The Dakar Rally is one of the most dangerous races in the world. The 2,500 mile race through the deserts and mountains of South America is more about survival than winning. With race classes as big as huge trucks to people riding motorcycles and ATV’s, everyone needs to be careful of their surroundings as everyone shares the same track.
In Stage 7 of 14 of the rally, a close call happened between rally legend Carlos Sainz and quad driver Kees Koolen where some sort of incident caused Koolen to crash. Sainz admitted there was a close call but he claimed he didn’t hit Koolen while Koolen said Sainz hit him at full speed and was lucky to be alive. Sainz was given a 10 minute penalty which satisfied no one because one denied anything happened and the other thought he could be dead and now Koolen is threatening to file criminal charges. Despite the penalty, Sainz remains the leader in his class by 56 minutes.
The entire became a matter of “he said, he said” and while there doesn’t seem to be video, we may not know what really happened. Sainz told his side of the story.
“It was very unfair because I really did not have any incident, I did not touch him, thank God. I am very disappointed and disgusted, but I will not let it influence me.
“I’m so sorry for him, for the scare he got. I also had a big scare because it was very close.”
“At the moment he crossed over the side of the road he lost control and the quad came back onto the road.”
“I managed to save the accident, I must have passed every close, that’s true, but I never hit him.”
“I think the guy finished the stage 12th. If I hit him, it would be much sadder news.”
And Koolen revealed his side of the story.
“I hear the sentinel, look around, and at the same moment I go flying in the air. I think I was doing maybe 20 kph (12 mph), the Peugeot was doing top speed, maybe 120 (75 mph), 150 (93), 180 (112) …”
“It was unbelievable. I was in the mud and was very lucky in the end. He hit the quad. You can see on my quad that there was a lot of damage. He says he didn’t hit me.”
“My origin is that I’m an mechanical engineer. The part that was hit and deformed, I will ask a 3D engineer to calculate it, but I think you need 1500 kilos, to deform something, maybe 2000 kilos.”
“He said nothing happened, he didn’t feel it.”
“I will ask technical experts, I have the parts saved. I expected somebody to steal it this night so I can’t prove it anymore, but I have saved them and will give it to a calculating company, they will see what the force was.”
“It was about this situation. I was there in a difficult situation and the car created a very dangerous situation. If the car would hit me 20 centimetres to the left, I would be dead.”
“I think if I would be dead, it would have been a lot easier for Peugeot and Carlos because then I wouldn’t be able to talk anymore.”
“In my protest, and I don’t say a lot about my protest, when there is a serious penalty for this case, I would be happy.”
“If there’s not a serious penalty… Everybody knows I’m a businessman and have access to a lot of good lawyers, maybe the best lawyers in the world, better than these organisations have themselves.”
“If you don’t take serious penalties I will take my measurements when I come home again and I will file a criminal offence.”
This is very clearly a serious situation that organizers should look into. The problem is that with likely no video, it’s tougher to tell what happened. Maybe the only way to tell is to look at Koolen’s quad and try and figure out if the damage at the point of impact was due to a car the size of Sainz’s car.
Regardless, it’s another example of how dangerous this rally is and that drivers need to watch out for each other as they are racing in the desert. There’s a realistic chance of death in these events and if someone crashed, it could take hours before help arrives so that’s why Koolen was angered that Sainz didn’t stop to check. Many times, it’s the drivers who have to check on each other if something bad happens because they may be the only people within hundreds of miles. Sainz said that he didn’t check on Koolen because if he didn’t hit him, there’s no reason to stop.
On a side note, former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has temporarily left the soccer world to race in the Dakar Rally. Villas-Boas lasted until Stage 4 where he crashed out and injured his back, forcing him to go to the hospital.