The “Kerfuffle” which followed an accident involving spectators on a special stage in last year’s RAC Rally, and the suicidal tendencies of other spectators which disrupted parts of the Rally, have culminated in the RAC Motor Sport Division issuing a Safety Code for rally special stages. The RAC likens it to a Highway Code “designed to ensure that rally organisers are seen to fulfill their public obligations, particularly in respect of spectator safety”.
Safety measures which organisers are advised to take include clearer marking of the stages so that neither competitors nor spectators can mistake it. “No go” roads must be closed off clearly, firebreaks arrowed and escape roads closed off and forbidden to spectators or officials. There is advice on consistency and clarity of direction and hazard signs and, “Hazards on stages must be advised to competitors in advance. All firebreaks should be arrowed and regarded as potential hazards. The object of the exercise is to test the driver’s skill, not to trick him into making a mistake”.
Officials should be instantly recognisable, says the code, preferably distinguished by dayglo vests—and they shouldn’t be seen spectating or taking photographs. Marshals must remain in view of all signs and likely danger points, use whistles to denote an approaching car and have a rudimentary knowledge of first aid. There is advice on emergency services, the keeping track of competing cars so that they can’t be lost on stages, the provision of an official vehicle equipped with first aid equipment and fire extinguishers, and a recommendation that long, straight sections, particularly on undulating roads, should be avoided if possible, which could threaten some of the infamous straights in the Yorkshire forests and the Forest of Dean. Spectators should be kept away from the outside of corners and a course car equipped with PA should be provided for spectator control.
The code should be regarded as just a first step in protecting the public from themselves. But some of the forest complexes are too big to police thoroughly and the final onus will remain on a spectator’s own commonsense, very often sadly lacking.