18 Feb 08
The organisers of Rally Mexico have trained almost 1,000 spectator marshals in an effort to stamp out the unruly behaviour which has marred the event for the last two years.
In 2007, for the second year in succession, Rally Mexico was troubled by spectators who threw stones at the cars and planted rocks and other debris in the road.
Faced with such a serious safety concern, organisers decided to tackle the problem head on, and appealed to rally spectators to become part of the solution. A scheme called ‘Responsible Spectator’ was established, with the aim of training a small army of volunteers who would go out on the stages to set an example and instruct others in how to conduct themselves during a rally.
“We're trying to create trend setters for the benefit of the sport,” said Eugenio Perea of the rally’s organising committee. “The program is designed to involve spectators and recognise them as one of the six main groups in the WRC. Nowadays, we have the competitors, the organisers, the media, the manufacturers and the FIA, but no one really pays attention to spectators in any meaningful way, other than to complain about them being unruly or citing statistics about attendance. We are trying to come up with a new way of involving good spectators and giving them rights, responsibilities and a say in how we do things.”
Judging by the number of applicants, the scheme seems to have gone down well with fans. “The response has been astounding,” said Perea. “We planned for a couple of hundred people and we quickly received two thousand entries. In order to keep under control we decided to limit the program this year to just under a thousand.”
If successful, Perea believes the ‘Responsible Spectator’ initiative could be adopted by other rallies in the WRC series: “These are the people we must nurture and support and this program is an attempt to do just that. If we're successful, we will have a growing, self-sustaining fan base that will ensure the health and growth of our sport and the proper running of our rallies, with safety and fun for everyone.”