Safety work is all year round in Rally Finland.
Mika Häyhänen is the Neste Rally Finland Safety Assistant, whose very responsible job is to map out the most suitable and safe viewing places along the rally route together with Chief Safety Officer Pentti Kangas.
“We have work all year round, but the busiest time is of course in the spring and summer. Straight after the previous rally we start to draft the next event in order to make next year’s event as well-running and safe as possible.”
“The safety plan to be submitted to the FIA is a couple of hundred pages long ‘giant’, which is compiled from January to the beginning of July. From February to April we outline the base maps, escape and rescue routes, spectator areas, passage ways and crossing points. It’s a massive risk management operation, with the aim of taking all possible risks into consideration.”
In addition to punctuality and meticulousness, the work itself requires a good understanding of how the cars behave on the stages – not just when they are travelling normally, but also in the event of something unexpected.
“Each special stage has several spectator areas, so there are approx. 60 – 70 of them along the entire route of 23 stages. We also take into consideration other areas, such as yards where the cars could possibly swerve into”, Häyhänen explains the careful process of charting all the aspects of spectator safety.
Preparing a special stage for the rally means that the best seats for the rally fans are not only safe but also 100% ready when the stage starts.
Building a spectator area includes putting up fences, marking the passages and placing different signposts and prohibition and restriction signs.
“All these elements are more or less ready and in place about a week before the rally, so that we can conduct our final inspection. The checklist has dozens of items on it, so it’s no wonder that during the days leading up to the rally we tour the stages with a mini-bus from morning ‘til night doing our checks. Present are always the special stage officials as well as the spectator area section managers at least.”
When it comes to the safety and crisis preparedness, it’s not only about the seamless cooperation with different partners, but also about continuous alertness and operational readiness.
“There is a helicopter reserved for the stages, as well as an ambulance at the start of a stage. There will also be divers placed in some places along the route, and the interim safety points always have a skilled doctor”, Häyhänen lists the safety professionals found along the route.
The organisation and safety expertise of Rally Finland are of the highest class in the world, which also generates continuous interest around the world.
“We have consulted many international actors and given assistance in the route and safety issues for international rallies in e.g. Jordan and Turkey. Still, we need to keep developing – in this job you’re never done.”
“The best reward I can get from my work is a safe and successful event. This year again, I wish all the spectators fantastic rally experiences in the official spectator areas, which are the joint effort of the route & safety team and the special stage organisers for the good of the rally fans”, Häyhänen sums up.