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WRC Rally Poland

Evans demands action as spectator controlling issues cancel Rally Poland stages

Spectators standing in dangerous locations forced organisers to abandon two stages

Elfyn Evans has led a call for action to be taken to address the spectator safety issues that have forced World Rally Championship organisers to cancel two Rally Poland stages.

Spectators standing in dangerous places to watch the cars pass through the stages forced officials to act on safety grounds to abandon stage three and stage seven. Stage six was also briefly red-flagged due to spectator safety before it was successfully restarted.

Controlling spectators had previously been an issue the last time the WRC visited Poland in 2017, which resulted in the nation dropping off the calendar the following year. Poland’s return to the calendar this year is a one-off.

As per normal WRC protocol, safety cars pass through the stages to ensure spectators are standing in safe areas before a stage can start. However, it appears small sections of fans have been moving into different and more dangerous locations once the vehicles have passed through.

The interruptions have caused plenty of frustration with Toyota’s title contender Evans urging for the issues to be addressed ahead of Saturday. Evans ended Friday sitting third, two seconds behind rally leader Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen.

“It is very annoying, but I don’t also know what anybody can do,” said Evans when asked about the stage cancellations. “The decision is the decision. Let’s say this was already a concern and it seems like it is still reality, but definitely something needs to be done for tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Team-mate and reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera has urged fans to stay safe on the stages.

“It is quite frustrating especially like this afternoon when we had the last forest stage and we had good tyres and a plan to catch some positions for tomorrow, we would have hoped to drive all the stages,” said Rovanpera. “It is always nice to see the fans, but they also need to be in a safe place.”

Hyundai WRC programme manager Christian Loriaux added: “It is not ideal, and it is frustrating but after that safety has to come first and the decision to cancel when you have to. But the measures should have been taken ahead of the rally.”

WRC event director Simon Larkin has reinforced that safety is paramount while confirming that it is a minority of fans that are causing the problem.

“There are a lot of marshals out there and what we have seen is, for want of a better word there are a lot of professional spectators out there that know where to hide when the safety cars come through and then they flood back out of the forest,” said Larkin.

“This is not a casual fan doing this, these people know what they are doing, they want to risk their lives, but we don’t want risk their lives.”

Following the comments, the FIA released a statement on the matter, while confirming to Motorsport.com that more police are set to be deployed in the forest areas of stages, which have been earmarked as the trouble spots. 

“The organisers have implemented a series of stringent safety measures in accordance with a detailed safety plan prepared and approved months in advance," read the statement. 

"With the full support of the FIA’s on-event safety team, led by FIA WRC Safety Delegate Michele Mouton, every effort will continue to be made to ensure the safe running of Orlen 80th Rally Poland in partnership with local authorities, emergency services and volunteer marshals and officials.

"However, there will be no compromise on safety and the FIA will fully support the organisers if stages have to be cancelled or interrupted due to unacceptable behaviour by a small minority of spectators.”

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