From Chris Biewer [ 09/09/2003 ].
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FIA rule changes for World championship rallying always cause discussions and often raise doubts if it is sensible for the sport. Well, we can debate about them. There is a bunch of doubtful rule changes on the way, but we have to still wait and see what comes out of it. So let’s go back to a rule change that was new for this season: the points system. World championship rallying adopted a points system identical to F1. The change was that now top8 can score and the gap to the winner was slimmed down. The intention was to allow “poorer” teams as Hyundai and Skoda to score more points, but as well to leave the championship more open. A comparison new vs old reveals a big surprise!
We, as well as fans on our message boards, had doubts if it would work quite that easily. To extend the scoring opportunities to top8 was good, we all agreed on that one. But the small gap between 1st and 2nd may stop fights for victories as victories are not as important any more. Richard Burns is the magic example for that, he leads the points table for mediocrety. Not that we blame him, he does exactly what the points system asks him to do. Further, while the intention was to stop one driver running away with points after a series of wins, we felt it made it equally more difficult for a driver to catch up after some possibly unlucky retirements. Not all our message board visitors agreed on that thought, though.
While drivers not fighting for victories may be something that only fully develops now in the last 4 events, drivers being unable to catch up in the championship is something we whitnessed already this year. Marcus Grönholm i.e. managed 3 victories in the first 5 events and still wasn’t leading. Now after his unfortunate retirement in Australia, his championship hopes are nearly over, a fate he shares with Markko Märtin. After all, we have to note that in 2001 we entered the last event of the championship with 4 drivers still having a chance to win the title. 2001 was the closest championship battle we have seen in the history of this championship, and that of course was under the old points system, that had been changed to make the title battle tighter.
So now we are 4 rounds from the end of the 2003 title battle. Now we take a look at the situation and compare the old points system to the current one. You are in for a big surprise:
Current points system after Australia 2003:
1st Burns 55points
2nd Solberg 48
3rd Sainz 48
4th Loeb 45
5th Grönholm 38
6th Märtin 37
2002 points system applied after Australia 2003:
1st Solberg 37points
2nd Burns 37
3rd Grönholm 36
4th Loeb 35
5th Sainz 34
6th Märtin 29
Well, didn’t I promise you a surprise? Had we kept last year’s points system, we would now have 5 drivers within 3points with 4 rounds remaining!!!! To add to it, even 6th placed Markko Märtin could be in the title lead with a victory on the next event. Marcus Grönholm still would be in there with more than a serious shout. Richard Burns would have to do better than just concentrating on finishes, it is the fact that he has not won an event that makes him lose the tie breaker to Petter Solberg…
Interestingly, in the manufacturer standings the new points system doesn’t seem to have made a difference in current affairs. Peugeot would lead Citroen by 2points, which given Peugeot leads Citroen on a tie breaker right now, it would make things near equally as close. With extending the points to top8 to help Hyundai and Skoda, it is interesting that last year with 4 events to go Hyundai was only 6points down on their current score and Skoda 12. I would have thought the difference being bigger than that. Still, it’s an amusing and interesting comparison.
Finally, when the new points system was introduced, fans on our message board suggested a system identical to that one of 2003, but the winner’s points increased from 10 to 12 points, such the gap between 1st and 2nd was doubled. This suggestion was by the fans generally agreed as being the best compromise. If that system was appplied to the championship so far this year, Richard Burns would still be leading with 55points. But his lead over Petter Solberg would be 3points rather than 7. As well Marcus Grönholm would have a chance to regain the title lead with one more victory, while with the current system he is 17points down. In the manufacturers this system as well would have made little difference, Peugeot and Citroen still tied, only with 6points more each.