Motor sport

FIA Safety delegate in Nairobi for WRC rally routes

By USPA Media

Nairobi-The International Motorsport Federation (FIA) Safety Delegate for the 2019 FIA WRC Candidate Safari Rally, Michelle Mouton from France arrived in Nairobi on Friday April 5,2019 review the draft itinerary of this year’s Safari Rally in Nairobi and Nakuru counties.

She will be evaluating the safety of drivers and fans and offer recommendations where necessary for alterations for the event that is also counts on the Africa rally Championship.

Michelle Mouton arrived in the World Rally Championship with a bang and erupted in 1982 at the height of the golden era of the Group cars, fire spitting monsters which were too fast to drive. Soon they started killing drivers and were banned from racing by FISA in 1986.

But she was in the mix in 1982 and stamped her authority comprehensively after finishing second behind Walter Rohrl of Germany in the World Championship in the monstrous Audi Quattro.

Here in Kenya she teamed up with 1972 East African Safari Rally winner Hannu Mikola and Kenya’s Vic Preston Junior in the Audi team. Those who watched her in action confessed of watching a fearless driver, navigated by Italian Fabrizia Pons.

 They were a rarity and their display, a combination of  rare talent. They finished third overall behind Mikola and winner Ari Vatanen in an Opel Ascona.

In 2003 East African Classic she teamed up with Anna Goni in a Ford Escort MK1.

But she is returning on a very different and special assignment. She is the WRC Safety Delegate of the FIA and visits WRC events to evaluate the safety aspect of an event. She covers every centimeter of a rally route head of the start and gives her recommendations.

“If I am driving, I am not looking and I am here to look and decide where is safe and who is safe, using my experiences from when I was a driver, as well as checking the safety plan is in place,” she was quoted saying in the  Kennards WRC Australia.

In Kenya she will be driven through the proposed rally route, paying attention to the safety of fans and drivers, says WRC Safari Rally project CEO Phineas Kimathi.

Safety is the highest priority of the FIA. This has resulted in rallies now done in completely closed roads unlike the Safari of the past and Kenya must conform. A positive tock is work in progress in achieving WRC status, he added.

Her input is very important as it will help Kenya organize a successful Candidate event, final dry run ahead of a possible 2020 WRC, said Kimathi.

Born and brought up close to the Maritime Alps southern France, Mouton, 67, grew up in snow sport, an aspect which aided her agility, calculation and reflexes plus fearlessness.

From 1976-1984 Mouton was in sync with self and machines she drove, notably the Group B Audi and Peugeot. She won four WRC rallies and climbed the podium nine times including the Safari Rally. She won the highly competitive German National Championship in 1986.

 The early 1980s car manufacturers were given the leeway to interpret technical aspect of automotive engineering. Audi gifted rallying with a 4WD saloon. Others followed cue and before long cars with power in excess of 450 emerged.

The year 1982 showcased Mouton’s exceptional talent and bravery as she finished second overall in the championship, losing to legendary German maestro, Walter Röhrl, after crashing on the penultimate event in the Ivory Coast. 

Her all-round superiority happened in the United States in the 1985 Pikes Peak hill climb, held annually in Colorado for a distance of about 20km, totalling 157 corners.

She occasionally still drives Audi S1 Quattros at select heritage events. 

In 1988, Mouton co-founded the international motorsport event Race of Champions with Fredrik Johnson, in memory of Henri Toivonen whose Lancia Delta crashed in Italy signaling the end of Group B ear.

In 2010, Mouton became the first president of the FIA’s Women and Motor Sport Commission.  She stated that “for many years people have asked me why there have been no women following in my footsteps. I really hope the Commission can help answer that question and that we can attract and support women in all areas of our sport.”

Mouton was appointed FIA’s manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011. She also serves in the nomination committee of the Rally Hall of Fame.   In March 2012, she recused herself after becoming a candidate for nomination. Mouton was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with two-time world champion Carlos Sainz.

 Ends

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