Ogier’s Toyota team penalised after rapid wheel change

Sebastien Ogier was given a one-minute time penalty after a rapid wheel change and seatbelt offence on the Croatia Rally’s second stage on Friday.

Sebastien Ogier was given a one-minute time penalty after a rapid wheel change and seatbelt offence on the Croatia Rally’s second stage on Friday.

Sebastien Ogier’s rapid wheel change on the Croatia Rally’s second stage on Friday proved just a little too fast after the factory Toyota driver was slapped with a one-minute time penalty for a seat belt offence.

Eight-time world champion Ogier was leading Round 4 of the World Rally Championship season after he won the opening stage, only to be forced to stop approximately 12 kilometres into the next stage with a damaged front-left wheel caused by hitting a hole on the side of the road.

Ogier’s Toyota GR Yaris was parked for 1:07s while the 2021 Croatia Rally winner and co-driver Vincent Landais swapped wheels.

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The delay dropped them down the order and handed first place to Hyundai pair Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe.

Kalle Rovanpera, Ogier’s team-mate, was stationary for 1:58s after he also picked up a front-left puncture on the exact same corner.

Having received video evidence, the stewards investigated the possibility that Ogier and Landais did not have “their safety harnesses correctly fastened while the car was in motion following a tyre change on SS2, a breach of Art. 53.1 of the 2023 FIA WRC Sporting Regulations, Art. 12.2.1.h of the International Sporting Code and Appendix L Chapter III Art. 3.2 as well as Art. 4 of the International Sporting Code”.

Following an investigation, the stewards decided to impose a one-minute time penalty on Ogier’s Toyota team, dropping the Frenchman to seventh overall, 2:23:7s off the lead.

The stewards’ decision stated: “The driver of car 17 explained that after changing a flat tyre on SS2, he had buckled his safety belts and had started to drive initially slowly until the safety belts were properly fastened.”

“He had then asked confirmation from the co-driver if he was ready and if they could start driving. The co-driver had confirmed this.

“He also explained that after they had started to drive faster the safety belts were fastened, but he admitted that he was trying to position his FHR device [front head restraint] until the end of the stage. Ogier stated that he was unaware that the co-driver had not positioned the FHR device nor that he had incorrectly fastened the safety belts, as the co-driver had confirmed earlier that he was ready to start.

“The co-driver apologised for this lapse.”

Toyota sporting chief Kaj Lindström confirmed that the drivers had the safety belts fastened but not correctly tightened.

Lindström submitted to the stewards the data from car 17, showing that during the first 13.5s the car was moving slowly.

“The video evidence from car 17 shows that after the tyre change on SS2, whilst the driver had fastened the safety belts soon after he had started to drive, the co-driver did not have the safety belts properly fastened,” said Lindström.

“At the beginning the car was moving slowly for approximately 13 seconds and the co-driver managed to buckle the safety belts but afterwards, while the driver had started to drive faster, the co-driver was still tightening the safety belts for a certain time and was trying to position the FHR device correctly under the safety belts.”

“The co-driver managed to fasten the safety belts correctly approximately 34 seconds after the car was in motion from the tyre change location and until the end of the stage.

“Furthermore, the co-driver had tried to position the FHR device correctly under the FHR belts,” he added.

“The stewards conclude that it is the competitor’s responsibility to ensure that the safety equipment is fastened, tightened and used correctly throughout the stage.”

“The stewards find that it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all the safety measures inside the car are being fulfilled during the special stages and driving with incorrectly fastened safety belts and incorrectly positioned and tightened FHR device is unsafe.”

Croatia Rally resumes at 07:54 local time/15:54 AEST on Saturday with the 23.76km ninth stage.

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