Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team’s Cristina Gutierréz has been handed a suspended disqualification from this year’s Dakar Rally after it was found that her intercom was fitted with a banned Bluetooth functionality.
The stewards carried out routine checks on the team’s T3 Lightweight Prototype at the end of the fourth stage and found that the intercom system – provided by Stilo – had an integrated Bluetooth function with the ability to connect to a cell phone.
According to the Cross-Country Rally sporting regulations, “Bluetooth and similar, including all forms of data transmission, are prohibited” and “during selective sections, no transmission or data is authorized.”
While Gutierréz and navigator François Cazalet received the suspended penalty and were reprimand, Stilo admitted a fault in its own products which caused the regulation breach.
The steward’s decision confirmed that Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team had requested a new intercom system without Bluetooth functionality to avoid a repeat offense which would result in definitive disqualification.
“The team manager declared that they requested a modified version of the Stilo DG10 digital intercom device with the ‘offshore’ hardware capacity to resist extreme conditions and without the Bluetooth module.
“The manufacturer requested to the competitor not to open the intercom to avoid damages to the sealing. The competitor submitted an email to the stewards from 7th December with the answer of Stilo where they confirm this feature in the prototype intercoms.
“Stilo has recognized its mistake in another letter signed on January 8 2022.”
Bluetooth and similar data devices can bring a significant performance advantage for events such as the Dakar Rally, particularly given the quasi-blind roadbook nature of the rally raid.
Stilo did note that the device, while possessing Bluetooth capabilities, did not have Bluetooth connected in the first place, meaning there was ‘no need to deactivate it’.
Therefore, neither Gutierréz nor Cazalet would have had any knowledge of Bluetooth being available during the stage.
Gutierréz and Cazalet currently lie third overall in the T3 Lightweight Prototype category, some 2h20ms behind the class leader Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo heading into the second week.
The pair’s suspended disqualification is the second high-profile case this year, after overall car leader Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Toyota was found not to have its data logger connected.