but can run as non- championship entries on WRC events with 33mm restrictors. Other things will change. There are subtle changes in how drivers are given priority status, while the support championship competition numbers in 2012 will run from 31, not 21, through to 50. Following the way the divisions within a rally were redefined in mid 2011, so the new method of calling a group of stages “sections” will continue, and there will be no more oftheold“leg”or “day ”. Following Petter Solberg’s escapades in Sweden, drivers must have current driving licences for the duration of the rally, and not let the co-driver take over. The WRC Academy drivers will drop one overall points score, but continue to score Stage Points on all six events. Regarding the PowerStage, to score championship points a driver must qualify as a finisher of the rally and if for any reason the stage is stopped, nobody scores points. 2012 – When, where, how?