Stewards close 'puncture' loophole (Updated)

The stewards of the Cyprus Rally have closed a loophole that could have allowed the event's leading drivers to improve their road position by changing 'punctures' prior to stage starts

Stewards close 'puncture' loophole (Updated)

The tactic, which was employed by Richard Burns in Australia last year, does not incur road penalties if carried out between a stage's arrival control and the stage start. However, the ruse means the car then starts the stage further down the order - a major help in Cyprus, where the early cars act as 'road sweepers' for the later runners.

Now, stewards have deleted article 20.2.3 a of the 2001 FIA Rally General Prescriptions and say that a change of a punctured or damaged tyre while in parc ferme is strictly forbidden under pain of exclusion.

Going into the third and final leg of the Cyprus Rally, Burns' Subaru led the rally, meaning he would run first on the road. Colin McRae's Ford was second, with Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot third and theoretically well-placed to benefit from the Burns/McRae 'road-sweeper'.

As things stand, the rule is only for Cyprus. But with similarly rough conditions expected on the next round of the championship, Acropolis, it is likely that the ruling will be extended.

The situation in Cyprus is set to re-open debate on whether Rally Australia-style end of leg rules should be introduced on the whole of the WRC.

Prior to 2000's event, Australia's WRC round allowed drivers in the top 10 to decide where in the top 10 they wished to start the next leg, with the rally leader getting first pick. Effectively, this stopped drivers from being 'penalised' for leading a leg and having to start first on the road the next day.

However, a second school of thought says that on events like Cyprus, the situation as it is now adds an extra twist and an added tactical dimension to the rally.

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