LOEB AND OGIER UNITE ON RUNNING ORDER RULES
Nine-time champion agrees with countryman’s view on running order regulations
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