How do I get my starting position changed?
There's really just one answer to the question of how to get your position in the start order changed: provide the organizers compelling data to convince them to change it. The "how to do this badly" is simpler than "how to do this well" so we'll start with that.
How NOT to get your start order changed
Here are some examples of start order change requests that won't work:
"My start order is 12th. I think I should be higher. Please raise me."
This sounds like an implausibly silly way to ask for a change, but it's listed first because it's so common. There is no reason provided that such a change should be made, or where the person thinks they should be placed. Requests like this are generally discarded without changing anything, because you know how many drivers think they should be moved up a spot or two? Almost every one of them.
"I placed 10th at this rally last year. I should be starting tenth this year."
This seems reasonable on the surface. However, the phrasing belies a fundamental lack of comprehension of two major factors that impact your placement. The first is DNFs. You may have finished 10th, but there could have been five DNFs above you last year in the starting order. So based on speed you would "deserve" 15th. The second major factor is simply how many people are attending the rally. If last year there were 30 cars, but now there's 60, that means, statistically, that if you were 10th out of 30, you would be 20th out of 60, imagining that the distribution of speed is relatively even. So it may be entirely reasonable, within the situation described, where you finished 10th last year, but are correctly placed starting 30th this year (assuming five DNFs the previous year and a doubling of racers from 30 to 60).
"My driver is very fast, he won X championship in some other country. Please move us up."
This is another request that doesn't provide enough information to do anything with. It might move you from last to mid-pack in front of the other newbies, but probably not much more than that. Why? Again, it doesn't provide the organizers enough data to do anything with. How many events were in the championship? How many other people did the driver beat? How long were the events? What vehicle and class was the driver competing in? There are championships you can win in the US by barely driving fast enough not to get kicked out of the rally if you just spend enough money to tow to all the events. You can't expect the organizers to know the details of every other championship in the world.
The proper way to request a start order change
In all cases, your request should state exactly who you would like to start in front of and who you would like to be behind. Stating the numeric position ("Start me 4th") isn't as good, because the 4th you're thinking about may not exist by the time the organizers look at the list. Several cars could have withdrawn, or new vehicles added.
There are three usual routes that you will go down when requesting a change:
Option 1: New equipment
It's entirely possible that you are seeded exactly correctly... for your old equipment. A typical example of this is a competitor who has been spent several years campaigning an underpowered 2WD car, but who has just now now purchased a powerful AWD vehicle. The driver should realize that the algorithm that does seeding is based on past performance, not current equipment. So, it's very likely that they will go faster in their new car. A good way to submit this might be:
"I, Car 45 (Steve Jones) is currently starting 40th behind Car 97 (John Gillian). I just bought a new car that is now turbo AWD unlike my old NA 2WD car and believe we will be significantly faster than before. Based on other vehicles in the entry list, I think we should start approximately 24th with the other AWD cars, ahead of Car 29 Johnson and behind Car 78 Daniels."
This request provides all the data that can be used to figure out why a change request could be valid, and it gives a notion of what the driver is hoping for as a result.
Option 2: Relative Performance
In this case you will be providing reference points between yourself and other drivers on the entry list. The simplest case of this is a direct comparison to another event:
"I, Car 45 (Steve Jones) would like to be moved up three spots ahead of Car 97 (John Gillian). I raced against John last month at Rally Connecticut in the same cars and I beat him there. The results are on RallyRacingScoreZone.com."
This is pretty straightforward, as it's a direct comparison between you and someone else on the entry list, the history is recent, and the equipment is the same. What if you've never raced with these people before? In that case, you need to find a good middle man to act as an indirect reference:
"I, Car 45 (Steve Jones) would like to be moved up three spots ahead of Car 97 (John Gillian). John often races against Bobby and they are about the same speed. Here are the results of the last two events were John was racing Bobby. [the link] [the link] In my last several rallies, I've beaten Bobby. [another link to results] [another, other link to results] and I feel that Bobby provides a decent reference point."
Option 3: Incorrect data
It may be the case that the data being used to seed you isn't as relevant as it could be. For example, maybe you've been road racing for 20 years, and this event is a tarmac rally, but all of your previous rallies have been on gravel, which you only started last year. Another case could be a day two reseed, where you were fighting with your car all of day one. If you were running with a massive turbo system leak, but you fixed it overnight, you could use that as a basis to be moved up the start order.
In all cases, you should try to get your requests to all of the relevant people. If it's well before the event, email your request to the Stewards, the Clerk of the Course, and the Chief of Scoring. From a practical point of view, you don't know who's going to be actually standing in the room when these things are decided, so it's best to get them all. Another thing to consider is that scanning large results from other rallies may be, for reasons of weird formatting, difficult to do on whatever computer equipment is on hand at the moment.. We recommend in the case where you are using Option 2 that you do some work highlighting the scores and supplying them as PDFs along with your request, rather than rely on the web sites. This way you can annotate the relevant sections.
If you're expecting to deal with this at the event, have all of this written up and printed out before you leave for the rally. You may not have the ability to print once you arrive at a rally. The organizers generally plan for printing capability for specific tasks, such as scoring or registration, and these likely will not be available for general purpose use. A late email works poorly here, as checking all the links you provide on a phone may be cumbersome, and internet access may be limited.
Additionally, expect that the organizers will use the information you supply, and only that information. When the time comes to make or adjust the start order, there will not be time to, at that point, reply to people asking for additional information or more results. Supply everything with your first communication. If emailing, use an email title that is easily searchable in the person's inbox, such as "2017 Rally Ohio Start Order Change Request for Car 21 Johnson". Absolutely do not reply to an email sent to you and change the topic, as such an email will be lost in a sea of replies. Also don't use a title of "2017 Rally Ohio", as the organizer is probably receiving 30 to 40 emails a day with that title dealing with topics from radio issues to what kind of pudding is being served.
From a scheduling point of view there isn't time to spend all day reworking the start order. The organizers cannot possibly spend hours researching every one of 50 racers. As you are the one requesting a change, the responsibility is yours to supply all of the needed information and research.
Carefully look for areas on the entry form or in the online entry system where you can supply prior racing experience if you expect to ask for a change. If the organizers have supplied you an existing process to submit exactly this type of information, you can be certain they will check it when the time comes for seeding. The NRS entry system does have an area where you can add multiple notes on racing experience outside our events.