FIA launches rally safety review

 FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen is leading a ground-up overhaul of spectator safety, with the emphasis on educating both event organisers as well as fans.The Rally Argentina accident in which six spectators were hospitalised after Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai went off the road renewed the spotlight on public safety on World Rally Championship rounds, and was followed by an accident on an Estonian national rally last weekend that left three spectators dead.

Mahonen said the Argentina crash raised a number of issues.

Rally Argentina

“What happened in Argentina was a result of people being placed where they should not have been placed,” he told AUTOSPORT.

“It does not help to say afterwards that the people were in a prohibited area.

“As an organiser, you have to ensure that the spectators do not go to these areas.

“For me it is impossible even to consider leaving the responsibility for this to the spectators themselves.

“We need to work with the grassroots, we need to ensure the education of not just the spectators but also the marshals and organisers.

“Ninety per cent of the safety work for rallies is done before the event even begins – we saw this on the Rally of Portugal, where I believe that the greatest amount of credit belongs to the organisers’ pre-event campaigns telling the spectators how to behave.

“Education is the key to success.”


Citroen WRC driver Kris Meeke was concerned by the response to the Argentina incident.

“Something needs to be done,” he said.

“It was a bit worrying for me that things seemed to be swept under the mat after Argentina.

“Argentina could have been a disaster.

“We have to be open and realistic, there could have been five or six people killed in Argentina.

“When we have these things happening – people trapped under the car – something has to be done.

“We have to get people with real experience in a helicopter checking the stage immediately before we go through – driving down the road half an hour before it just not good enough, the spectators can walk anywhere they want after that.

“And they need to click their fingers and cancel a stage, then cancel the next one, then cancel the one after that if the people aren’t in the right place.

“After that the spectators might become self-policing.

“We need to teach people.”

Mahonen added that any safety transgression from a WRC round would be dealt with swiftly by the FIA.

“Local rally organisers are responsible for spectator safety in their rallies and if there is any kind of lapse on the safety side then this will not be tolerated, events will be removed from the calendar straight away,” he said.

The FIA’s investigation into Paddon’s accident in Argentina is ongoing.