MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

FIA rules out speed caps for WRC stages

By: David Evans, Autosport Rallies Editor

The FIA has ruled out implementing a cap on average stage speeds in the World Rally Championship despite concerns over the 2017 cars’ pace.The cancellation of the second run of a Rally Sweden stage won at an 85mph average had prompted fears the governing body was trying to contain the pace of the new generation 2017 World Rally cars.

After a meeting between the FIA and crews in Mexico, there was talk a 130km/h (80mph) average speed ceiling was set to be mandated.

But FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen has emphatically denied there will be a concrete rule imposed.

“We talked about the use of an average speed of 130km/h as an internal indicator,” he told Motorsport.com. “When we see a stage higher than that, we want it flashing so we can take a look at it. Nothing more.

“This is not a regulation, there is no rule saying stages cannot run at more than 130km/h.”

Drivers want a common sense approach.

World champion Sebastien Ogier said: “You have to look at the average speed, but it’s more of a situation that you have to look at case-by-case.

“A faster stage is not necessarily a more dangerous stage. It’s like every day: if you fall over while running it hurts more than falling over while walking, but the average speed is just one factor to analyse.”

Another driver who preferred to remain anonymous said imposing an average speed cap would be missing the point.”If a slow average speed means a safer rally, then Corsica must be the safest rally around, except it’s not,” he argued. Or it must be much safer if it rains because that brings down the average speed… At the end of the day, we know the risks.

“The most important thing here is spectator safety, especially on rallies like Poland [which has been under pressure to improve spectator safety. That’s where the focus has to be.”

Rally Finland has been considering how to slow down its famous Ouninpohja stage after the first version of its 2017 route looked set to increase speeds.

Mahonen said he did not want organisers simply resorting to chicanes.

“We don’t want chicanes. Chicanes don’t make the stage safer, they just slow the cars down in a straight,” he emphasised. “What we have been working on for three years is to try to reduce the average speeds by working with the organisers to use slightly different routes.

“Finland last year was the fastest rally ever. Two days after that event I wrote a letter to the organisers and said: ‘OK, enough now…’

“I asked them to bring a route which is a little slower and I am disappointed they bring this [initial itinerary]. And now there is still snow in Jyvaskyla so we cannot look at the route.

“Sometimes the organisers are looking only through a small keyhole and it’s bloody difficult to get everybody to agree.”

Story and photo: Motorsport.com