FIA introduce new format for Africa Rally Championship

By Standard Sports: Wednesday, June 26th 2019 at 00:25 GMT +3 | Sports
Iain Campbell, a Rally expert seconded by the FIA to assist Kenya to realise initiative of returning the Safari Rally back to the World Rally Championship (WRC) at Kasarani yesterday. [Courtesy Safari Rally Ltd]

For the first time in history, cars which will be used in route reconnaissance in the WRC candidate event Safari Rally will be equipped with tracking devices and must adhere to traffic, Clerk of Course Gurvir Babra has announced.

No competing car will be allowed on the Safari route until the start of competition on Friday next week.

Unlike in the past, recce will be restricted to two days only, July 1-2 while scrutineering is slated for Wednesday (local drivers) and Thursday for international competitors, he added.

The organizing committee’s work has also been cut after the FIA issued better guidelines to govern the Africa Rally Championship (ARC) starting with the Safari.

The rally week start on Monday with major highlights coming on coming days.

According to new regulations, competitors are now required to stop immediately and without exception at an accident to render assistance if they do not see an OK sign or a clear signal from the driver or co-driver, even if the “SOS” display isn’t shown. All following cars are required to stop as well.

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The crew should always display the red warning triangle as soon as possible in a clearly visible place at least 50 metres before the car’s position in order to warn following drivers even if the car is off the road.

 The FIA has been working closely with the African ASNs and event organisers in recent months to bring about a number of evolutions, designed to reinvigorate the FIA African Rally Championship.

This collaboration has led to a change of format for the championship with a modification of the titles awarded. In essence, the creation of an ARC2 title for Drivers and Co-drivers should encourage the entry of Group N cars by offering them a dedicated playground, separate from the R5 battle.

R5 models which will compete in the Safari are two Skoda Fabias of Manvir Baryan and Onkar Rai. Lery Gomes of Zambia will field a Ford Fiesta. The rest of the field is dominated by Group N models.

The participation of young drivers will also be supported through two measures: the creation of an ARC Junior Championship title for Drivers under 28 years old and the renaming of the ARC Cup for Drivers and Co-drivers using 2WD, normally aspirated cars of maximum 1600cc to ARC3 for Drivers and Co-drivers using 2WD cars.

Additionally, changes to the event characteristics should have a positive effect for both the organisers and competitors including a reduction of costs. The duration of a rally will be limited to four days (including reconnaissance), with a plan to encourage a single pass recce - a mandatory requirement from 2021 - and authorize three runs per special stage, contingent upon the type of terrain and number of cars.

“It was high time for the African Rally Championship to have a strategic revamp to ensure its sustainability and we are confident that, by introducing the ARC Junior Championship, it will attract more youngsters and a great audience,” said Christian Gakwaya, President of the Rwanda Automobile Club and member of the FIA Rally Commission.

“Also, ARC2 will strengthen the competition among group N cars by being a recognised title on its own and this will solve the transition crisis from Group N to R5, considering the higher number of Group N cars already on the continent.”

The progress made on the FIA African Rally Championship has led to a new event format, inspired by that of the ERC, which now includes a qualifying stage to define the starting order of the first leg.

“The new format with a qualification stage will have a double impact: primarily, it will allow the drivers to battle for their starting position. Secondly - and as a very important asset for the championship - the qualifying stage will serve as a commercial platform for our sponsors and partners to maximise visibility,” Gakwaya added.

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