M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux has been demoted from fourth to fifth place on Safari Rally Kenya for “not following the defined roadway” on Sunday morning’s opening stage.
Fourmaux has been handed a 10-second time penalty for his offence, which elevates Fourmaux’s team-mate Gus Greensmith into fourth by just 0.1s.
It doesn’t affect M-Sport’s manufacturers’ tally, but does gift Greensmith his best ever World Rally Championship result and move him into seventh in the drivers’ standings, with Fourmaux down to ninth behind Dani Sordo.
Fourmaux had been battling Greensmith for the position on the Safari’s final day, starting 12s behind but intent on making advances.
Onboard footage, broadcast live on the WRC’s All Live service, showed Fourmaux taking an alternate route down a straight section of the Loldia stage. He deviated onto the grass instead of the road and took 6s from Greensmith on the test; although it is unclear how much time his deviation gained him.
But after receiving a report from the clerk of the course and reviewing the available video footage, event stewards ruled that he was in breach of Article 19.2 of the WRC sporting regulations and therefore was given the time penalty.
Article 19.2 states that if organizers “believe competitors have deviated from the roadway during reconnaissance or the first running of the stages” then it will be reported.
In the stewards hearing, Fourmaux’s co-driver Renaud Jamoul stated that he “had received feedback regarding measures to limit course deviation and short-cutting, thus he was under the impression that short cuts would be allowed”.
Jamoul confirmed that the crew did deviate from the rally route “with no intention to cheat but to work within the limitations and understanding of the course”. The pair did not repeat the same line on the repeat pass, SS17, and tracking data backed that up.
But the stewards concluded this was a “clear and intentional breach” of Article 19.2 and the penalty issued is both “necessary and proportional under the circumstances”.
Despite the penalty, Safari Rally Kenya was still a positive weekend for Fourmaux who equaled his best ever WRC finish (fifth in Croatia) and claimed his first stage win on SS16.