X44’s Gutiérrez wins rally despite rupturing vertebrae

The Red Bull junior fought through a lot of pain to claim class victory on the Kazakhstan Rally

Cristina Gutierrez

Cristina Gutiérrez remarkably took class victory on Rally Kazakhstan last weekend despite rupturing two vertebrae while driving.

The Red Bull junior, who also races for X44 in Extreme E and is currently second in the points there, came sixth overall and won the T3 class for side-by-side vehicles on the latest Cross-Country Rallies World Cup round. It took over 18 hours to complete the 911-mile event, the last part of which Gutiérrez spent in immense physical pain.

She was closing in on a second successive class win on the final 165-mile stage when a little after 18.6 miles her car suffered a big impact that sent shockwaves through the chassis as well as the bodies of Gutiérrez and co-driver François Cazalet.

“Upon arrival with great pain, they decided to send me directly to the hospital, where they performed a CT scan and confirmed the rupture of two vertebrae,” Gutiérrez said.

Francois Cazalet

As Gutiérrez made her way to a Kazakhstan hospital, it was down to co-driver Cazalet to pilot their OT3 to the podium to celebrate their win.

Overdrive Racing’s Lucio Alvarez and Armand Monleon claimed the overall rally victory in their Toyota Hilux Overdrive, ahead of MSK Rally Team’s Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov and Gutiérrez’s Extreme E rival Mattias Ekström, who was being co-driven by Emil Bergkvist and was competing for top Dakar Rally team X-Raid.

Krotov took his older-spec Mini All4Rally 4×4 to second, while Ekström completed his second event in the Mini John Cooper Works buggy in third.

There’s just over two weeks before the World Cup’s biggest event, the 11-day Silk Way Rally across Russia and Mongolia, and two-and-a-half months before Gutiérrez is back on Extreme E duties at the Arctic X-Prix.

Depending on the severity of the injury, disc ruptures in the back can take anywhere from a few days to six weeks to fully heal. That should mean Sébastien Loeb will be sharing the Odyssey 21 with his usual Extreme E partner Gutiérrez come August.