The annual FIA Rally Officials Seminar switched to a virtual format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last Friday with a record number of about 500 officials and delegates from 80 countries following online.

Made up of stewards, Clerks of the Course and event organisers, the delegates were invited to follow three sessions on regulation changes, rally safety updates and the role and duties of the clerk of the course and stewards on events.

The sessions followed a welcome speech from FIA Rally Director Yves Matton, a recap of the 2020 season and the tremendous response from rally organisers and officials around the world following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus an update on the FIA Rally Cars Pyramid as part of a look ahead to 2021.

Jérôme Roussel, FIA Category Manager for Regional Rally, gave an overview of the FIA European Rally Championship and the attractive prize package put in place by promoter Eurosport Events for the restructured FIA ERC Junior Championship.

Roussel also provided a review on developments within the FIA European Rally Trophy, changes to the format of the FIA African Rally Championship and the exciting FIA Rally Star talent detection initiative, which continues to gather momentum following the scheduling of the first Continental Final set for Europe in June.

Updates were also given on other projects from the FIA Rally Department for 2021, including the implementation of a sustainability roadmap, incentives for regional rally championships outside Europe and a reaffirmation of the inclusion of a rally event within the FIA Motorsport Games from October 29-31.

Uwe Schmidt, the FIA Rally Commission Vice-President, used the first session to summarise the changes to the International Sporting Code and Regional Rally Sporting Regulations for 2021. He talked delegates through each rule update, taking time to respond to questions from the audience.

Stuart Robertson was joined by FIA Safety Department members Clément Lauté and Nicolas Klinger for a session updating delegates on various aspects of Rally Safety. As part of his presentation, Robertson outlined the effectiveness of new online training modules implemented to assist safety delegates and marshals, or the benefits of the Rally Safety Task Force, whose role is to support organisers to improve the safety of their event. Klinger, FIA Deputy Safety Delegate alongside Michèle Mouton, stressed one of number of key messages that a no-go area is no-go for everybody, not just spectators.

A final meeting covering the Role and Duties of the Clerk of the Course and Stewards on events, followed by an interactive, practical session on specific case studies, was hosted by Uwe Schmidt.

Summarising the event, Yves Matton said: “It was a very successful webinar and obviously a new experience to organise this annual event virtually. While the preference is always for delegates to meet together in person, the restrictions brought about by COVID-19 obviously make that impossible. However, there is clearly a big benefit of organising this event online as nearly 500 people from 80 ASNs were able to take part, which is an unprecedented number of participants.

“While we expect another challenging year in 2021, the information and experiences shared today – plus the opportunity for discussion – can only help our valued organisers and officials from around the world deliver even better events and best practices during the 12 months ahead and beyond.”

The event concluded with organisers of FIA European Rally Championship events gathering online for their traditional pre-season overview meeting.

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