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GP Week : Issue 35
SPECIAL StAGES n Double World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm (below) was present in Japan on promotional business for Ford. He confirmed that there had been a lot of contact with teams since he retired at the end of the 2007 season, and even more rumours! “It would be nice to have the chance to do one or two more rallies, but as for returning for another full season and all the traveling that involves, even if there are now fewer events, I cannot see that happening.” n Thirty-seven entries have been received for next weekend’s China Rally Longyou, the final round of the 2008 FIA’s Asia-Pacific Championship. This includes Cody Crocker, who clinched the series on the previous event. Many Chinese privateers are entered including drivers called Fu, Lu, Liu, Li, Wu, Xu and three drivers called Zhu. This event is not to be confused with the other China Rally, final round of the IRC to be held four weeks later. n Trivial fact: the last three events in the World Championship that have used new stages have all been won by Mikko Hirvonen. These were Ireland in 2007, and in 2008 Jordan and now Japan. 16 New seat suits safety Jaarko Nikara (Ford Fiesta ST) in action THE most worrying safety aspect in rallying is side impact protection, and this year the FIA Institute’s Closed Car Research Group has been developing the Advanced Side Impact System, the prototype of which was first demonstrated at the Neste Oil Rally Finland last year. At the beginning of the 2008 season teams were required to install safety foam at a level with the driver’s helmet and the side of the car, as well as NASCAR-type cages fitted between driver and co- driver. At Rally Japan the next step was introduced – the special seat. The new specification seat is designed to be an integral part of this side impact safety project. It also features improved strength and support during rear impacts, and maximises pelvis, shoulder and head protection during side impacts by spreading the load evenly through the occupant’s body. The seat brackets and belt positions have been specified to create optimised belt strap geometry and angles that ensure the torso is efficiently and equally restrained by each of the straps of the safety harness. A high-g sled test, together with full-scale vehicle testing, has demonstrated that a high velocity 100g side impact could be survived without serious injury. Sparco has initially produced 25 examples to be shared round the teams, who have been given the option whether to fit these seats at Rally Japan or not, with a seven kilogram ballast imposition if they did not. Third priority in this project will be a 200mm thick impact dispersing system to be placed in the space between the door and the seat. The injury during Rally Japan affecting Francois Duval’s co-driver Patrick Pivato lent poignancy to this project.