For many, rallying is the purest form of motorsport because its events are still held on closed public roads. While the roads are closed to traffic, rally stages are still a difficult environment to keep safe for competitors and spectators. An incident during last weekend’s Rally Croatia showed how unruly fans can be a danger to everyone around them including themselves.
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During the FIA World Rally Championship’s annual visit to Croatia, two spectators decided to start grappling in the middle of a live stage. The video posted on Facebook by T4T World Rally Team shows two spectators having a physical altercation as rally marshals and other fans try to pull them apart. Carscoops reported the brawl eventually spilled out onto the tarmac rally stage. The fight was broken up and the road was cleared just seconds before Sebastien Ogier vaulted over the crest in his No. 17 Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid.
Spectators naturally gather around the most exciting parts of the stages, the corners and the jumps. Those portions of a stage are also the most dangerous so precautions have to be made to ensure that fans are watched from a safe area. The championship’s organizers take spectator safety seriously. Rally Poland was dropped from the schedule after the 2017 season due to poor crowd control. The WRC announced that it would use an AI onboard camera system to monitor spectator safety in 2022.
The dangers of rallying have been very present over the past few weeks. On April 13th, Hyundai driver Craig Breen was killed during a pre-event test for Rally Croatia. The 33-year-old Irishman left the road in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and crashed into a wooden fence. A post penetrated the rally car’s Lexan driver’s side window.