Salta, Argentina - Dakar Rally leader Carlos Sainz has been handed a 10-minute penalty on Monday for an alleged collision with Dutch quad rider Kees Koolen earlier in the race.
The sanction means Sainz will start Tuesday's 10th stage, a 373km timed section between Salta and Belen in Argentina, with his lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing SA's Nasser al-Attiyah reduced to 56m37s. Sainz denied hitting any quads during Stage 4 and Peugeot indicated it would appeal.
"Nobody really can understand this penalty," siad Peugeot Sport head Bruno Famin. "This leaves the door open to anything. If any competitor can say that he almost collided with another, we will all have a 10-minute penalty."
Koolen, a former chief executive of online hotel reservation website booking.com, had complained that former double world rally champion and 2010 Dakar winner Sainz had hit his quad and failed to stop.
'Missing' Amarok back in the race
It was only when he arrived at the Tupiza bivouac that Hennie de Klerk’s crew found out what had happened to the TreasuryOne Amarok, after disappearing from the official timing screens on Saturday afternoon.
Apparently the Amarok was stranded after suffering serious suspension damage, and it took De Klerk and navigator Gerhard ‘MacGyver’ Schutte five hours to lash the bakkie together and limp into the bivouac at Uyuni, after timing for the stage had closed, thus incurring a four-hour penalty.
That’s also why they weren’t in the results, causing serious concern among their crew, which was 585km away at Tupiza because Uyuni was in the middle of the two marathon stages, with no service crews permitted.
Nevertheless, De Klerk told the organisers that under no circumstances would he give up, so the Amarok wasn’t on the dreaded withdrawals list either, causing further consternation in the TreasuryOne tent at Tupiza.
Meanwhile De Klerk and Schutte worked late into the night to carry out further repairs on the battered bakkie, just to see them through to Tupiza on Sunday evening.
In the event. they did a lot better than that. De Klerk posted the 32nd fastest time on Stage 8 and bounced back to 32nd overall, which was where he was after Stage 6. De Klerk is now one of only two surviving rookies in the car category, out of 17 first-time starters.
The competitors were told of the cancellation of Monday's Stage 9 as they arrived at the bivouac in Tupiza, which had been turned into a mudbath by the heavy rains of the past few days, making it almost impossible to work on the machines. Many of the competitors, especially the 'malle moto' motorcycle riders who work on their own bikes between stages, opted to push on across the border to the bivouac at Salta on Sunday, and have the whole of Monday to work on their machines.
Among them were South African Donovan van de Langeberg and his riding companion, Australian Scott Britnell; By the time they checked into a motel at Humahuaca at 10.30pm for a much-needed shower and a night in a real bed, they'd been riding, mostly off-road, for 17 and a half hours, with the prospect of being on the road again well before dawn so as make the most of the daylight at Salta to service their KTMs. The Dakar Rally is not for sissies.
With Monday's ninth stage cancelled as a result of bad weather, five stages remain to be run before the race ends in the Argentine city of Cordoba on Saturday 20 January.
IOL Motoring and Reuters