Rally Japan clerk of course reprimanded for safety car incident 

Stewards have issued the Rally Japan clerk of the course a reprimand for allowing stage nine to begin with a safety car stranded in the test, that was met by World Rally Championship crews.

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

A stewards hearing deemed the incident that occurred on Saturday as a “serious and unsafe situation” which has resulted in clerk of the course Haruo Takakuwa being issued a reprimand.

The matter will also be referred to the FIA WRC Commission “for further action if deemed appropriate”, according to a stewards report.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was the first to come across the stranded zero car, which was pulled over to one side of the road midway through the 20.32km Nukata Forest test.

Unaware of the stationary vehicle ahead, Neuville briefly stopped before passing the car. He soon switched into road mode for the remainder of the stage.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta also navigated by the Rally Japan official car before organisers threw the red flags.

The FIA issued a statement on Saturday which stated that the incident was initially triggered by the zero car stopping in the stage to remove spectators that were standing in a dangerous location.

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The stewards report has now confirmed that there was also a miscommunication between the crew of the zero car, the stage commander and the clerk of the course, which resulted in the stage starting with the car still in the stage.

The communication issue was further hampered by a lack of radio signal. This was also taken into consideration by the stewards.

“The Clerk of the Course informed the Stewards that the tracking system showed that zero car A had stopped twice on the stage,” the stewards report states.

“The Clerk of the Course's assumption was that zero car A was having mechanical problems. He said he later discovered that the reason for the stopping was to oversee the removal of unauthorised persons that the crew of zero car A had located on the stage as they were moving through it and were experiencing a restricted capacity to report this fact to Rally HQ via the radio network.

“According to the Clerk of the Course's statement, he was told by the Stage Commander that zero car A was clear of the stage before starting it, but his subsequent investigation revealed that there was a misunderstanding by the Stage Commander as to where zero car A had reported its whereabouts. He had assumed from a report from the Stage Commander that zero car A had moved off the stage into a safe position and everything was in order for him to start the stage.

“The Driver and Co-Driver of zero car A confirmed the statement of the Clerk of the Course. They said that they had acted under pressure because there was no radio signal where they were then positioned, so they were unable to relay to Rally Control the presence of the unauthorised persons on the stage.

“They stated they were concerned about the safety of the unauthorised persons on the stage. They added they had located a marshal on the stage and had asked him to report this to the Stage Commander. They said the marshal had replied that the Stage Commander requested them to assist with the clearing of the people from the stage. They therefore had assumed that the stage would not be started until they had removed themselves from the stage into a safe position.

“The Driver and Co-Driver of zero car A acknowledged that they had been instructed in three pre-event Safety Briefings that the role of the zero car was not to stop on the stage once it has left the start and that, by doing so, they had failed to follow instructions, which caused the unsafe situation to occur.”

The clerk of the course accepted full responsibility of the actions of the crew of zero car A.

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