Is crowd safety the 85-mph elephant in the room when it comes to rally racing? The FIA is keeping an eye on World Rally Championship stage speeds, and a recent run by Ott Tanak called attention to speeds achieved by the new rally cars.

On a Rally Sweden stage, Ott Tanak's M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC averaged – not reached, but averaged – 85.62 mph. That is insanely fast, almost seven mph faster than any car has ever managed at a WRC stage, and it's something FIA wants to cap. The result of the high-speed run was the cancellation of the entire stage. "Due to safety reasons after analyzing the average speeds on special stage 9 and on recommendations from the FIA, special stage 12 is cancelled", the issued statement read.

FIA's Jarmo Mähönen told Autosport actions are being taken to limit average speeds to 80 mph, or 130 km/h. As Mähönen puts it, "These kind of stages teach us one thing: we need to take a more firm grip when organizers want to introduce new stages, we have to be present to check them. If we see a stage time of more than 130km/h then it's an indicator that we need to be looking at this."

Mähönen is careful to choose his words, as limiting speeds in racing sounds a touch counter-intuitive, but safety does have to come first. "From our point of view this was too fast. What we want to do is look at a guideline on this, but maybe we need to think to the regulations. We want the cancellation of this stage to send a message to the other organizers to think carefully about their route," says Mähönen to Autosport.

Mähönen says the solution is to use smaller, slower roads. A criticizing, unnamed rally driver told Autosport that the Swedish stage in question was "just straight, not dangerous, just boring," but approved by FIA.

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