Rally boss proposes solution to 'road-sweeping'

World Rally Championship commercial boss David Richards has proposed a shake-up in the way daily starting orders are determined, in order to prevent a repeat of the 'road sweeping' controversies on the Cyprus Rally and ensure drivers go flat-out from start to finish

Rally boss proposes solution to 'road-sweeping'

In Cyprus, eventual winner Colin McRae held back on the rally's second leg to ensure he didn't start the final leg first on the road. Instead, Richard Burns was first on the road for the third and final day's stages. But the Englishman is adamant that because his Subaru swept the stage of stones and dust, it allowed Ford ace McRae the luxury of pre-cleaned stages on which to mount a charge and take the lead.

Burns was angered by McRae's tactics, which are a common ploy by the top drivers on rough surface events such as Cyprus and Greece's Acropolis Rally.

"It's getting predictable, because we've see it on so many rallies," he said. "I don't think there is any stage in the world championship where Colin would say he can take a second a kilometre off me in equal conditions like he did. Hopefully something will be done."

Richards, who owns the WRC's commercial and TV rights and is working hard not only to raise the sport's profile, but also its 'user-friendliness', suggested that a change in the regulations concerning starting orders could solve the problem while also adding spice to the show.

"You would start the first day in world championship order, so the prevailing conditions would still throw up a few anomalies," he explained. "Then, on the second day, you would start in the positions from the first leg. But to ensure everyone goes flat out all the way, you would then run the final leg with the top 30 cars reversed."

Richards' idea leaves the day one and day two systems unchanged, but in theory means that leading crews will not drive tactically on the second day and will be able to charge on pre-cleaned roads on the third and final day.

The proposal is likely to be discussed at the next meeting of the Rallies Commission, the think tank of the sport's governing body, and could be adopted before the end of the current season. An alternative, but slightly more unwieldy proposal - already used on the Rally Australia prior to 2000 - is to allow the top crews to pick their starting positions on the road.

Richards' idea has been welcomed by David Lapworth, Burns' Subaru team boss.

"This way the excitement would last to the end of a rally," he said. "The moment Colin crossed the line of the final stage in Argentina it was an anti-climax because the tension was broken even though there was a lot of the event to run."

However, the scheme still puts the top ranking drivers at a potential disadvantage on the crucial first leg of an event and also reduces the chance of privateers from lower down the order causing upsets.

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