RALLYING : DIY irks drivers

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The Independent Online
Changes intended to make rallying more competitive have angered drivers at Monte Carlo. After one day the drivers were exhausted, not only by the strenuous driving, but also by tyre changes and mechanical checks they had not faced in previous seas ons.

"I'm not used to this," the Belgian, Bruno Thiry, said, his hands bleeding after having to remove 150 studs from the tyres of his Ford Escort, while Spain's Carlos Sainz, who began the second day in the lead, said: "I'm a driver, not a mechanic."

Changes introduced by the international automobile federation (FIA) and put to the test for the first time in the season's opening event, limit mechanical assistance and mean that the drivers have to do some repairs themselves. The only competitor who did not need lessons was Armin Schwarz, of Germany, who started out as a works mechanic for Mazda.

"This is totally crazy and has nothing to do with professionalism," the French world champion, Didier Auriol, said after finishing fourth on the first day.

The new regulations, aimed at reducing the teams' expenses and paving the way for a new championship for two-litre, non-turbo cars to be launched in 1997, also reduce the power of the engines and the number of authorised tyre changes.

"We have to drive cautiously to spare the tyres and we have to change them ourselves," last year's winner, Francois Delecour of France, said. "If you add that cars have less powerful engines, you understand why rallies will become less exciting and less spectacular."

Delecour said the changes almost made him retire from world championship rallies to enter cross-country events such as the Dakar Rally.

Drivers also criticised the new rules on the grounds of safety. "Yesterday we had to start a dry stage with snow tyres," Auriol said. "It's stupid and dangerous."

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