Officials overturn five-hour driver’s penalty for hitting bicycle

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[UPDATE, January 7, 2021: The 2022 Dakar Rally stewards have since reconsidered De Villiers’ penalty following the conclusion of Stage Six, and the previously-announced five-hour penalty has now been reversed. The official news update from Dakar reads as follows: 

“Giniel De Villiers, a pretender for a podium finish, had received two penalties. The first five-minute penalty was for having knocked into a biker on stage 1B and the second, totaling 5 hours, was for having driven over a bike when jumping off a dune. For the second incident, the South African has always claimed it was an accident.” 

“He requested that his case be reviewed and, following in-depth analysis of the circumstances, it turns out that the biker whose machine was damaged had just fallen off several seconds before De Villiers arrived on the scene. The South African driver only had one course of action possible which was to avoid the rider… at the expense of his bike. In light of these new elements, the race officials have decided to rescind the penalty. As a result, De Villiers climbs back up the general rankings and is now in 4th place, 51 minutes behind his team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah and immediately behind Sébastien Loeb.”]

The original piece follows.

If you are a biker and have been attentive to the Dakar Rally 2022, you know Giniel De Villiers. It is the extremely experienced Toyota Gazoo Racing rider who appears to have recklessly crashed into one rider and totally crushed another’s motorcycle in two separate opening stages of the rally.

Fortunately, both runners appear to be in good physical shape. Crashes and incidents happen during the Dakar and other rallies, but what really shocked the competitors and observers was the fact that De Villiers did not stop in either case. Time and time again when accidents happen in motorsport, it is usually other competitors who are the first on the scene to try and help their fellow pilot or pilot. De Villiers, for some reason, kept moving forward and the two riders involved were understandably upset.

In stage 1B, Cesar Zumaran was trying to restart his broken down KTM when De Villiers hit him at low speed, knocking him down. If you’ve seen video of a Toyota car hitting a driver at the 2022 Dakar Rally, this is the incident you saw. Music videos have been around the Internet since this happened, and for good reason. As a biker you both don’t want to see it and neither can you look away.

The next day, during the second stage, De Villiers allegedly broke rider number 163’s bike after having crossed a dune and landed directly on it. At the time, Moroccan rider Mohamedsaid Aoulad Ali said he couldn’t read the license plate of the car that crashed his bike, but telemetry later confirmed it was De Villiers . So far, video of this incident has not surfaced. Rally officials only imposed a five-minute penalty on De Villiers after the incident with Zumaran, but reportedly investigated the second incident with Ali.

On January 5, 2022, the stewards of the Dakar Rally announced that they were officially imposing a five-hour penalty on De Villiers for this second incident. He will still be allowed to continue participating in the Dakar 2022, but this penalty effectively puts him out of the race for any sort of good placement at the end of the competition on January 14.

The official decision reads as follows: “The competitor has been summoned to give him the opportunity to present his defense. Representative Mr De Villiers explained: We did not hear any red flags from Sentinel [the car-to-car driver safety communication system used in this event]. We do not doubt that we have received a signal. The problem is that the Sentinel button is located on the floor on the co-pilot’s side. During the Selective Section, the co-pilot’s feet jump back and forth and can easily, accidentally press the button.

“When we crossed the dune, we saw the biker and I avoided him so as not to injure him”, continued the statement from De Villiers. “At the foot of the dune, we turned around to make sure the runner was not injured. We didn’t feel like we hit the bike when we landed. Then we continued the Selective Sector. We are very embarrassed that something like this is happening. We apologize very much for this incident. We are also ready to offset the cost of rebuilding the motorcycle.

The Sporting Stewards’ statement continued: “Fortunately, the rider was no longer near his motorcycle and he suffered no injuries. However, the motorcycle is destroyed.

“Tonight Mr. De Villiers met the rider at the FIM Jury Office and reached an agreement that Mr. De Villiers will cover the cost of replacing the destroyed motorcycle. In addition, Mr. De Villiers will pay the registration fees for the Dakar Rally 2023 to the rider. The rider said he was very satisfied with this arrangement, ”continued the statement from the stewards.

“The Stewards consider the behavior of the crew as an infringement of the regulations which must have consequences. Since Mr. De Villiers has voluntarily contacted the rider, apologized, and will pay for the damage caused, the stewards consider that a time penalty is necessary but also appropriate ”, he concludes.


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