Corona Rally Mexico is one of the first events in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship to adopt a host of new regulations coming into force. So what will be different?

The reconnaissance on Wednesday and Thursday morning

The regulations permitted after seeking approval from the FIA - unofficially referred to as a '2+3' itinerary - ensure that events are now more compact and run over a five-day period [Wednesday to Sunday inclusive]. This has also made space in the calendar for two additional events.

The itinerary allows for a two-day period [Wednesday and Thursday] that must encompass administration, reconnaissance, shakedown, scrutineering, ceremonial start and or super special stage, and then the three days for the rally itself [Friday to Sunday].

Previously the recce used to be run over two days [Tuesday and Wednesday] but with one extra day for shakedown, scrutineering and opening activities before the three day rally started - six days in total.

Corona Rally M?xico is the first event to run to this regulation five-day format, however all 2004 FIA World Rally Championship events will now be run over the same time period. The inspection of stages by any team personnel after the finish of the recce has also now been prohibited; a result of new testing rules and the banning of gravel crews on all but a limited number of events in the series.

Tyre regulations

The regulations changed from the 2004 Rallye Monte Carlo onwards and now mean that the total number of tyres each manufacturer registered crew may use is 10 times the number of scheduled tyre changes or 'groups' of stages. For Corona Rally M?xico there are six opportunities to change tyres; before the start on Friday, then Service A, C, D, F and G. The total number of tyres therefore permitted during the three-day Mexican event is 60 per crew.

Why has this been done?

The intention is to try and minimise transport costs by allowing increased use of air freight thereby enabling the development of a truly global World Championship. The quantities specified also take into account actual average consumptions in recent years.

Why and how is this significant?

Monte Carlo is very unique in its tyre regulations, but in Sweden, where the regulation was more significant, the teams already had extensive knowledge of the terrain and the performance of either Pirelli or Michelin rubber in a variety of different conditions. That is not the case in M?xico. In general, tyres will now have to cover a wider range of conditions and for the teams contesting Corona Rally M?xico there is little if any previous data about the nature of the stages and the actual climatic conditions. Therefore there is very little information on which to base a decision, being that this is the first running of the event at world status. Teams are also not allowed to test in countries hosting World Championship rallies outside Europe and the unique bar code identifications on the Priority 1 [manufacturer nominated] driver's chosen 60 tyres have to be registered with the FIA the Monday preceding the event. These tyres can then not be used by any other driver.

When do the drivers have to make their tyre choice for each group of stages?

There is a three minute period of time before the crews enter service when the tyre choice has to be made and the bar codes submitted to the officials for checking against the original nominations. Corona Rally M?xico, the first gravel event of the season, is the first rally in the series where crews will have to make their choice within these three minutes.

Is this significant?

Yes, because it means there is less time to consider the options, and the time between the choice being made and the stages being run is longer. For events where the weather is very changeable, this could prove to be significant but it nevertheless ensures that the team's second crew does not receive an advantage by waiting longer in Parc Ferme to ascertain weather conditions.

The 20 minute flexi-service

Flexi-service is intended to provide an opportunity for a two-car team to service its cars at different times and therefore potentially reduce costs. For this purpose, a two-car team is considered to be a registered manufacturer or a team which has registered with the organiser before the rally. Flexi-service has been adopted in the past, but only during the final 45 minute end of leg service. Corona Rally M?xico will be the first event in the Championship to run 20 minute flexi-service in the middle of the day.

How does it work?

Entry into flexi-service is preceded by a Parc Ferme of three minutes, in which the tyre choice and car weighing take place. The team's first car must then enter the service park at its scheduled time for the 20 minute service.

The team's second car can wait in Parc Ferme for up to 25 minutes before going into the service park without incurring any penalties.

The re-group that then follows service enables the organiser to get the crews back into the correct running order, close any time gaps and get the rally back on schedule, if necessary.

What happens if the first car in service has problems? Does this have implications on the second car?

The implication is more on the team, which will end up servicing two cars together.

Is the flexi-service schedule different for the end of leg 45 minute service?

Yes, in so much as the crew does not have to drive the car into service. The crew can drive the car into Parc Ferme, where it can then be driven into service by an authorised representative of the team who undertakes all the necessary time card formalities on behalf of the crew. There is also a specific allocation of time between the first and last cars arriving in Parc Ferme when a team can chose to undertake its two 45 minute services - enabling both cars to be serviced at separate times. The competing car may be returned to Parc Ferme before the 45 minutes have elapsed, but penalties will be incurred, as usual, if any car exceeds the permitted 45 minute service time.