ARGENTINA EASES SAFETY CONCERN
Rally Argentina’s place in the World Rally Championship looks to be secure after an improvement in spectator safety and control.
Twelve months ago, there were those within the sport’s governing body who feared Argentina would be lost from the WRC for good amid safety fears.
Spectators were injured when Hayden Paddon rolled in 2015, with some fans even reported to be trapped beneath his car. In addition to that, there was incredulity at the powerstage continuing to run despite two cars crashing in quick succession with fans close by.
One source said: “We could have killed people live on television. We could have finished our sport.”
There was outrage at pressure being applied to the Argentina organisers to keep the live television powerstage running and the FIA’S WRC manager Jarmo Mahonen has since underlined the chain of command for the sporting side of WRC rounds, which lies with the governing body. Mahonen insists WRC Promoter will not be allowed to affect sporting decisions again.
All of those issues led to Rally Argentina running under a warning from the FIA, with a so-called yellow card in place. Two yellow cards spell the end of a rally on the WRC calendar.
A repeat of last season’s events would have spelled the end. But organisers turned in a strong safety plan, which included new red no-go zones for spectators, and held a well-run rally.
Mahonen told MN: “I can’t see any problem with them staying on the calendar for next season. Even before this event started, I was impressed with the positive attitude from these organisers. It hasn’t been like we have been imposing something on them. They came back with a real positive attitude and we shouldn’t forget how important this rally is to the WRC.”
The drivers also praised the organisers. Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier said: “It’s been a great rally. On this side, they improve a lot, it looks better than the year before – definitely! The FIA made a close look at this this week and if they don’t cancel any stages then it means the safety is there and I am happy for that. Another bad rally for them [Rally Argentina] and they would have been out of the championship and that’s not what we need. This is a historical rally with beautiful stages, it’s special with so much passion from the people. Definitely we need to keep coming here.”
Argentina ran with no safety issues Mahonen: impressed