Dakar - Cars - Leg 12
The Dakar Rally is over for Carlos Sainz and co-driver Michel Périn: the Volkswagen crew fell off the edge of a cliff and tumbled several metres, breaking Périn's shoulder blade as their Touareg settled on its roof.
The road book did not appropriately
indicate the danger in their opinion, and the situation brought about furious comments from the VW duo – who were leading the rally with a half-hour's lead when the incident occurred.
"There was a hidden waypoint with a wadi indicated as 'danger,' but it should have been indicated as 'extremely dangerous,'" stated Périn. "By the way, the car behind us, Nani Roma's car, would have fallen in the same hole as we did if we had not been there already."
Sainz prevented further accidents and possible injuries by climbing up the slope and warning off other competitors who were approaching the cliff just as he had. Nani Roma's Mitsubishi and Leonid Novitskiy's BMW both stopped just in time.
The fact that Sainz will not win his first Dakar Rally has sunk in; for the Spaniard it is a sad day, especially with the growing rumours concerning the cessation of Volkswagen's rally-raid programme.
The German constructor is apparently looking into the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with the objective of aiming for a mid-season entry to test the waters before announcing its intentions for the 2010 IRC championship.
Volkswagen had three race Touaregs in the top three positions; with Sainz out of the picture, two drivers remain to clinch a maiden Dakar victory for VW. Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller are practically neck-to-neck in the overall standings at the conclusion of today's 12th stage, which brought the participants from Fiambala to La Rioja across a total of 518 kilometres.
Two stages remain, and team boss Kriss Nissen might have to issue orders if he wants to avoid a race within the race. Volkswagen needs to take the win, and taking the inaugural South American Dakar Rally would be a valuable result for the manufacturer team, especially since Mitsubishi and BMW are far behind.
Stage winner Giniel de Villiers learned of Sainz's accident once he concluded Thursday's stage, arriving ahead of teammate Mark Miller. The South African is now leading the rally, only 2'35" ahead of the American.
"It was really a tough stage. In places we would go around in circles for 15 minutes to find the right trail. It was very dangerous and the sand was really soft," de Villiers said. "Dirk (Von Zitzewitz) had to get out of the car to find a way out. It was really a tough day."
Miller, who at one point actually led ahead of de Villiers today, agreed with his VW teammate: "I can tell you that this was a very demanding stage."
"It was not just difficult, navigation was almost impossible. It was a long series of horror situations from start to finish. These were the longest 200 kilometres in my life." he added. "The sun and the sand were so bright that I could not see anything. I think it was the toughest stage I ever drove in my life."
Miller also had words regarding Sainz's retirement: "It's not good news to know that Carlos had to withdraw. He has an important place in the team."
Of note: from stage finish to stage end, the Volkswagen team saw three drivers take the rally lead on Thursday as it switched from Sainz, to Miller, to de Villiers.