FIA ready to drop new points system

The governing body is ready and willing to implement change if worst fears are confirmed with new WRC points plan

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Sources within the FIA have confirmed to DirtFish that they are ready to change the controversial World Rally Championship points structure which is rolled out for the first time at this week’s season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Ratified by World Motor Sport Council last month, the WRC points structure been overhauled to offer points at the end of an event’s penultimate day, with an expanded bonus point structure through Sunday.

That means, 12 points will be available to the fastest driver through three stages in Monte Carlo on Sunday. The ‘winner’ of the previous 14 stages, run through Thursday night, Friday and Saturday, will get 18.

The change has been greeted with a mixture of frustration and confusion – with much of that aimed at the governing body.

An FIA source said: “Categorically, this proposal came from the [WRC] Commission. The FIA understood the desire for change and we give to the stakeholders the chance to bring this change. We now implement those wishes.

“When we saw what the [stakeholders were] coming up with, we said: “OK. We will go your way.” But you can be sure, we will be watching. If we feel this is too confusing, not right for the sport, we can be ready to change and we will not be afraid [to change]. We understand the issue for Sunday, but is this the best way? We take a look [and] if it’s not. We change.”

The understanding is that the new structure came from within the teams themselves. Hyundai Motorsport president Cyril Abiteboul denied it was his idea.

“I’m not,” the Frenchman told DirtFish, “even half smart enough to have been able to design that.

“One thing I can say is that we have been pushing hard for change in particular try to fix Sunday. In my opinion Sunday is a huge opportunity for the sport because we are in competition with nobody – it’s a fantastic way to engage with a new set of fans who might be watching football or rugby or Formula 1 – that’s something we’re not making use of.

“I did suggest having  a look elsewhere, for example, at Formula 1, where they have the feature race or sprint race to spice up the weekend and make sure there is good racing all of the time – not just on Friday morning when nobody is watching.

“What has happen is that we have ended up with a system that is complex. We have some concerns. We support the principle, the system of trying something, but we believe details need to be looked at with great diligence. We’ve made some proposals and hopefully they can be discussed in a constructive way with all stakeholders.”

Asked for his thoughts on the potential for a mid-season rule change, Abiteboul added: “That’s not great. When the championship is starting, you need stability of the regulation.

“Frankly we don’t want the biggest loser to be the fan, the audience and the media. In the end of the day we are not in the sport for ourselves. We are in the sport for people who love the sport, for people who wake up for the sport in the morning. We need to put that as a priority and we need to be able to explain the rules in the pub, as David Richards likes to say – and I fully support that.”

Elfyn Evans

Elfyn Evans has some serious concerns over the new points system arriving in the world championship this year

Toyota star Elfyn Evans isn’t even close to being a fan of the new system. The Welshman’s views are typical of his fellow competitors. He said: “I was a bit in shock and disbelief when I first found out what the system was. It’s majorly devalued a win. Now the guy who finishes fourth [on Saturday evening] can still perhaps have a better tire selection available for Sunday and this week, in three stages walk away with more points than the guy who has won the rally.

“For me, that’s playing with the sport and with the DNA of the sport. I was all for making changes to make Sunday more exciting, but, for me, this has gone a step too far to try to fix the problem.

“I understand the problem of cruising on Sunday, but if you’d just issued new tires for the powerstage for everybody – and if you need to, then why not give a single bonus point for every stage on Sunday. Everybody wants all the points, so everybody would have pushed to the maximum for extra points.

“I don’t want to be too negative about it, but it feels like they’ve done too radical a change in the wrong area.”

This week, 18 points will be handed to the driver in first place at the end of Saturday night. Second place takes 15, all the way down to a single point for 10th. The fastest driver through Sunday’s three stages takes seven bonus points. Second place brings six points, all the way down to a single point for seven. The powerstage is still worth five, four, three, two and one point for the top five.