Dakar Rally hit by more disruptions after crash

An injured spectator being stretchered off after Chinese driver Guo Meiling ploughed into the crowd with her vehicle.
An injured spectator being stretchered off after Chinese driver Guo Meiling ploughed into the crowd with her vehicle.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROSARIO (Argentina) • The spate of disruptions to the Dakar Rally continued yesterday with the second stage being shortened because of poor weather conditions, race organisers confirmed.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain had already forced the cancellation of Sunday's opening stage because of safety concerns, a day after 12 people were injured when a car crashed into spectators during the prologue.

The weather was again expected to have an impact on yesterday's stage, with race director Etienne Lavigne confirming that it would be shortened by at least 150km.

"It's going to rain for most of the night (Sunday to Monday) on the special, then it should stop to begin again in the afternoon," said Lavigne. "We're going to do our best to ensure that the stage will take place in the best possible conditions."

The second stage between Villa Carlos Paz and Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina was expected to cover 787km in total for the motorcyclists and 847km for the cars.

Meanwhile, China's Guo Meiling, the first Asian woman to compete in the rally, and her co-pilot Liao Min were unhurt after their Mini Cooper crashed into spectators during Saturday's Prologue. But the accident left 12 injured, three of them critically, including a father and son.

The 10-year-old boy and his father both underwent surgery, with Lavigne adding both were in a "stable condition". However, the condition of a third man "deteriorated in the night" with doctors offering a "guarded prognosis".

The accident saw the race "neutralised" immediately by the organisers. They then decided to cancel Sunday's opening stage - the 600km-plus route from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz - because of safety concerns due to bad weather.

The 38th edition of the Dakar Rally - the eighth in South America - will cover more than 9,300km, with 10 stages to be held in Argentina and three in Bolivia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline 'Dakar Rally hit by more disruptions after crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe