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  Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 13:04 GMT
Rally boss backs Britain
Marcus Gronholm speeds past crowds on the Rally GB
Crowd safety is a big issue in world rallying
World championship boss David Richards has insisted that the Rally of Great Britain's place on next year's calendar is safe despite crowd problems on Friday.

The fourth stage was cancelled because crowds were not in their designated areas - and this led to fears that the rally would lose its place in 2003.

The Rally GB has only a provisional place on next year's calendar pending an inquiry into organisers' handling of crowd safety this year.

The sport's governing body, the FIA, ordered the report into this year's event after 13 spectators were injured when they were hit by Carlos Sainz's Ford in 2001.


It appears the FIA may have been a little over-zealous on this occasion
David Richards
World rally boss
But Richards said on Saturday: "I think the steps taken yesterday morning just reinforce (the Rally GB's) future in the championship.

"From what I have seen, and having spoken to very expert people who have been through the stages, it's clear the provisions the organisers have made this year are second to none.

"They've really excelled themselves and I feel very confident about the future of the event.

"The effort has been made, the work that has gone in from all the marshals has been really superb and I must compliment them on that."

Richards questioned the need to cancel stage four, suggesting the FIA's safety delegate may have been "a little over-zealous".

He added: "The FIA and the organisers take responsibility for safety, and quite clearly they take that matter very seriously.

"It appears they may have been a little over-zealous on this occasion by all accounts from various people.

"But at the end of the day you can't take safety lightly and I'm sure there were rational reasons for the decision made.


This event is being run to higher safety standards than we have at some other events
Max Mosley
FIA president

"Safety is not negotiable and in situations like that it is not for anyone to question the decision - maybe afterwards there might be a post-mortem about it."

FIA president Max Mosley said that it "looks good" for the future of the event, but stressed that it was not his decision.

"It depends on the result from all the observers," Mosley said.

"The fact that a stage was cancelled in one way is quite positive because it shows that safety is being taken very seriously.

"I would say that this event is being run to the latest and highest safety standards, which says that there are only certain areas allowed for spectators.

"Everything else is a prohibited area and as a result that means it is a higher standard than we have in certain other events."

Mosley said a decision on the future of the Rally GB would be made at the FIA World Council meeting on 13 December.

The problems this year arose on the fourth special stage, a second run through the Brechfa forest in south Wales.

Open in new window  :  GB Rally stage guide

It was called off because too many fans had turned out despite ticketing arrangements designed to avert that problem.

It is the first time in the event's 58-year history that a stage has been cancelled for safety reasons before it has started.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
FIA president Max Mosley
"This event is run to the highest safety standards"
RALLY GB STAGE GUIDE
SEASON SO FAR
TOP TEAMS AND DRIVERS


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