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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.”

Photos: mck­lein-im­age­

Ar­gentina ran with no safety is­sues Ma­ho­nen: im­pressed

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