One of the topics, mentioned quite often by the drivers, but then swept under the rug by the officials and partly media, was the dust. As with any other gravel event, dust was a bit of an issue for the drivers starting further down the order, but that’s not all. Fighting against the dust is impossible, so the organizers and the FIA usually resort to increasing the starting gaps to 2 or even 3 minutes, in order to give dust enough time to settle or be blown away by the wind. In Sardinia, however, organizers couldn’t care less, or at least that’s the general impression. With cows on and around the road, and media zones suddenly turned into parc ferme-ish areas, organizers were obviously in some strange state. To top it off, timing and tracking once again worked like crap, splits were coming and going and going and coming, much like they did for the rest of the year.
What surprises me is the lack of discussion on the topic of dust and how it was handled by the organizer and the officials. As soon as some driver mentioned it, the topic was promptly dismissed or, at best, was given a sentence or two, turning it into not-so-big-a-deal.
Which is, of course, great and dandy. Nobody criticizes the timing, at least not in public and out loud, nobody questions the dust handling issues, everything is left to run it’s course, while it goes. That, at least, is my perception of things. The media almost makes it irrelevant to even talk about these things. Because, I guess, timing, tracking and low visibility are not exactly important. Until they become deadly important. Then, surely, everybody will be super clever once again, and long wall of texts will be written, discussing the dangerous nature of the sport, and yada yada.
WRC2 drivers were most vocal about the dust problems in Sardinia. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Robert Kubica, to name but a few. Yet, organizers refused to budge, so dust was playing a major role in the shaping of the outcome of WRC2 competition. Or rather, it actually didn’t, because if it did, there would be grim news coming out from Italy last weekend. Because drivers did not only have problem seeing the road, but there were also people on the road, in the dust, not expecting the cars to arrive so quickly. Can you imagine the amount of epic texts and apologetic releases that would flood us in case of a major fuckup in such circumstances?
Yet, nothing bad happened, so let’s just no talk about it at all.
Until either shit hits the fan and something bad happens, or some drivers, such as Kubica, simply decide to walk away from the sport that is trying so hard to shoot itself in the foot.
“I think it is too dangerous to let drivers drive with one-minute gaps in gravel rallies, especially that the visibility after 10 kilometres was bad in SS1 which is 30 kilometres long. I was 20 kilometres in the dust and it’s just dangerous and there is no point to do it.
“I was very upset, okay the conditions are the same for everybody, but the starting order is not the same for everybody and if you are behind you are losing time. And it’s very dangerous.
“The FIA normally does a great job for safety and what I have seen here was disappointing because it looks like nobody cares about drivers.
“And it’s not only about drivers but it’s also about the stages; we were 20 seconds behind Sepp Wiegand [in SS1 on Friday] and we had people in the middle of the road because they were not expecting our car coming so close, and they could not see anything because they were in the dust.
“We have to do something, as unfortunately sooner or later something can happen and it is better to act before anything happens.
“I want to highlight it because I think rallying is already a dangerous sport and if people are making it even more dangerous, then there is something wrong.
“I decided that after yesterday if they were still using one-minute gaps I will not drive, I just don’t come here.
[quote]“There is no point to risk yourself, the car and spectators. The price for winning is not the same [as] for your life.[/quote]
“It is very simple.”
Was dust really so thick in Sardinia, that it obscured the problems from everyone but drivers?