It has been a common concern for all rally drivers that their rivals may employ shrewd tactics to avoid running ahead of the order on gravel surfaces. Keeping this in mind THE FIA World Motor Sport council (WMSC) announced rule changes for the gravel rallies in 2012
Current rules for the World Rally Championship state that drivers are to start the first day of the stages in the order of the Drivers’ Championship table. Now, while this works to the advantage of the championship leading driver in most rallies, it does not hold true on gravel surfaces. Running ahead of the order isn’t very advantageous on a gravel surface, mainly for the reason that the first driver sweeps away the loose gravel giving the driver behind a better gripping racing line.
The Acropolis Rally this year, saw Sebastien Ogier intentionally drop behind team-mate Sebastien Loeb so that the Citroen No.2 didn’t have to slow down to clear the field, instead he let his team-mate do the honours, and be the faster car running in second place. It was only on Day 3 that Ogier sped past Loeb to take victory. Although this kind of strategy may seem unfair, it is exciting.
To avoid these sly strategies, the WMSC has formulated new rules that put every driver on the same platform. On gravel laden rallies, the Shakedown stages will act as a qualifying round and will allow the fastest driver of the stage will get to choose his start position for the first day of the rally. The Shakedown stage is short stage of six kilometers which the drivers lap four times. Another benefit that this rule will have is that, now the drivers will also have to take the rally Thursday more seriously.
Day 2 and 3 will retain the old regulation of reverse order with the P1 and P2 drivers switching places between themselves.
This rule gives all drivers equal advantages on gravel surface and evades the likelihood of all the kind of tricky strategies that we have seen at the Jordan Rally in 2010 and the Acropolis Rally this year.