Buenos Aires, Jan 4 (IANS) The first stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally has been cancelled due to extreme weather on the course, after the prologue had to be abandoned when a car hit the crowd and injured at least 13 spectators. “The deluge that fell in the early hours left the course unrecognisable. Several rios formed on the special, flooding the track and rendering it impassable. To make matters worse, aircraft were unable to take off due to extremely thick low clouds, leaving race director Etienne Lavigne with only one realistic option,” said the organisers in a statement on Sunday, reports Xinhua.
The competitors, including cars, motorcycles, quads and trucks, headed to the end of stage Villa Carlos Paz under link section rules after the decision was announced. This year’s event starts and ends in Argentina with a stage into Bolivia. However, its pre-race prologue on Sunday was marred by an accident that saw competitor No. 360, the car of Chinese women debutant driver Guo Meiling, veer off course at km 6.6 of the special and injure at least 13 spectators. The chief of the voluntary firemen corps of Arrecifes, Miguel Sanchez, said “13 people were transferred to the Santa Francisca Romana hospital” in the city, “including five children.” Furthermore, the injured “presented multiple traumatic injuries and severe wounds, such as fractures,” explained Sanchez. Guo and her co-pilot came out of the accident unharmed but were in shock. One witness of the accident, identified only as Pablo, said Guo’s Mini Cooper car “overturned and rolled several times” into the crowd. He added that the site of the accident “was not on a curve, it was on a straight part where the people were well located.” On Sunday before the decision of cancellation of first stage was made, competitors continued to arrive at the meeting point set up at the feeding zone.