The World Rally Championship’s running-order rules have been given a one-off adjustment for Rally Estonia, helping points leader Sébastien Ogier.
With almost 70% of the two-day Rally Estonia’s mileage coming on Saturday, all of which takes place on Finland-like loose-surface roads, Ogier was set to spend most of the event sweeping the roads around Tartu clear for his rivals given the field usually takes to the stages in championship order on day one of WRC events.
However, a rule change has now been implemented for the opening day of the event to give Ogier a partial retrieve, with road order positions switching earlier than usual.
From the Saturday itinerary’s halfway point, the crews will run in reverse classification order – as they would normally from the start of day two.
Rally Estonia would otherwise have represented a return to the days when Ogier questioned his very participation in the WRC, running first on the road on most rallies during his dominant spell with Volkswagen Motorsport that yielded three of his five world titles to date.
In 2015 and 2016, the FIA implemented a start order policy that dictated the championship leader would run first on the road for the opening two days – rather than just Friday – of each WRC round.
Despite private recognition that it was introduced to try to increase the fight at the front of the field, Ogier led both years from the first round until the last.
With Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi starting sixth and seventh on the road, M-Sport team principal Richard Millener might also have been in favour of the rules remaining as they were.
But he told DirtFish: “It’s fair enough to do that on this shorter route. It probably would be a bit unfair to have the championship leader out front for what’s looking like quite a long Saturday before a shorter Sunday.”