Monday, June 24, 2024

Italian Baja course head under FIA investigation for arbitrary start order change

The FIA Cross-Country Commission, the lead authority for the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and World Rally-Raid Championship, launched an investigation Sunday following the World Cup’s Italian Baja into Clerk of the Course Marco Fiorillo after stewards noticed he changed the start order between the second and third stages without notice or good reason.

According to the stewards’ report, Fiorillo justified the action as being “for safety reasons,” but “couldn’t explain how it could have positively influenced ‘safety reasons’.” Stages #2 and #3 took place on Saturday, the second of three days for the rally, and publication of the former’s starting order was delayed multiple times.

Fiorillo had warned competitors about rising water levels in certain parts of the two sections, leading to the roadbook being modified.

Nonetheless, the stewards were unsatisfied with his defence and reprimanded race organiser Fuoristrada Club 4×4 Pordenone and forwarded the news to the Cross-Country Commission. The matter was deemed as a violation of the International Sporting Code’s Article 1.3, which states organisers must “be acquainted with the statutes and regulations of the FIA and the national regulations” and “submit themselves without reserve” to such policies.

“[I]n this case a fair sports fight was not ensured, since arbitrarily (without complying with the requirements of the rules) the starting order was changed,” reads the report. “This causes damage to motorsports.”

Besides setting the starting lineup, the Clerk of the Course is responsible for overseeing track operations and communicating with safety teams. While one of the top positions, the clerk ultimately reports to the race director and stewards, especially if the clerk is part of the organiser and not the sanctioning body like the latter.

“Taking into account the fact that the representative of the organiser acknowledged the violation committed, the most lenient penalty to be imposed on the Organiser — a Warning,” the report continued. “It must also be considered appropriate to forward this decision through the FIA Rally Department to the FIA Cross-Country Commission for further action in order to prevent such situations from happening in the future, if the Commission considers that any additional proactive action can be taken in this case, to remind all organisers repeatedly to follow the established procedure.

“The Stewards decide for a Reprimand as penalty to the Organiser according to the ISC Art. 12.4.1 b and forward the decision through the FIA Rally Department to the FIA Cross-Country Commission for further action, if the Commission feels it would be necessary.”

Fiorillo is permitted to appeal.

The thirtieth edition of the Italian Baja was won by Yazeed Al-Rajhi ahead of championship leader Nasser Al-Attiyah. Al-Attiyah elected to race for the World Cup over Extreme E, which was in nearby Sardinia, to preserve his points lead and had W2RC rival Sébastien Loeb fill in. The trio also comprise the top three for the W2RC.