Nine-time cham­pion agrees with coun­try­man’s view on run­ning order reg­u­la­tions

Motor Sport News - - Le Mans Preview - Photo: Mar­tyn’s Fo­tos By David Evans

Ral­ly­ing leg­end Se­bastien Loeb has backed coun­try­man and fel­low World Rally cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier’s call for change as the de­bate over run­ning order rules steps up a gear in Sar­dinia this week.

The Ital­ian is­land is one of the events where road sweep­ing is at its worst and Ogier is likely to be at his most vo­cal – if he stays for the du­ra­tion. Ogier has al­ready made his in­ten­tion clear to leave Italy if his wife An­drea goes into labour with their first child.

Ogier won last year’s Rally Italy by more than three min­utes, but Hay­den Pad­don took the fight to the Volk­swa­gen star un­til a gear­box prob­lem near the end of the sec­ond day. Ogier was fifth on the road on day two of Sar­dinia last year, courtesy of driv­ers re­turn­ing un­der the Rally2 reg­u­la­tion go­ing ahead of him. This week he’ll be first on Fri­day and Satur­day and he says he has no chance.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to win like this,” Ogier told MN, “you know that. When we have two days open­ing the road, what can I do?”

Ogier has com­plained about the FIA’S reg­u­la­tion change all sea­son and now he has the sym­pa­thy of his for­mer foe Loeb. The world’s most suc­cess­ful rally driver said the FIA had got its reg­u­la­tion wrong for this sea­son.

Nine-time world cham­pion Loeb told MN: “For me he is right. The fact that he speaks, I don’t know, some peo­ple seem to think he should not speak about this, but he is right in what he says. It’s what I al­ways de­fended when I was com­pet­ing; what we want is some­thing fair. The best driver with the best team should win the rally.

“It’s like the guy who wins the 100-me­tre run­ning race: if he is world cham­pion he doesn’t start in the gravel or on the grass next to the track – he’s on the same line as oth­ers and if he’s still the best then he is still win­ning.

“I un­der­stand it can be frus­trat­ing for him [Ogier]. Two days clean­ing is too much. One day, it was a fight, but it was OK. But two days is too much and it’s de­stroy­ing his chance. For sure he is bet­ter than the other driv­ers and if he is bet­ter then it’s nat­u­ral that he wins.”

Loeb added that he un­der­stood the per­spec­tive of the other driv­ers who de­fended the run­ning order reg­u­la­tion and the closer com­pe­ti­tion, which has pro­duced four dif­fer­ent win­ners in the last four ral­lies.

He said: “Kris [Meeke] can be happy if he wins, he is win­ning and that is that; he can­not change the rule. The prob­lem is not with the driv­ers, the prob­lem is with the rule.”

The FIA has con­firmed to MN that it is con­sid­er­ing the full gamut of op­tions for run­ning order next sea­son, in­clud­ing a po­ten­tial re­turn to qual­i­fy­ing and cham­pi­onship order for all three days.

This sea­son is the third in suc­ces­sion that the run­ning order reg­u­la­tion has been changed and the fourth time in five years. Orig­i­nally, the com­peti­tors would be seeded by the in­di­vid­ual event or­gan­is­ers, but this was al­tered to cham­pi­onship order for the first day, then the clas­si­fi­ca­tion order there­after. The first hint of ma­jor change came in Aus­tralia in 1999, when driv­ers were of­fered the chance to pick their place on the road.

Three years later came the first sea­son-long change when the top 15 cars ran in cham­pi­onship order on day one; those 15 cars were then re­versed for the next two days. That re­mained un­til 2008, when the rules went back to cham­pi­onship po­si­tions on Fri­day then clas­si­fi­ca­tion order over the week­end.

The 2012 sea­son brought a ma­jor over­haul with the in­tro­duc­tion of qual­i­fy­ing, al­low­ing crews to se­lect their place on the road. This was binned af­ter two years in favour of cham­pi­onship order on day one then re­versed clas­si­fi­ca­tion for the rest of the event. That was tweaked a year later to force the series leader first on the road for two days, but with Rally2 cars ahead of them on Satur­day. This year, those re­tired cars run at the back of the pri­or­ity cars, forc­ing the cham­pi­onship leader first onto the road for two days.

Nine-time champ is no stranger to road sweep­ing Loeb be­lieves Ogier is the best driver and should win

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