We’ve seen lately quite often crews cruising through the early Sunday stages, saving their tyres to get maximum result on the power stage. This is not nice for the spectators, neither on the stages nor watching the footage at home. What could we do about it? Here’s some ideas that I have seen proposed, and the challenges they result in.
Cover photo by Tapio Lehtonen / Rallirinki (C)
If everyone gets fresh tyres before the power stage, no one has to cruise saving tyres through Sunday morning, right? Technically this shouldn’t be a problem since there’s usually a regroup before the power stage so that time and space could be used for tyre changing as well. The teams would just have to send a fresh set of tyres outside the service park, but apparently some of them see it as an extra expense. We could also doubt whether someone in super rally or in no-mans-land would still go flat out even with no need to save tyres? Finally, adding a new set of tyres would be a small additional expense.
Points for every stage
JWRC awards points for every stage win throughout the rallies. If we would apply this rule to the main class Sundays, we could get rid of the tyre saving cruising and get the drivers fighting for those extra points. But would they still decide to think that it’s better to secure those five power stage points rather than secure three individual stage win points? Also, this would be very complicated to explain to a casual viewer, and take away some of the spectacle of the power stage. One problem is also that winning five short Sunday stages and the power stage could make up 10 points in total, which is more than a third of the rally win, and this could result in unfair situations.
Points for whole Sunday
The reasoning here is the same as above – if we award 5-4-3-2-1 points for whole Sunday instead of just the power stage, we get the drivers going at it throughout the day. This is basically a good idea, but it’s again very difficult to explain the mini-rally-inside-a-rally concept to casual viewer. Furthermore, it would take away the momentum of the final stage drama – imagine a driver having a spin on the first stage of the day, would they then push anymore on the televised power stage, because there’s no chance to get bonus points anymore?
Pull Power Stage from a hat
In this suggestion, the drivers don’t know in advance which of the Sunday stages is the points-awarding power stage. It’s pulled from a hat after the rally has ended. The drivers should drive flat out throughout the day because any of them could be crucial for extra points. The issue with this is that power stage would lose its meaning in televised form, the last stage would not be more spectacular than the ones befor eit.
Make Sunday longer
If Sunday would be a whole day of rallying, then it would have more weight than just a short finale before the power stage. The biggest problem with this is that power stage is usually televised at noon so that would change and the air time would compete with other popular sports later in the evening. Less of Sunday would be able to be used for packing things and going home – both for teams and spectators. Actually, I doubt many spectators would turn up anymore on the last Sunday evening stages. And in the worst case we would have a whole day of tyre saving!
Remove the normal Sunday stages
If tyre saving is a problem, let’s not drive those stages where tyre saving would occur. Thus Sunday would consist merely of two runs of the power stage, first the “high speed recce” and then the actual power stage, both televised live. For example Rally Finland used this concept in 2015. However, this would shorten the overall length of the rally, and the missing kilometres would have to be added earlier in the rally (maybe on Thursday evening?). The Sunday morning could be a bit boring for the crews if the power stage would still be contested at noon.
Remove Sunday altogether
Finally, we could just not do any rallying on Sundays. End the rally on Saturday evening when the competition is still hot and have a great party in the evening, like Rally Finland ended in 2010-2013. But of course this is again a change of TV schedule and competition on the busiest air time, Saturday evening. And having the power stage at the end of a long day would mean that several crews could retire and not make it the power stage, since super rally is available only overnight.
It ain’t broken, don’t fix it
Finally, one option is that nothing should be done. Rallying is an endurance sport and includes the balance between going fast and surviving through the route, and sometimes the balance is more on the latter. Especially in past decades rallies were more like this. Although tyre saving has become an issue in the past years, there’s still been much drama on Sundays. The two first rallies of the 2022 season are good examples of this, in Monte the lead changed from Ogier to Loeb, and in Sweden the battle for the second and third positions resulted in Evans crashing off.
We don’t even know if FIA or WRC Promoter sees this as a problem, but we have a lot of suggestions, each with their good and bad sides, and surely there isn’t a silver bullet. And even if there was, someone would come up with a loophole.