Rallying: Boy, 10, and dad among seriously injured in Dakar Rally crash in Argentina

Injured spectators are assisted after Chinese driver Meiling Guo vehicle ran into the crowd during the 11km prologue of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires on Jan 2.
Injured spectators are assisted after Chinese driver Meiling Guo vehicle ran into the crowd during the 11km prologue of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires on Jan 2. PHOTO: AFP
Chinese driver Meiling Guo (right) is pictured inside her car as Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne (left) looks on.
Chinese driver Meiling Guo (right) is pictured inside her car as Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne (left) looks on. PHOTO: AFP
Parts of the vehicle of Chinese driver Meiling Guo are removed from the site on Jan 2.
Parts of the vehicle of Chinese driver Meiling Guo are removed from the site on Jan 2.PHOTO: AFP
Chinese driver Meiling Guo (centre) is pictured inside her car after running into the crowd during the 11km prologue of the 2016 Dakar Rally, in Buenos Aires, on Jan 2.
Chinese driver Meiling Guo (centre) is pictured inside her car after running into the crowd during the 11km prologue of the 2016 Dakar Rally, in Buenos Aires, on Jan 2. PHOTO: AFP
This picture taken before the accident shows Chinese driver Guo Meiling (right) and co-driver Liao Min (left) greet the public in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Jan 2.
This picture taken before the accident shows Chinese driver Guo Meiling (right) and co-driver Liao Min (left) greet the public in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Jan 2.PHOTO: EPA
A boy waves an Argentine national flag during the departure ceremony of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2.
A boy waves an Argentine national flag during the departure ceremony of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2.PHOTO: REUTERS
Boris Garafulic of Chile drives his Mini during the Buenos Aires-Rosario prologue stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2.
Boris Garafulic of Chile drives his Mini during the Buenos Aires-Rosario prologue stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2. PHOTO: REUTERS
Portuguese Helder Rodrigues during the prologue stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2.
Portuguese Helder Rodrigues during the prologue stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Jan 2. PHOTO: EPA

ARRECIFES, Argentina (AFP) - A 10-year-old boy and his father were seriously injured when a speeding car smashed into fans during the prologue of the Dakar Rally on Saturday.

In total, 10 people - all spectators - were hurt in the accident on the first day of the endurance race, with eight others suffering less serious injuries.

"The joint resources of the organisation and local forces have taken over and evacuated four injured, including two seriously affected," organisers said in a statement early on Sunday.

"Police have indicated that six more lightly injured have been transferred to hospital."

The incident, which involved the Mini of Chinese driver Guo Meiling, saw the prologue - which takes place before the first stage on Sunday - "neutralised" and immediately suspended in horrific scenes, race organisers said.

Her car veered off the course at the 6.6km mark of the 11km prologue on a stretch of straight country road near Arrecifes, a small town 200km from the capital Buenos Aires.

Race chiefs immediately deployed four medical helicopters, three medical vehicles belonging to the organisers and eight local ambulances to the scene of the accident.

A 34-year-old man and his young son were the two most serious cases and had to be rushed to hospital with one suffering head injuries and the other chest trauma, said race director Etienne Lavigne.

"In total, we had 10 patients, including four children and one pregnant woman, who is okay," said Daniel Modesto, head of the local hospital.

The accident left Guo's car battered, its bonnet strewn on the ground, as emergency workers carted the injured off on stretchers.

Xinhua reported that Guo and her co-driver Liao Min came out of the accident unharmed but were in shock.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 people were expected along the route of the prologue.

In 2015, Polish motorcyclist Michal Hernik died at the end of a stage, but the last accident involving spectators at the Dakar Rally was in 2011, when one person was killed.

Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb had safely negotiated the prologue in his debut on the Dakar Rally.

Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke, driving a Toyota, had claimed victory, taking 6min 8sec to cover the 11 km special, beating Carlos Sainz (Peugeot) and Xavier Pons (Ford Ranger).

Frenchman Loeb is seeking to follow in the footsteps of Ari Vatanen, who won the Dakar in his first attempt in 1987, back when it was raced in Africa.

"It was important to clear the prologue and avoid any mistakes on the first day," said Loeb, driving a Peugeot 2008 DKR, having raced almost exclusively for another French manufacturer, Citroen.

Sunday's first stage is between Rosario and Villa Carlos Paz with rain expected during the day.