Poland set to drop off WRC calendar amid safety worries

Rally Poland looks set to lose its place on the WRC calendar next season following safety infringements in last weekend's running.

Poland set to drop off WRC calendar amid safety worries
Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Pontus Tidemand, Jonas Andersson, Skoda Fabia R5
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Mads Ostberg, Ola Floene, Ford Fiesta WRC
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, M-Sport, Ford Fiesta WRC
Craig Breen, Martin Scott, Citroën C3 WRC, Citroën World Rally Team
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 WRC, Hyundai Motorsport
Juho Hänninen, Kaj Lindström, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing

The Mikolajki-based event was given a yellow card warning from the FIA after spectator control problems in 2015, and a similar appraisal from the sport’s governing body last year would have automatically ejected the event from the calendar for this year.

Sources in the service park have told Motorsport.com, however, that there is now no appetite for a return to Rally Poland after what was witnessed.

Crews were incensed at safety breaches in the stages, with spectators overpowering the marshals to stand just inches away from cars passing at competitive speeds.

In addition to that, there were reports of spectator cars being driven on live stages and a fire engine past a police man and through road-closing tape and into a stage the wrong way.

The fire engine met a rally car coming through the Baranowo stage at competitive speed, but thankfully they met in a wide section and disaster was averted.

A police investigation has begun into how that was allowed to happen.

The FIA’s rally director Jarmo Mahonen told Motorsport.com: "There have been some safety problems throughout the rally and we have to now investigate and then draw our conclusions.

"The fire truck incident is being investigated locally, this was nothing something related to the rally. But how could this happen? My information is that he nearly ran over the policeman…

"We were very lucky nothing happened, but this does not belong to rallying.”

Motorsport.com understands teams around the service park are counselling for a replacement rally to be found in 2018.

But Rally Poland spokesman Andrzej Borowczyk said it would be unfair to judge the event’s safety record on the fire engine incident.

“This was human error,” said Borowczyk. “The police was there, there was a barrier there and this stupid guy drove straight in – I don’t know what going on in his head.

"The driver of the [competing] car sent information to the Clerk of the Course, but he was not complaining. Nobody can say this area wasn’t protected, it was.

"The fireman was from here, he had been involved in the rally from before – I don’t understand what happened. It was an idiotic human error.

"I strongly say, if we made a mistake then people can say: 'OK guys, you made a big mistake.' But this wasn’t the case, but what can we do?”

Rally Poland’s contract with the series ends this year, but Borowczyk is confident the event will return to WRC next season.

“Look at the pictures and the number of fans we bring,” he said. “Rally Poland brings something to the championship and I am sure we will be back.”

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