The FIA has launched an investigation into what it’s labeled a ‘serious breach’ of safety after a non-competing car drove the wrong way down the fourth stage on Rally Japan.
Cars competing in the WRC2 element of the rally were confronted by a car heading directly towards them, with Sami Pajari admitting he was lucky to avoid a serious accident.
“Well,” the Škoda driver told DirtFish, “you can imagine how it can be if you are doing full rally speed and suddenly over some crest you see a normal car…”
Pajari wasn’t alone in spotting the car driving the wrong way up the stage.
Asked about the incident, the FIA told DirtFish: “There has been a serious breach of stage safety protocol on SS4 which is currently under investigation.
“Following an accident involving car 42 (Craig Breen/James Fulton), the stage was red flagged. Very quickly after the red flag, a [civilian] car was identified on the stage.
“There was no accident or injuries sustained but an investigation is underway.”
The FIA confirmed safety barrier damage from Breen’s car caused the cancellation of the re-run stage in the afternoon.
The FIA continued: “The damaged barrier was compromising the safety of the stage and therefore leading to the cancellation of SS7.”
After a torrid opening morning for Rally Japan’s first WRC outing since 2010, the FIA deployed more manpower to the stages.
“Representatives of the FIA WRC Task Force who are attending FORUM8 Rally Japan have been deployed to the Friday afternoon stages,” said the FIA, “and additional safety cars drove the stages to support the organizers in ensuring highest levels of safety.”
A car driving the wrong way up the stage was the culmination of a difficult start to Friday, with the event organizers having to deal with a major fire for Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1 on the day’s opening stage.
Facing criticism from drivers questioning the length of time it took for emergency services to arrive at the scene of the crash, the FIA said: “At 0733, the alarm system was raised by the crew. The first people on the scene were the TIV (Technical Intervention Vehicle) at 0745.
“They (the organizers) were able to offer assistance and additional fire extinguishers to contain the incident. At the same time, the FIA Safety Delegate, who was located close to the beginning of the stage, received the message and, at 0752, he was at the scene of the incident.
“The regional fire brigade were requested to attend and were third on scene and an additional fire unit with specialist experience was deployed.
“The major incident protocol system worked in line with the planned procedure.”