World Rally Championship drivers getting stopped by the cops leads to mixed fortunes.
For Sébastien Loeb on Rally México in 2005, the Five-O were a blessing. Limping back to service with a broken right-rear wheel on his Citroën Xsara WRC, he was briefly stopped by the local traffic cops – then given a police escort back to service.
Two years later in Sweden, the police were writing the nine-time champion up with a speeding ticket.
And Sébastien Ogier was in the midst of a misunderstanding with Croatian police last year after a collision with a civilian vehicle on a road section.
This time, on Ypres Rally Belgium, it was Adrien Fourmaux’s turn to get waved over by the law.
He’d become the lead Ford Puma after his M-Sport team-mate Craig Breen crashed out on Saturday morning and was battling to keep Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg at bay for fifth – which became fourth after Thierry Neuville’s crash from the lead.
But the most decisive moment in that long-running duel came off the stages, not on them.
Fourmaux turned up late for SS15, Wijtschate, and picked up a 20-second penalty. His mandatory stop-and-chat with the local police had delayed him.
“We have been stopped by the police on the road section because we were overtaking the big queue of cars going to the roundabout, and the policeman disagreed with that,” Fourmaux explained to DirtFish.
“It was taking time so then we were two minutes late at the time control, so it’s unfortunate. For sure it’s quite frustrating.”
That now opens up a can of worms. Fourmaux will naturally argue that delay was out of his control – he was delayed by a factor unrelated to the rally itself. And disappearing off into the distance when the police are in tail is obviously a terrible idea.
But, as Fourmaux admits, he was overtaking cars that were queuing to take a roundabout. The sort of thing us mere civilians wouldn’t get away with during our everyday driving.
An appeal against the penalty – and therefore a promotion to fourth place, with the time gap to Solberg currently sitting at 14.3s – is forthcoming.
“We will try because for me it’s not rally, but the other issue was to drive [past] the policeman. I don’t think it’s the right choice to do.”