COLIN CLARK

“Rally fans must learn to self-po­lice”

Motor Sport News - - Round -

We waited a long time for this glo­ri­ous mo­ment to ar­rive. Pour­ing over end­less hours of shaky, fan­cam Youtube footage shot il­lic­itly at closely guarded test venues, we de­bated the mer­its and faults of the new gen­er­a­tion World Rally Car ma­chin­ery. There was a lot to get ex­cited about in those early videos and equally, with cer­tain teams, a fair amount to be con­cerned about.

The am­a­teur en­gi­neers and arm­chair ex­perts among us had a field day. Aero, torque, power, speed, han­dling, all were de­bate ad nau­seum. But re­ally, we were woe­fully un­der­pre­pared for just how good, just how im­pres­sive, and just how evenly matched all these 2017 cars are. They were, one and all, sim­ply sen­sa­tional.

M-sport was the last to break cover in test­ing, yet the first to climb the top step of the podium. it is just not pos­si­ble to over­state the enor­mity of this achieve­ment by Mr Wil­son and his band of fiercely de­ter­mined, fiercely loyal fol­low­ers in Cum­bria. It’s one of the UK’S great­est sport­ing achieve­ments and should be lauded as such.

Let’s hope that Dave Per­i­cak, Ford’s Global Head of Per­for­mance, who was at his first rally in Monte, recog­nises this achieve­ment and sup­ports mr Wil­son with the full man­u­fac­turer back­ing he de­serves.

But, yet again, the is­sue of spec­ta­tor safety came to the fore in Monte Carlo. i have to say that I drove the first and last stage of the rally be­fore the com­peti­tors and I have never seen so many flu­o­res­cent-jack­eted mar­shals and gen­darmes. But more than that, I saw many tens of thou­sands of very re­spect­ful, very ded­i­cated fans be­hav­ing im­pec­ca­bly. It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to po­lice and or mar­shal the en­tire length of any stage. there will al­ways be id­iots who ig­nore in­struc­tions to try and reck­lessly get that im­pos­si­ble shot in their ever more fren­zied pur­suit of so­cial me­dia likes and retweets.

I be­lieve the an­swer lies with the re­spon­si­ble ma­jor­ity. These gen­uine fans rep­re­sent an army of pseudo-mar­shals.

In Bel­gium over a decade ago they set up a club for re­spon­si­ble spec­tat­ing. It got over 25,000 signed up mem­bers – and that was in the days be­fore the mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion op­por­tu­nity that so­cial me­dia now of­fers us.

Ypres Rally goes even fur­ther. the event di­rec­tor en­cour­ages fans to self-po­lice. If you see some­thing id­i­otic, don’t ig­nore it, say some­thing. it works, the most heinous crime in Bel­gium dur­ing Ypres week is to stand in a no-go area.

There are op­por­tu­ni­ties that need to be ex­plored in this type of ap­proach. Spec­ta­tor safety is crit­i­cal to the on­go­ing suc­cess and fu­ture of our sport. And it’s a very long way short of be­ing an un­solv­able prob­lem.

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