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WRC Rally Kenya

FIA affirms position on illegal WRC recceing after Neuville exclusion

The FIA has affirmed its stance on illegal recceing in the World Rally Championship following the disqualification of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville from Safari Rally Kenya for breaching regulations.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Neuville was excluded from the event last weekend, where he finished eighth, after stewards determined a “person connected with the crew travelled on or over the route of two Special Stages, after reconnaissance, without authorisation” following the official pre-event recce.

Article 35.4.2 of the FIA World Rally Championship 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.”

Neuville’s co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe claimed in the stewards report that a person was sent to the stage to understand the “ambiguity to what constitutes corner-cutting and the anti-cutting measures that the organiser was perceived to have introduced following reconnaissance.”

Neuville took full responsibility and apologised for his lapse in judgement.

The FIA has issued a statement to Motorsport.com to clarify its position on the matter.

“We are aware that there have been circumstances in which competitors have expressed their preference for this rule to be changed,” read a statement from FIA Road Sport Director Andrew Wheatley.

“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.”

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Hyundai issued a statement on Monday morning acknowledging the stewards decision, stating it would “take note of the FIA’s position to take necessary steps to stop the customary practice of participants accessing the roads to enhance their knowledge.”

“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,” continued a statement from FIA Road Sport Director Andrew Wheatley.

“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.”

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