Last two post's... spot on... 100% how it is and should be.
... your opinion is possibly based on the perspective you've been exposed to via your close affiliation to one young gun who (in the past perhaps) always had a tendency to (want) go fast all the time...
And (possibly) the viewpoint of a (factory) team who would surely welcome a re-seeding formula that enables (more often) the ability to keep their riders (even those that have DNF'd a stage and rejoin under maximum time penalty) at or near the front... where they obviously provide both a commercial (TV airtime) and tactical advantage.
The argument put forward that pro riders "are held up" or "unsafe to be passing slower riders" in dust etc. has nothing
to do with safety... In fact, it's quite the contrary...It's a misnoma; giving elite riders a "go as fast as you like guy's... if the bike shit's itself, we will give you a get out of jail free, go back to the front, collect 200 dollars Monopoly card"
If anything this achieves quite the opposite; It allows (encourages) riders to "push the envelope" even more (especially if all there is left to aim for is stage wins etc.), and in this respect, as the speeds increase the margins decrease and the helicopter statistics will go up from there. Safety huh?
Yeah... "safety" disguised behind a commercial agenda maybe.
Just as Bluebull
have stated quite accurately AND correctly, dust is a part of rallying/desert racing... passing safely in dust is a two part responsibility, STILL with a very big part of the contract onus lying with the competitor MAKING the pass (albeit those being rounded up play a big part in this two way street... especially when talking about being caught by vehicles... which we are not really debating that aspect here).
Two inescapable facts;
1. If you can't see, back off the throttle... unless you've got x-ray vision or guided by a higher power... it's only a matter of time/percentages before you bite the dirt.
2. If you've busted, broken, delayed, waylaid or dismayed your way to the back of the field (either by way of mechanical failure, navigational inadequacy or a crash) YOU ARE NO LONGER AMONGST THE FASTEST ON THE RANKING ORDER and as such those that HAVE done so, have fullfilled the criteria of being up the front and DESERVE that position/placing... regardless of whether the other bloke has a factory's initials stenciled on his jersey, a soft drink company paying his bills OR can pull 40 foot plateau jumps on his MX bike.
A cross country rally should be a test of navigational skill, physical endurance, mechanical reliability AND speed... not just a series of point to point time trials where the (percieved) fastest are continually seeded to the front.
So, (as is my way) not just to point out the pitfalls of the status quo, but to offer a viable alternative... HERE is how I would suggest to resolve the problem.
Any seeded "priority" (read pro/elite rider) who has been seeded into the top 25 (as I believe the number is?) or however many "priority" riders there may be. If a priority rider DNF's a leg, yet desires to continue (as we saw a number in both Marocco AND Oz Safari do in the last two months) then the maximum time penalty applicable should be applied (to the overall general classification score) and their start position for the NEXT days competition BEHIND all other priority riders and/or non-elite ridrs in the top 25 placing for that stage (or however many positions determined).
ie. A "priority rider" seeded back into the following leg would (should) not be given an advantage over other competitors who have fought their way to the top twenty/thirty positions (and are legitimately still bona fide in their right to be up there).
From that point on, their daily re-start position is purely based on their daily results... If fastest on the day... start first - that is fair and equitable (even though in the general classification they will be a long way down, because of the max time penalty).
That's how I see it.