Mr Rally Mexico director, are you… are you OK?

The fascinating story of Ott Tänak’s and Raigo Molder’s lucky escape from the fast sinking Fiesta, followed by a remarkable recovery and return to action in final day of the event already cemented its place among the greatest and wildest stories in the history of rallying. We saw the pictures and videos, praised Raigo, for keeping the pace notes safe, and M-Sport mechanics for successfully rebuilding Ott’s car. There were many laughs and jokes, mostly because everyone managed to escape from this incident unharmed, but if you only give it a bit more thought I am sure you also experienced something completely different. This could have ended in tragedy. Usually, competitors put their faith in the FIA and the organizers – should something go wrong, organizers will intervene, because this is a World Championship class event so surely all rescue teams and rapid response units are standing by. This is the belief rally competitors carry with them going into the stages. Ott and Raigo did the same, yet their lives were saved by pure fucking luck and their fantastic ability to keep calm and overcome the initial shock of being on the road one moment and escaping a sinking car a moment later. Organizers had no idea where M-Sport crew was for 17 minutes. Organizers did not stop the event as soon as it became apparent that Tänak and Molder are literally missing. But you know what, that’s not the worst thing organizers and the FIA did, or failed to do.

Seriously, I never thought something like this is even remotely possible in a WRC class event. We’ve seen examples of poor organization before, mainly organizers not being able to control every single spectator, but to make so many mistakes in one event, and then go public with statements which are almost insulting if not flat out stupid…

Rally Mexico director, Patrick Suberville, and his comments, published today by Autosport.

“Normally, there is no water there. Usually, they would have been able to get back to the road, but this year the water level was higher.

Fine. Did you know water was higher before the start of the event or it dawned on you after Ott’s and Raigo’s lucky escape? To me this sounds almost like: “Dude, check out this water, how unusual”. My blood started boiling right here, but it turned out this was just a warm up.

FO-1GXWQY8SH2111“We didn’t have the divers there because we never had a problem here before – it’s a straight piece of road.”

You didn’t… you… what? Seriously, what kind of twisted, incompetent and completely irresponsible logic is that? It’s a straight piece of road? I wish I had all the time in the world to write an essay on how dangerous a straight piece of road can be. Of course, the road there isn’t actually straight, but even if it was, it cannot be used as an excuse. Perhaps that is why nobody knew where Ott and Raigo were for so long – was there even a marshal anywhere near? You know, if it’s a straight piece of road and it’s known to not cause any trouble, why bother with marshals? It’s like rally crews die every year on the same corner so organizers know which section is dangerous and which isn’t. We were *this* close from realizing just how dangerous a combination of rally car, straight piece of road, mechanical failure and deep water can be.

“Even if the divers had been there, the crew were out of the car within eight seconds – the divers wouldn’t have even got to them by then.

Now, this is the next level. Let’s see if I understood this right. Ott and Raigo were out of the car in eight seconds, which is faster than any rescue divers team could react. Now, let’s turn that Fiesta upside down – car lands on its roof and starts slowly sinking – crew has a chance of getting out, but it won’t be eight seconds. Do you send in the divers even if it takes them more than eight seconds to reach the car? Is it worth putting on your diving gear and getting into water if crew isn’t out in 15 or 30 seconds? Nah. If they’re not out before you get them, let them die. Why? Because next sentence.

“What we have to remember as well is that the divers we have are not trained in rescuing people. This is something we need to think about.”

Yes, if they’re not trained in rescuing people, then I see why it would be pointless to have them out on the stage, near or on the water, ready to act. They did send them in for 2nd running of that stage, but why? If they are not able to rescue people, were they sent in in case some bodies must be collected from the bottom of the pond? How this person and this rally are not scolded and trashed around motor sport media is beyond me. This event should be punished so fucking heavily that they would never ever consider being a host to the World Rally Championship ever again, without state of the art safety services and procedures in place. If that’s too expensive, then GTFO of WRC for even putting a price tag on lives of drivers, co-drivers and spectators.

But hey, there were no spectators involved in this. No, but they were involved in Vitaliy Gorban’s crash in which his car went off the road and headed for the spectators. Luckily they got away in time, so he only crashed into parked cars. On the outside of the corner.

Please, fire Mr Suberville. And while you’re at it, do the same to all the people in charge of safety in this event, for looking the other way instead of seeing the mistakes and problems.

Article on Autosport.

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