WRC Rally NZ chances get a boost
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The chances of Rally New Zealand returning to the World Rally Championship calendar next year appear to have grown even more since the weekend.
New Zealand and Croatia had been tipped as candidates to join an expanded 15-event calendar with two of the four manufacturers pushing for New Zealand's inclusion and two wishing for Croatia to join the championship.
But safety concerns at last week's Rally Poland could pave the way for both countries to appear on next year's calendar.
Poland was already on a final warning around safety concerns prior to this year's event.
Autosport is reporting teams have called for the event to be scrapped from next year's calendar after more issues this year.
Some of the main concerns were spectators ignoring marshals and standing too close to where the cars are traveling at high-speed, spectator cars driving on live rally stages and a fire engine meeting a rally car head on at a junction where there was enough space for the car to safely avoid an accident.
Stephane Lefebvre in action during Rally Poland. Photo / Getty Images
"There have been some safety problems throughout the rally and we have to now investigate and then draw our conclusions," FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen told Autosport.
"The fire truck incident is being investigated locally, this was not something related to the rally. But how could this happen?
"My information is that he nearly ran over the policeman.
"We were very lucky nothing happened, but this does not belong to rallying."
Teams are calling for the event to be axed.
"This is incredible, unbelievable that this can happen," Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan told the magazine.
"The rally has been done here a long time, this is not their first rally and to see this is actually quite frightening."
Hyundai, with Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon on board, were known to be supportive of a return to New Zealand as are Toyota, who obviously have a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Ford and Citroen are thought to prefer a move to Croatia to save on travel costs.
The FIA and WRC promoter are known to favour New Zealand as part of a push to make the WRC less European-centric and also to capitalize on the movement of cars used in non-European rounds, which sit dormant in storage after Argentina in April until Rally Australia in November.
A decision on the 2018 calendar was expected by the end of September.