Kalle Rovanperä has called on the FIA to make changes to the regulations surrounding exhibition driving after Oliver Solberg’s penalty for doing donuts in Portugal cost him victory in WRC2.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Rally of Portugal stewards issued a notice to confirm that Solberg had been hit with a one-minute penalty for doing donuts at the end of SS15 on Saturday evening.
Having crossed the finish line at the end of the superspecial stage, Solberg decided to put on a show for the fans, completing a few donuts before he made it to the stop line. But that was a breach of Article 12.21 of the rally’s supplementary regulations.
Solberg defended himself, firstly by apologizing and stating he believed it was conducted in a safe manner, but that he was not aware of the regulation. However the stewards didn’t accept this and slapped him with a one-minute time penalty, resulting in him losing the lead of WRC2.
In their bulletin, the stewards stated that exhibition driving is strictly forbidden everywhere due to lack of a suitable place and they determined that Solberg had disregarded the regulations in force.
But speaking at the end of the event, rally winner Rovanperä said he would like to see the regulation amended in the future.
“For sure it’s not nice to be honest, but I think the issue was it was just a specific rule for this rally and I think he didn’t know it,” the reigning World Rally champion told DirtFish.
“Not nice and I think the FIA should make the rules that you should do stuff like this, as stage like this are for the fans. And when there is thousands of fans, a few donuts is not hurting anybody.”
Article 34.1.3 of the WRC’s sporting regulations states that each rally can determine whether exhibition driving is allowed on its event, meaning that on some events drivers could be permitted to put on a show for the fans.
But in Portugal, the organizer deemed that there wasn’t sufficient space to enable drivers to do so in a safe environment, although it did reduce Solberg’s penalty from five minutes down to just one due to the fact that Solberg did it in a competitive environment, rather than on the road section.
So far this season, Rally Sweden and Croatia Rally has had the same regulation too, but Rally México forbade exhibition driving “anywhere outside of active special stages”. The Monte Carlo Rally didn’t include anything in its regulations.
Is Rovanperä right though?
Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul seems to think so, believing that if drivers aren’t allowed to put on a show then people will ultimately lose interest in the championship.
“We need to be in a position to promote,” he said.
“We are about fun, we are about excitement, we are about doing things that you would not normally do with your car.
“We are about doing something special.
“So if we don’t do something special we are running the risk of becoming a commodity and therefore losing any interest.”