The World Rally Championship is in danger of alienating the public with its confusing use of tactics on gravel rallies, believes Ford's lead driver Mikko Hirvonen.
Having retired early on the second day of last week's Jordan Rally, Hirvonen returned for the final day to be deployed as part of Ford's effort to sweep the road for his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. While Hirvonen was happy to take the time penalties for checking in early on Saturday morning, he admitted he was concerned about the consequences for the watching wider world.
"We are confusing the public," said Hirvonen. "Nobody really listens to the drivers, but there is a really easy solution: the first 10 or 15 drivers pick their road position. On the first rally of the season, the champion gets first pick and then after that, the leader at the end of the day gets to chose his place for the next day. It's simple."
Hirvonen's team director Malcolm Wilson is not so sure that Hirvonen's suggestion is the right way to go, pointing out that the best drivers running in the best place on the road will not offer any variety of results.
"If we do that," said Wilson, "we'll know who's going to win the rally on Friday night. We could write the top five for the next few rallies now. The current system creates excitement."
Wilson's opposite number at Citroen, Olivier Quesnel disagreed with Wilson, saying: "I don't think we would know the winner. Honestly, Mikko is as fast as [Sebastien] Loeb, Latvala as well. I don't think we would have the winner on Friday night."
WRC promoter North One Sport CEO Simon Long said the time had come for change.
"The regulations need to be looked at," said Long. "As a sport it's confusing to wake up and see the guy you thought was second is now actually sixth. We need clarity to tell a consistent story from the sport. I hope the regulations can be looked at to avoid this kind of thing in the future."