Factory crews in the World Rally Championship have written to the FIA to discuss concerns regarding their seating position in next season’s Rally1 cars.
Collectively, the factory co-drivers are concerned about both the cramped conditions and the height the seats are running in the new-for-2022 cars.
Most recently, co-drivers have sat lower in World Rally Cars in an effort to lower the center of gravity.
Concerned at impacts through the floor of the car, the FIA has altered the position of the co-drivers’ seats, raising them to the same level as the drivers’ seats.
I see where Martin is sitting and this is not the position for the human being with legsOtt Tänak
Rally Finland winning co-driver Scott Martin told DirtFish: “For my whole career, I’ve sat lower in cars – it’s all I’ve known.
“I know personally, I’d rather be closer to the floor of the car than the roof. The underbody protection on these [Rally1] cars is fantastic.
“I’m really interested to hear the science on this one – the FIA has done some exceptional work on the safety side of these cars and I’m sure Xavier [Mestelan Pinon, FIA technical director] will be able to walk us through that.”
Drivers and co-drivers discussed their concerns informally with senior FIA personnel following a scheduled 2022 presentation from the governing body in Spain a week ago.
Collectively, the crews declined to talk on the record about that initial discussion – but DirtFish understands positive progress was made.
“The talking in Spain was quite organic in the way it came about,” one source told DirtFish, “but it was an open and productive chat and I think we’re all grateful for that.
“We want to understand the thinking here. We’ve seen some big impacts on the roof down the years. We’re going to be in these cars for a long time every day and we need to be comfortable.”
Hyundai driver Ott Tänak said he could understand the concern.
“I understand it very well, I see where Martin [Järveoja] is sitting and this is not the position for the human being with legs,” the 2019 WRC champion told DirtFish.
“For the drivers there is some space for the legs, but for the co-drivers, where they are trying to put the seat, it’s not something that makes sense.
“Rallying is still quite a long journey; you don’t sit in [the car] for one hour and then hang around for the rest of the day.
“The comfort and the safety are both important, but I think the comfort is also a safety thing if we are having a crash.
“I know the FIA is working on it, so I’m pretty sure there will be some sort of solution.”
Mestelan Pinon explained the thinking behind the new seating position to DirtFish as well as the reason it “may require some habits to change”.
He said: “The new Rally1 car follows an important evolution in terms of safety, with notable changes in the structure and in particular in the integral safety cage and the seating position of the driver and co-driver.
“In the light of our experience, and as a result of our research studies, we have decided to include rules regarding the crew’s seating position with the aim of mitigating the possibility of injury across the different types of accident we can see on a rally stage.
“It may require some habits to change but our clear goal is to ensure that the position of the two seats, individually and together as a system with the other safety features, such as the cage and door foam, works to protect the crew.
“The co-drivers have raised the point regarding a possible loss of seating comfort, which we have and certainly will continue to take into consideration.
“The discussions on this topic have been constructive, not only with the co-drivers but with both crew members and the teams, in the course of this process.
“We are committed to continuous improvement for the development of the new 2022 cars and that’s where we focus our efforts, in alignment with the Rally and Safety departments.”