World Rally Championship drivers have called for a change to the regulation which forces competitors to select tires the night before they’re used.
A new rule introduced at the top of the 2023 season allowed for the removal of a morning service ahead of the first loop of stages.
While Monte Carlo continued to run its morning service, the following event in Sweden was the first to skip what’s usually a 15 or 20-minute halt. México and Portugal followed that trend, while Croatia’s asphalt round continued to offer crews the chance to choose tires on the same day they would be using them.
DirtFish understands this was done in a bid to reduce working hours for mechanics and team personnel.
The absence of that morning service means, however, drivers in Sardinia are faced with selecting their tire package for the following morning the night before. This has raised concerns given the unpredictable weather that has affected Rally Italy Sardinia.
If the weather is dry, competitors generally prefer a hard-compound tire (the prime compound this weekend), but if it rains and the stages are damp the soft will be the preferred option.
Eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier told DirtFish: “It’s actually a bit difficult because we need to make the call already tonight. There is no service tomorrow morning so all tires and setup need to be decided tonight.
“It’s pretty simple: the soft tire is the fastest this weekend with the conditions we have. But we don’t have enough to go always with softs, so that’s basically the key fact. And decide when is the most clever time to put them on the car.”
There is no guarantee that any call would be correct in the morning, but Ogier feels it’s unnecessary for drivers to be forced into making a call the evening before they head out to the stages.
Asked for his thoughts on the lack of morning service, Ogier said: “It’s stupid, that’s clear. I think everyone is agreed to say that it’s stupid.
“It’s changed nothing for the mechanics, like they are anyway here in the service. And it’s just making no sense.
“So that’s why I think at the moment there are many discussions going on, and definitely rally needs an important rethink of how we run the things because there is definitely an area where we can do better.”
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, the most experienced driver currently competing in the WRC, agreed with his former team-mate.
“I don’t understand why there is this rule,” the Spaniard told DirtFish.
“I understand you don’t want to put many tires [available] because of the cost and all, I can understand one point. But when you need to change the tires one day before, only because… I don’t know.
“I hear it’s because some people complain, the mechanics they come too early in some service. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t understand the rule to choose the tires today if we are always looking for safety.
“If you choose hard tires and tomorrow it’s raining, it’s difficult to predict the weather. So if this is safety, it’s nice. Congratulations to the people. But I don’t know the rule, why [it exists]. Many things it’s difficult to understand in rally, so [this is] one more.”
Rally leader Esapekka Lappi was straight to the point, labelling it a “s****y rule.”
Crews had a 45-minute service tonight, which began at 6.29pm local time. Saturday’s first stage begins at 8.05am.
DirtFish has contacted the FIA for comment.