Rally Japan will stop immediately if another safety breach occurs

A major incident on SS4 where a road vehicle entered a live stage has prompted a review

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For the first time in the history of the World Rally Championship, an event – this week’s Rally Japan – has been threatened with being stopped immediately if it falls short on safety protocols again.

The Toyota city-based event has endured a torrid first two days with a significant number of interrupted and canceled stages. The most serious incident came on SS4, when a car entered the stage and drove against rally traffic coming at full speed.

A stewards decision announced on Saturday night said: “The stewards, under the authority delegated to them through article 11.9.3.r of the 2022 FIA International Sporting code, may and will immediately and permanently stop the competition should (a) the approved safety plan be compromised or breached or (b) if there is any deviation from the agreed mitigation plan presented by the organizer.”

While this power has existed for some time, DirtFish understands it has never been deployed on a WRC round previously.

FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley offered his thoughts on the situation which will be coming in for a complete FIA review and is expected to run under a yellow card on its return to the calendar next year.

“The stewards have identified a significant issue that needs to be properly investigated,” Wheatley told DirtFish.

“I think they have made a very sensible decision. [That decision comes] in two key parts. The first is to ensure that the event we’re in at the moment is run to the absolute highest levels of safety and there is no stone unturned to make sure the issues that happened don’t happen again.

“The second part of the decision is to make sure this issue is taken to a further level that is properly considered by the relevant departments – that is everybody: the safety department, medical, sporting – to understand exactly what happened why this happened and, more importantly what measures can be taken .

“It’s a very difficult situation for the organisers they have done a very good job in their pre-event safety plan preparation.

“The situation – the car on the stage – on Friday morning was a very, very difficult situation, by far the most serious issue. There’s no doubt the organising team understand. 99.8% of yesterday was run to a good level. Today was run to a high level.”`


Asked what had made the difference on Saturday, Wheatley replied: “Primarily, today everything has been double-checked. It’s been double-checked by the people who are here from the organizing team; they had a shock. And they have made sure they’ve done everything to the best of their ability and it’s been doublechecked by the [WRC] task force.

“Honestly it’s an incredibly difficult situation, but the most important thing, firstly, is that today and tomorrow run to a very high level and going forward we have to make sure there are processes and protocols that we identify the specific issues.”

Words:David Evans