FIA's statement on Neuville's disqualification from Safari Rally

The FIA rally director, Andrew Wheatley, is talking about the incident it happened with Thierry Neuville at Safari Rally Kenya last weekend and admits that there were talks about the competitors sending their people to the stages and to check the conditions.

The Belgian driver exluded from Safari Rally Kenya after the end of the race as FIA and the stewards received a notification. According to the stewards' statement, there was a person related to Neuville who drove on two stages after the recce with the view of checking the conditions and to inform the Hyundai crew to make some final adjustments to their pacenotes. This activity is not in accordance with the Article 35.4.2 of the FIA World Rally Championship which states: "After the publication of the Supplementary Regulations, only with the express authorisation of the Clerk of the Course and the FIA Rally Department may any person connected with an entered crew travel on or over the route of a special stage of the rally (except on foot). This rule shall apply until that special stage is terminated, open for public traffic and will no longer be used within the rally".

Thierry Neuville finished in eight place overall after his retirement on Friday due to a broken suspension and received time penalties for restarting on Saturday under the regulations of Rally2. He was the fastest driver in Powerstage and scored nine points in total, but after this decision he left with zero points from Safari Rally, therefore he is in fifth place on the championship standings and 47 points behind the leader Kalle Rovanpera.

 "We are aware that there have been circumstances in which competitors have expressed their preference for this rule to be changed", Wheatley said.

"Yet, the majority of competitors in the WRC don’t have the resources or the will to send personal representatives to inspect the stages before or after the official recce.

"This particular issue has been regularly discussed in the WRC Commission and consistently, the representatives of the manufacturers, organisers and the Promoter have voted to uphold the regulation in place.

"The FIA, in conjunction with the event organisers, work closely on this issue as the use of roads – be they public roads or, as in the case of Safari Rally Kenya, private reserve – is a very delicate balance for local residents and land owners. 

"As such, it is imperative that all access is monitored and managed. 

"Unauthorised access could create significant issues that could lead to the removal of the option to use the road.

"On this basis, we do not consider illegal recceing as a “customary practice” and characterising it in this way does not reflect the position of the WRC Commission and its members.

"Modifications to the road conditions and itinerary between recce and the rally are avoided to the extent possible. 

"Whenever changes are required, these are very well informed to all competitors.

"As a concrete example, a section of the Hell’s Gate stage on Safari Rally 2020 was rebuilt between recce and the rally due to extreme damage on an uphill section. 

"As a result, the first run of the Power Stage was shortened by 5km to allow crews to drive the repaired road as a road section and check the road conditions before the high-speed Power Stage run".


Photo Credits: Hyundai

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