Martin Järveoja, co-driver to Ott Tänak in the World Rally Championship, harbors concerns about the navigator’s seating position in the new Rally1 car that will be introduced in 2022, calling it “not safe”.
Rally1 will be the first variant of FIA-homologated rally cars to incorporate hybrid technology, but the ruleset also boasts a number of safety improvements over the current World Rally Cars.
This includes a brand-new roll cage design which is stronger and offers even better protection for vehicle occupants, but has caused a bit of a compromise according to Järveoja.
“To be honest as a co-driver at the moment I don’t like [the] seat position at all because FIA did some changes,” he told DirtFish.
“We are still fighting to get the seat position better because at the moment it’s.. I am not a tall guy but for some taller guys than me it will be really difficult.
“After, I don’t know, [about] three laps [of testing] I didn’t feel my legs because I’m like so tight in the car. So for sure it’s not safe,” he added.
Stuart Loudon can sympathize with Järveoja’s point-of-view. He has done several tests now in M-Sport’s Ford Puma Rally1 alongside Matthew Wilson and found it difficult to adjust to the new position at first.
“The seating position’s completely different,” he told DirtFish. “I’ve sat in the car now for six months but the first day that I sat in it, I just thought ‘oh my god I can’t do this.’ It was so alien in comparison to what we’re used to.
You sit a lot further forward and you sit a lot higher, but you just kind of get used to itStuart Loudon
“You sit a lot further forward and you sit a lot higher. I’ve spoken to Scott [Martin] and Scott wasn’t so keen to start with. You do think that at first but then you just kind of get used to it,” Loudon added.
“The thing that we spoke about was OK, you’re further away from the floor and you do notice, especially on rough gravel, that you’re further away from the floor because you don’t get so many impacts coming through your spine which is obviously a good thing.
“But then you think, worst case scenario, if you have a big accident you’re a lot closer to the roof.”
Another concern of Loudon’s is the comfort in the car. At 6ft2in tall, he is one of the tallest co-drivers around and agrees with Järveoja that the Rally1 cars aren’t the most accommodating for spending long periods of time in.
“What we’re doing when you’re doing test runs, you’re out doing a few runs and then you’re back out and can stretch your legs whereas when you’re doing a rally you could do a 100km road section, and then two or three 30km stages and then more road sections, so you’re in the car for a huge amount of time,” Loudon said.
“At least in the current cars you kind of get to stretch your legs a bit, but in the new cars you can’t really do that at all.”
However the FIA is listening to these concerns and is “fine-tuning” the regulations accordingly.
FIA technical director Xavier Mestelan Pinon told DirtFish no firm decisions had been taken on regulating the position and height of the crews in the cars.
“We are working on this with the teams,” he said. “This is a very important topic for the safety. We are looking to adjust the height of the driver and co-driver. It’s not finalized.
“It’s important when we are bringing new rules that we are ambitious [in terms of safety targets], but we also have to work with the teams. We are fine-tuning this regulation now.
“The main target is to do our best so driver and co-driver are far away from the top, the bottom and the side of the car,” Mestelan Pinon added.
“Sometimes when it’s too low – you remember the co-driver of Marcus Grönholm [when Timo Rautiainen was injured as a steel rod came through the floor and into his seat at Rally Turkey, 2004] – this is why we have to adjust it to make sure the crew are comfortable and safe.
“You can never be too safe – each time we can improve the safety, we need to do it.”