Stop tactical driving, say Sainz and Burns

The rules which determine the running order on World Rally Championship events have come under fire from leading contenders, following claims that the current regulations unfairly punish the fastest driver and encourage competitors to slow down on a stage to obtain the best running slot

Stop tactical driving, say Sainz and Burns

The driver who leads the rally at the end of a leg is the first out on the stages the following day. On this weekend's Cyprus Rally this caused Leg One overnight leader, Marcus Gronholm to lose time on every stage on Saturday as his Peugeot 206 WRC cleared the road of dust and rocks, making the surface faster for his following rivals.

The strongest criticism has, ironically, come from the driver who has benefited most from the rules on day two in Cyprus. Carlos Sainz's Ford Focus was the sixth car out on Leg Two, leaving a clear road in front of the Spaniard, allowing him to make up time on the leaders. But Sainz says this penalises the fastest drivers unfairly.

"Something needs to be done about this," he said. "We have to find a solution so the first cars don't have a disadvantage. If you look at Marcus [Gronholm] today there is a big time difference. I don't know what we can do - perhaps send some cars [from further down the field] out in front."

At the end of Leg Two, Subaru's Richard Burns was unhappy at the tactics of main rival Ford. His Prodrive-built Impreza will be the first car out on Sunday's stages after re-taking the lead from adversary Colin McRae on the final stage of Leg Two. Burns was hampered by damper problems on Saturday's final test, which meant he finished 10 seconds off quickest man Sainz. But the Brit maintains that McRae deliberately slowed down on the stage to obtain a better starting position on Sunday.

"The finish this evening was engineered by Ford," said Burns, "so it isn't really a straight fight. All Colin [McRae] did was slow down, whereas I have been flat-out all the time."

However the Ford driver maintained that even his second place on the road is not the ideal slot to start Sunday's stages. Speaking at service on Saturday afternoon McRae said: "If I couldn't be first with a good lead tonight then I would rather be where I am now [fourth] with a small gap between myself and the leader."

McRae's actions are similar to the antics many employed on Rally Australia last year. In an attempt to not head out first onto the rally's infamous 'ball bearing' surface, some drivers deliberately held back in order to obtain better road positions.

Sainz himself was excluded from the rally on the first day after he stopped too close to a finish control when he attempted to drop down the running order.

And Burns controversially had co-driver Robert Reid change a wheel in a control area just before the first stage on the final day. The delay meant that title rival Marcus Gronholm went out ahead of Burns, without the Englishman occurring any time penalty. But on that occasion the tactic backfired as Gronholm went on to win the rally.

With the Finn just lurking 15 seconds behind the leading pair in Cyprus, Gronholm may be ideally placed to take his first victory since that win down under.

For full results table click here.

For full entry list click here.

For the itinerary click here.

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Leg 2 round-up: Burns leads McRae

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