Rally driver Sebastien Ogier.
Rally driver Sebastien Ogier. Trevor Veale

Drivers call to boycott rally stage

A CONTENTIOUS night section during last month's World Rally Championships on the Coffs Coast has sparked calls for a boycott of next year's event.

The new 7.94km night stage in Valla drew widespread criticism from WRC drivers for what they described as dangerously dark and dusty conditions on narrow gravel roads.

French driver Sebastien Ogier, who clinched victory during the Coffs Harbour event, last week called a meeting of drivers, co-drivers and FIA president Jean Todt to discuss a possible boycott of future night sections.

British driver Kris Meeke backed Ogier's calls, saying the section posed unreasonable risks to drivers.

"If somebody could give me one reason what that stage added to Rally Australia, I'd be very interested to hear it," Meeke told Autosport.

"It's the premeditated nature of the argument in Australia that gets me - they knew there would be dust and they sent us in anyway.

"If they try it in 2016, I think there might be some red faces."

Volkswagen Motorsport boss Jost Capito agreed, saying the night stage had added unnecessary risks.

"They knew there would be dust and they sent us in anyway," Mr Capito said.

"This is nothing against night stages - it's the dust in the darkness that is irresponsible."

Mr Todt, however, said he favoured the night competition as did Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford.

Mr Rainsford called for the section to be repeated in 2016, saying drivers should be equipped for all conditions.

"This is the World Rally Championships and courses need to be challenging to be a true test of the drivers," Mr Rainsford.

Complaints were referred to the FIA's safety delegation which had also found no major issues with the section.

The 2016 WRC calendar is meanwhile expected to be finalised in the coming fortnight - determining Australia's bid to host the final round on the Coffs Coast in November.



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