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FIA won’t hesitate if improvements to WRC safety can be made

The FIA won’t hesitate in taking action to improve safety in the World Rally Championship should learnings emerge from a thorough investigation into Craig Breen’s fatal accident.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

The 33-year-old factory Hyundai WRC driver tragically died in a testing crash in preparation for Rally Croatia a fortnight ago.

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul explained the details of the accident last week, revealing that a fence post had intruded the cabin of the i20 N. The team is working alongside the FIA in carrying out a full investigation into the incident.

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FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley says it has already received ”a lot of information” since the investigation began, with WRC's governing body evaluating all aspects in the hope of improving safety moving forward.

“There is an ongoing investigation which will continue,” Wheatley told assembled media in Croatia.

“We are not in a position to say one way or another if there is any future action to be taken. I can assure you that there is a dedicated team in the FIA that is investigating every opportunity to understand how we go forward.

“The specifics with regard to Craig’s accident are very unique and I’m not sure there is a simple fix to that.

“We have a lot of information but we are not in a position to share the results. We can’t bring Craig back but we can try to make sure we can take every action that we can do.”

While it was confirmed that Breen’s tragic accident occurred at a relatively slow speed, Wheatley says the FIA is constantly reviewing the speed of Rally1 cars in general to ensure safety isn’t compromised given the natural progression and development of the cars.

Last season the WRC adopted its brand new Rally1 hybrid regulations which spawned vehicles capable of 500 horsepower when hybrid boost is engaged.

In addition to the introduction of hybrid technology, the cars feature a much tougher space frame chassis and safety cell that has already been throughly tested.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“Absolutely and it [speed] is a constant consideration because the reality of the situation every year the speed increases,” he added.

“That is not something that is planned but it is because we have a service park full of talented engineers who are making every part of the car faster and the constant role of the FIA whether it is safety, technical or sporting at what point to we get to a point where we have to balance the safety versus the speed.

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“We have all had a very difficult week because we lost a friend in Craig and it is very rare that we lose drivers at the top of the sport.

“Speaking with the drivers they love the cars they have got at the moment, they are exiting to drive and nobody wants to say that’s enough. As part of an ongoing constant process we are evaluating where we are at.”

Wheatley also confirmed that safety standards at private pre-event tests are also being discussed within the organisation.

“I think the reality is we have quite strong controls on testing and there is a limited amount days they [the teams] can use and they have to make applications to the organisers and to the FIA to plan these days," he added.

“There are a series of testing safety guidelines that are in place but obviously the level of safety for private testing is not the same as we have on an WRC event which is planned years in advance.

“The learning from this tragic accident is we need to understand what could be done to make the 10% possibility into an 8% or a 6% possibility. I think we will never stop learning and hopefully we can use the experience and the information to understand what small changes we can make.”

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