Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers has been penalized for the second time by the Dakar Rally organizer, this time copping a five-hour punishment for a second incident involving a motorbike.
De Villiers, who had been fourth in the overall classification, has endured a difficult event so far, having received a five-minute penalty following Sunday’s opening stage of the rally in which the South African failed to check on biker Cesar Zuraman.
A day later, de Villiers hit another bike while negotiating a dune on the selective section 2, causing what the stewards described as “major mechanical damage” to the bike of Mohamedsaid Ali Aoulad.
De Villiers told the stewards that he “did not hear any alarm signal from the Sentinel [car-to-car communication system that alerts competitors of hazards on the stages]” but admitted that “we do not doubt that we received the signal.”
The 2009 winner said that the Sentinel button located on the floor of the car may have accidentally been switched off by navigator Dennis Murphy during the bumpy stage.
De Villiers added that “when we came over the dune, we saw the motorcyclist and I avoided him so as not to hurt him. At the bottom of the dune, we turned around to make sure that the rider was not injured. We didn’t feel like we hit the bike when we landed.”
De Villiers met with Ali Aoulad at the FIM Jury office in the bivouac and reached an agreement with the biker to compensate the cost of the damage caused to the KTM machine.
“We are very embarrassed that something like this happens, [and] we apologise very much for this incident.”
The stewards said in their statement that they considered “the behaviour of the crew as an infringement of the regulation which must have consequences.
As a result, de Villiers is effectively out of the running for a top 10 finish on this year’s Dakar but will still be able to contest the remainder of the event.