Carlos Sainz has lashed out at rally bosses, claiming that the starting order in Sweden cost him, and others, any chance of winning the event.

Despite new rules being introduced during the brief winter break reversing the order of the top fifteen runners after the first and second legs of each WRC round, the event starts with drivers running in the position they hold in the championship. Thus, after their podium finishes in Monte Carlo, Tommi Makinen, Sebastien Loeb and Sainz left the ramp first in Sweden.

Sainz, who again finished third for Ford in Scandinavia, claimed that the early runners were acting as no more than high-speed snow ploughs for those coming behind them, thereby negating the advantage of having achieved a good championship position.

The Spaniard singled out series leader Makinen as a prime example, explaining that the Finn lost valuable time over the opening stages, and was then forced into retirement while pushing hard to regain vital seconds, when his Subaru ingested the contents of a snow bank and overheated.

"I don't see that the leader of the championship should be penalised like that," Sainz fumed, after also conceding a lot of time to first leg leaders Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera - both of whom started behind him.

"I think it would be better for everyone if [the rules] were changed - there are enough [privateer] WRC cars on the rallies now to allow the manufacturer teams to start more equal. I think this is only happening because someone wants to see a close championship!"

Sainz admitted that he was concerned that a similar situation could arise on other rallies - notably the rocky events in Greece and Cyprus and the notorious Rally Australia. Down under, it has become common practice for drivers to attempt to lose time at the end of each of the first two days in order to avoid running first on the road the following morning. With the reversal of the top 15 this practice will not be so common in future, but Sainz is already worried that the damage could be done on day one.

The Spaniard famously 'retired' from Rally Australia two years ago, when he attempted to lose time at the end of the stage, but was excluded for stopping in a restricted area.


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