Carlos Sainz is out of this year’s Dakar Rally following his heavy stage nine crash which has left his Audi RS Q e-tron E2 too badly damaged to continue.
Sainz misjudged a dune around six kilometers onto the first stage after the rest day, carrying too much speed and diving straight headfirst into the wall of another dune.
It was the second such incident for the three-time winner of the event, after crashing on stage six.
Sainz’s latest crash means there is just one Audi car left in the Dakar with five stages remaining, Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist.
Team-mate and 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel retired after stage six, crashing at the same spot as Sainz but not managing to continue as his co-driver Edouard Boulanger was injured.
“It was a typical Dakar accident,” Sainz said post-stage. “Two meters to the left or two meters to the right and it would have been OK, but it was a big hole. Probably I was two meters to the left or 3kph slower, it would have been fine.
“Obviously I feel a little bit of pain in my back and in my neck and, of course, it’s the second crash in a few days and it was quite a hard impact.
“Unfortunately, it happens, and we need to stop. It’s a big disappointment of course, a little bit more because it has been a really hard rally for all of us.
“Nothing really worked the way we wanted, the way we all planned it, but this is motorsport, this is the Dakar, and even in the Volkswagen days that the beginning was also not easy.”
Sainz had already caused a minor sensation when he requested the medical helicopter to turn around and take himself and Cruz back to their car, in an effort to make it back to the bivouac.
“I had quite a bit of pain, the doctor was there and he waited to see if the pain went away,” Sainz added.
“He wasn’t very happy that I was staying so he pushed me and said: ‘it is my responsibility and you have to go to the hospital’ and I told him that I wanted to continue but finally we said: ‘OK let’s go [in the helicopter].
“Then I was in the helicopter en route to Jeddah and the pilot had to stop to put the coordinates in for the hospital because he couldn’t fly and put the coordinates in so we had to land and there I said to him: ‘come on, I have to try, I have to go back’ and I waited for the truck.
“So, we came back and repaired it with the mechanics, but the damage is too much for us to continue.”
According to the FIA Cross-Country sporting regulations, gold and platinum rated crews are permitted to miss a maximum of three stages before they are withdrawn from the event.
Sainz already had one “joker” stage after failing to finish stage six and knew that if he did likewise in stage nine, he and Cruz would have to take the start of Wednesday’s stage 10.
Once the car was healthy enough to drive, Sainz withdrew from the stage and joined the liaison route back to the bivouac so as to avoid the maximum cut-off time of six hours.
But the latest repair job was a step too far for the Audi mechanics, causing an early end to Sainz’s Dakar.
ASO announces spectator fatality on stage nine
Earlier on Tuesday, the Dakar Rally organizer, the ASO, announced that a spectator sadly passed away after an incident with a competitor over a dune on stage nine.
In a short statement, the ASO said: “A spectator of Italian origin situated behind a dune was struck on the route. [They] were evacuated by helicopter by medical teams but unfortunately died on transfer to hospital.”