COMMENT: The futility of chicanes at Rally Finland

Written by Martin Holmes on .

Notable in the debriefings after Neste Rally Finland was the general distaste for the way that chicanes invaded the highly popular but very fast World Championship rally.  

Blind Approach to ChicaneA blind approach to a chicane at Rally Finland, the WRC's fastest rally of the season.

The issue has suddenly escalated with the arrival of the 2017 World Rally Cars, intentionally intended to be faster than rally cars have been before.  

Traditionally, and logically, chicanes have been used to reduce speeds of cars in places which would see dangerously high speeds, but the sporting authorities now regard chicanes as a way to reduce the average speeds of stages from start to finish and create an illusion of safety.  

For this reason alone they are a bad idea.  

Then come the implications of creating artificial obstacles in the middle of stages, for example the way that only an immovable and therefore dangerous obstacles will be immune to unfairly altering the shape of the course between successive cars, then the additional dangers for course marshals who have to repair damaged or moved obstacles.
 
Here are some of the opinions expressed by teams.  

Citroen: “The chicanes didn’t help the drivers to reduce the risks at all and they created troubles (cars touching the chicanes, missing the turns etc.).  Also they were not really in the spirit of Finnish stages.”  

M-Sport said they were not against the chicanes, but feel that more thought should have been given to their placement.  They should be standardised in severity, not as tight, and placed in more sensible positions.  

Hyundai simply commented that nobody liked them!  The comments are all sensible, but each are either unworkable in reality or create more issues than they solve.

Nobody is more aware of the issues than the Neste Rally organisers.  Clerk of the Course, Kai Tarkianen, said they might be forced to revert to more “technical” (twisty) stages, aware that these roads would be much more prone to damage than the traditional stages.  

In earlier years it had been possible to run most of the stages only once during a rally, but that concept falls foul of the FIA’s current format for WRC rallies.  

The Neste Rally is the fastest rally in the WRC, the winner averaging 126km/h over all the route, but notwithstanding the addition of many speed reducing chicanes, the total average speed was unchanged.
 
- Martin Holmes