Safety row over Monte start

Crews are calling for a change to the way routes are approved on World Rally Championship events after a safety row looks set to mar to the opening day of 2005 season, autosport.com can reveal

Safety row over Monte start

Several drivers are unhappy with certain sections of the first stage of the Monte Carlo Rally, which they claim are too dangerous. Set high in the Alps, the new stage had not been seen by the competitors until yesterday's recce. They were allowed two runs through the 22.9km Ilonse-Pierlas stage on Thursday, and were limited to a maximum speed of 40mph.

Introduced to create some variation in the route, the stage features three corners in particular that have sheer drops on the outside, without even so much as barriers to stop a car from falling over the edge. Currently there is no provision for new stages to be checked by the drivers before they arrive to compete in the event with organisers free to set the route as they see fit.

"It's not exactly the safest stage in the world," said Petter Solberg's Subaru co-driver Phil Mills, who narrowly survived serious injury in an accident in last year's Rallye Deutschland on a stage that has now been removed from that event. "There are three corners where if you get you're braking point wrong you're not going to be talking about it.

"It was a bit of a surprise to see the stage," he added, "and maybe we need a system in place where the stage is checked before it gets to the recce otherwise we are relying on the goodwill and common sense of the organisers.

"Four or five drivers have said this stage needs to be rejigged but now we are here and we have to do it."

Not all the drivers are outspoken about the stage however, Peugeot's double world champion Marcus Gronholm said: "Everybody is talking about this. Okay its dangerous but the sport is dangerous. I don't want to think about it, we just have to be careful."

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