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GP Week : Issue 145
The reality in motorsport is that what could conceivably happen, will happen and will probably cause havoc. The spectacular irritation of the moment is the ‘reverse running order’ rule, used in 2002-2007 and reinstated in 2012. There are many proven disadvantages of the reverse running order system, including the likelihood that the rally leader has the opportunity of increasing his lead, rather than seeing his lead reduced if there are adverse stage conditions. No wonder the benefits of this system are extolled by the eight-times world champion Sebastien Loeb! Unfairness was evidenced in Corsica 2002, the third occasion the system was used, where the rally winner did not contest as many stages as his rivals, and also had an unfair tyre advantage in consequence. In 2012, trouble struck again on the third event of the revised system. Mexico showed that reverse order system is now threatening disruption to the championship. The risk that a slower driver could obstruct a faster driver was shown in doubly full measure. Evgeniy Novikov had to swerve to avoid a car (Atkinson’s) which had broken down on the track, driving through a wire fence which suddenly allowed dust to penetrate in to the car, and caused him to misjudge a bend and crash. A few cars later, along came Jari- Matti Latvala, the fastest driver in the championship, who in the special circumstances of the situation was suddenly faced with an apparent blockage on the road, and crashed when trying to take evasive action. A highly predictable situation – a consequence of a stupid rule, which sounded plausible in theory, but is full of avoidable risk ... The forthcoming Rally of Portugal is likely to reignite the debate about the dry night gravel stages irritation. It may be wet in the Algarve at the time of the rally, but equally it might be very dry and highly dusty, and any of the three planned night-time stages could cause a disaster for what would other wise have been a very closely- fought event. The new artificial Qualifying Stage will give the top drivers the opportunity to decide their starting order through the night stages – good for the fastest driver, a disaster for other competitors. Hopefully this will be the end of dry night- time gravel stages. Greece has decided it is a bad idea and changed its plans; other organisers have indicated they will not get involved. There has been a seemingly endless series of ill-judged rules in recent years – the ill-conceived Power Stage system changes provided a champion whose victory came from supplemental points in 1999. In 2011 the Power Stage was introduced to liven up the last day of rallies (as if the championship rallies were not exciting enough) and by 2012 television coverage was being stopped. Mixed stages were recently reintroduced, producing insurmountable but predictable tyre problems and were quickly dropped. Are longer distance rallies wise in days of economic decline? Does the FIA really believe that reverse seeding will obviate tactics? The list goes on. The basic problem is the blame culture: Not my fault that the promised date for publishing entries is not honoured. It has suddenly become necessary to allow late entries in events. Forget the inconvenience to the media. Rules are treated as invitations for waivers. And the new sacred starting order rules? On the third day of Mexico, Paulo Nobre was due to start according to the rules as first car on the road. Suddenly he was demoted to run 14th. “Safety reasons” were hinted at. Safety? Calling a driver that has been accepted as an official manufacturer team driver Unsafe? It wasn’t Nobre who was ‘unsafe’. It is the whole system of making stupid rules which is unsafe ... OPINION MARTIN HOLMES Rally Editor PLAYING THE BLAME GAME ... Jari-Matti Latvala was literally flying in Mexico until it went horribly wrong ... 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION