An investigation is underway into how Thierry Neuville caught the zero car on Saturday’s opening stage of Rally Japan.
The stage was red-flagged as soon as the Belgian – who was running first on the road – caught the zero car.
The FIA statement said: “On SS9 of Rally Japan on Saturday morning, the event zero car came across spectators stood in a dangerous location on the stage and stopped to ask them to move.
“Rally control was informed that the zero car had moved to a safe location and the stage was authorised to commence competition.
“When the crew of car no. 11 (Neuville) was 8.6km into the stage, they approached the zero car which was still on the stage. Standard safety protocols were then activated and the stage was immediately red flagged for those cars already on stage.
“After a delay of 22 minutes and following a review of safety measures, the stage was restarted.
“A further investigation of this issue has been opened. The organisers and the FIA are working to check that established safety protocols are respected and will continue to monitor each stage.”
Neuville told DirtFish he was slightly confused by the situation.
“It wasn’t the first time I catch a Toyota,” he said, “but this time it wasn’t the right one. I was a bit confused, I thought I was still dreaming and I’m still catching Toyotas in front of me!
“It took me a second to make me understand that we catch the zero car.
“We were lucky I got to stop like one meter behind the car so it was quite close, but nothing happened. I will get an explanation from the FIA later, but it is what it is.
“He wasn’t coming opposite [direction] so that’s already a good point, but for sure it shouldn’t happen. I don’t know what is the reason but there is definitely an explanation for it.”