The 2016 Dakar Rally hasn't got off to the best of starts with the opening stage in Argentina cancelled due to bad weather on Sunday, a day after the prologue had to be abandoned when a rally car crashed into the crowd and injured 8 spectators.
Race director Etienne Lavigne said helicopters needed to guarantee the safety of participants had been unable to fly due to thunderstorms that broke over the stage from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz. As a result, Dakar's official website explained that the "motorcycles and quads will travel in a convoy to Villa Carlos Paz, the cars on their own and the trucks on the course reserved for assistance vehicles".
On Saturday, the prologue had to be stopped when a Mini Cooper driven by China's Guo Meiling careened off the road at Arrecifes near Rosario and hit spectators, injuring 8, including 3 children and a pregnant woman. 4 medical helicopters and 8 local ambulances were deployed to take the injured to hospitals in the area.
A statement from the hospital in Arrecifes on Sunday said 2 people, a 10-year-old boy and his 34-year-old father, remained in critical condition.
Meanwhile, Indian motorcycle racer CS Santosh did not fare too well in the curtailed prologue, finishing 127th out of 136 riders. Santosh, who is listed on the Dakar timing sheets as Chunchunguppe Shivashankar, had a tough time navigating his Suzuki 450 Rally through a river crossing, something that caught out more experienced riders too.
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In his first appearance at the Dakar Rally last year, Santosh finished a commendable 36th overall astride his KTM 450 rally bike, and was among the 79 finishers out of 168 starters. The Indian hot-shot aims to break into the top 20 in the 2016 edition.
The annual Dakar Rally, which started out as a gruelling endurance race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital Dakar, has been held in South America since 2009 for security reasons. The 2016 edition starts and ends in Argentina with an incursion into Bolivia after Peru pulled out due to forecasts for the El Nino weather pattern that has caused flooding and landslides in the past.
347 vehicles are taking part in the 9,500km long (including 4,500km of specials) 2016 edition following 2 days of administrative and technical checks at Tecnopolis, Buenos Aires.
A total of 560 competitors will race on 136 motorcycles, 45 quads, 111 cars, and 55 trucks, with 33 per cent of the 181 riders in the motorcycle and quad categories making their debut.
The competitors and their assistance crews come from 60 different countries, with France (15.7 per cent), the Netherlands (15 per cent), Argentina (12.6 per cent), Spain (7.6 per cent) and the Czech Republic (5.5 per cent) fielding the 5 largest contingents.