Rally Poland, the second oldest stage rally in the world, just lost its spot on the World Rally Championship calendar, reports Motorsport.com. The rally had issues with spectator safety for four years in a row, so the WRC will not renew their contract with Rally Poland that ends this year.
There are few if any protective barriers between rally cars and fans on open stages, so rallies have to be extra careful about making sure no one’s standing in a dangerous place. Spectator safety issues earned Rally Poland an official “yellow card” warning from the FIA (the governing body over the WRC) after 2015's event, meaning that the 2016 event had to go off without any issues.
The FIA was satisfied with safety improvements Rally Poland made in 2016, but was not satisfied with out-of-control fans there this year. Fans behaving badly are exactly who WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla blamed for their decision to drop Rally Poland from the schedule when he spoke to Motorsport.com:
We regret to lose Poland, it’s a tremendously important market and a great development in the last years of the WRC - but for safety reasons the FIA took the decision not to go again next year.
But I want to say clearly that this is not for safety failures for the responsibility of the organiser, it is a consequence of the ill-disciplined spectators that we experienced.
We have to react in relation to safety, but also in fairness to the drivers.
The decision to drop Rally Poland from the WRC will be officially confirmed at a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council next month. Taking its place will be a rally in Turkey, which is provisionally set for a September date. This is Turkey’s first WRC date since 2010.
While it’s hard for me to tell whether this year’s Rally Poland was any worse than, say, Rallye Monte Carlo this year, where a fan in a dangerous location died after being hit by a rally car, let this be a reminder to fans everywhere. Do you like your local event and want it to keep it going for the forseeable future? Then only go into approved areas to watch, and follow the organizers’ instructions on where is okay and not okay to go during the event. Otherwise, you may lose your favorite event.
Either way, Poland is a beloved, fast, high-flying event that’s always well-attended by fans, so it’s painful to see it go. It first ran in 1921, and was part of the inaugural season of the WRC in 1973. This year was its 74th running.