Leading figures in British rallying have called on UK motorsport’s rule makers to revisit the seeding rule due to falling entries, particularly on gravel events.
UK motorsport’s governing body, the Motor Sports Association, implemented a change to the order cars are allowed to run in 2015, following recommendations from the Scottish Government-instigated safety review after the fatal accidents on the 2013 Snowman Rally and the 2014 Jim Clark Rally.
The change forced rally organisers to run a road order based on the anticipated performance of cars and drivers, which has pushed two-wheel drive and historic entrants further back in the seeding. It means they often run on stages that have already been made rough and rutted and further risk damaging their cars.
While the performance-based order is used on MSA-permitted events, FIA-sanctioned rounds like the Circuit of Ireland in 2016 have been allowed to run different seeding. In that event, a round of the European Championship, competitors could pay for priority seeding to run at the front of the field.
That has left national rallying competitors and organisers confused as to why MSA events should run differently.
The seeding rule change has coincided with a dramatic drop in two-wheel-drive entries, especially in the BTRDA Rally Series, which previously had strong support at this level. Historic rallying has also been badly hit by the move.
Video: Why British Rallying needs an overhaul
Former world championship co-driver and event organiser Nicky Grist said: “The BTRDA has suffered because the class [1400cc cars] has diminished. There is a place for another 20 or 30 crews to come out if the stages were good, clean roads.
“There’s a good case we should reintroduce [being able to run two-wheel drives and historics further forward]. The sport needs it. We need as many competitors as we can get. We shouldn’t be too restrictive: we need to encourage more entries.”
Many national rallying insiders have suggested that the event bosses should be the ones to choose how to seed their running order, decided on their competitor base and the organisation of their particular rally.
Malcolm Wilson of M-Sport agrees that the BTRDA has been hit hard, but says putting two-wheel-drive cars at the front would not be beneficial for championships like the British Rally Championship.
“If we allowed two-wheel-drive cars to run first on the road at BRC level then they would get used to pretty perfect road conditions,” said Wilson. “Then, when they step up to the World Rally Championship, they would find the road in a completely different condition.
“As much as driving a car quickly is so important, learning how to get a car through a rough stage is a real skill as well. But I’m talking at the upper levels of rallying in Britain: I would imagine the case might be different further down the order.”
Despite the support for a rethink on how events are seeded, especially given that FIA events are allowed to run a different procedure, the MSA appears unlikely to change for 2019.
An MSA spokesperson told Motorsport News: “The MSA’s position on running order has been subject to regular review ever since the ‘single field, fastest first’ seeding philosophy was reinforced nearly three years ago.
“It remains a topic of ongoing debate at the MSA through RallyFuture but, at this time, there are no plans to deviate from the current position.”
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