Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers has been handed a five-minute penalty for failing to check on a motorcyclist he hit during Sunday’s opening stage of the Dakar Rally.
De Villiers clipped the unnamed biker as they negotiated a tight, rocky section of the Ha’il – Ha’il loop test, delaying both competitors.
The biker was uninjured, but initially fell to the ground holding his leg before waving de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy through to continue the stage.
But de Villiers was found to be in breach of the Article 48.5 of the FIA Cross Country Rally Sporting Regulations (CCRSR) for failing to stop at the scene of the accident to check on the stricken biker.
Video evidence surfaced of the collision and was brought in front of the stewards by representatives of the Fédération Internationale de Moto (FIM), which Dakar organizer the ASO investigated.
The stewards’ ruling stated that de Villiers hit the bike from behind. “The rider fell from the bike and after a short stop, [de Villiers] continued without having offered any help to the rider,” the ruling said.
De Villiers offered his defense to the stewards by saying that the soft sand in the section where the incident took place made it too difficult for him to stop completely.
“It was a trial section with sand and rocks,” he said. “I was going slowly and saw the rider standing on the left side. Since there was a rock in the sand, I was pushed towards the rider and hit [him], so he fell.
“As the rider stood up and waved with his arm, it was a signal for me that he was OK, and [that] I should pass. I passed the bike and did not want to stop again since it was very sandy, and I was afraid of getting stuck.”
The stewards decided that de Villiers had not taken due necessary care in relation to the fallen biker and therefore elected to serve the Toyota driver with a five-minute penalty, which is applied to stage two but only effective from Tuesday morning.
The penalty is likely to drop de Villiers from fourth to sixth.
On Tuesday, de Villiers was under investigation again by the stewards following a separate incident with a biker during the second stage.
De Villiers was reported to have “caused major mechanical damage” to the Moroccan Racing Team KTM of Mohamedsaid Ali Aoulad after he fell while negotiating a dune.
Aoulad saw de Villiers approaching and got out of the way, but the Toyota ran over the bike. De Villiers did a round tour of the scene and continued for the remainder of the stage.