Road position blues or how to make Ogier happy

S├ębastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F) Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2015) WRC Rally Portugal 2015

I wanted to discuss comments made by Sebastien Ogier after he crossed the finish line in Portugal in this post, but maybe that will have to wait a bit and get some space in another post (I will try to share my thoughts on the things which prompted SO’s controversial comments). It is often we hear that current rules are not fair and Ogier did take it one step further when he said that “the best driver did not win in Portugal”. But can there ever be a fair road position system in rallying? No matter how you twist and turn it, someone will always end up screwed, early starters will have to deal with road sweeping and those that follow will sometimes suffer in deep ruts or big rocks in the middle of the road. Unless we literally rebuild the road after each car to ensure perfectly equal conditions, I don’t see how we can ever have a fair system in place. However, current system of series leader being first on the road for two days is a bit silly. Even more so given the fact that events and legs vary in length, some rallies have very long and demanding 1st and/or 2nd day and others save the big ones for Sunday. It’s no secret that current system was introduced just because WRC ran out of ideas on how to ensure closer fights for victories, as if that is what must happen on each event! Why? If Ogier is that much faster, than it’s wrong to twist the rules in order to slow him down – that is completely bonkers. If anything, sport should do more to help new drivers climb through the lower categories and reach the elite class and take the fight to Ogier. I mean, come on, Ogier is just a human being and any driver currently competing in the World Rally Championship either is or isn’t good enough to beat him. Bending the rules to benefit each side more is not good, but where is the golden middle?

Maybe the system we used to have was better and more balanced; leaders tackle the stages first only on day one. If fast drivers must somehow be slowed down to improve the spectacle, then add some longer stages to day 1, but not all of them. Leaders will lose some time sweeping the roads on Friday but they’ll have a fair chance of fighting back on Saturday and Sunday. Although, Ogier almost took the win in Portugal even after frontrunning for two days.

One other idea, potentially a very silly one, crossed my mind. Would it be insanely impossible to have a system based on finishing order of previous event? So for example, Kris Meeke wins in Argentina and is then first on the road for day 1 in Portugal? Brilliant idea or utter crap? Would we see drivers intentionally slow down in order not to win an event just so they have a more favourable road position for the next one? But crap, they again must not win because they don’t want to be first on the road for next rally either.

It’s a tough tough job.