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Dakar 2022: De Villiers cleared of wrongdoing, has five hour penalty rescinded

Cleared of fault, Giniel De Villiers has been receiving death threats and barrages of online abuse after knocking over a motorcyclist, and totalling another bike later on.

De Villiers cleared of wrongdoing in Dakar 2022 collision

If you’ve been following the Dakar this year, you’ll know it’s been as tumultuous and unforgettable as ever - amongst the headlines has been Giniel De Villiers, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. 

As a quick recap: the Toyota driver had been involved in a couple of incidents, both involving motorcyclists: first when he knocked over Cesar Zumaran in stage 1, and second when he crested a dune only to find the crashed bike of Mohamedsaid Aoulad Ali on the other side.

The initial incident landed him a five-minute penalty, De Villiers claiming a misunderstanding led him to carry on past the downed rider. More drastic ramifications were deemed necessary for the second incident, in the form of a five-hour penalty that all but removed the South African from contention in the rally. 

Quoting a news update from the Dakar, De Villiers officially requested the five-hour penalty to 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. 

Dakar driver knocks over motorcyclist

“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 [FIA] 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.”

Speaking on the incident, De Villiers said:

“We know we did absolutely everything to the maximum to not run over this bike. It's very difficult in the dunes, that people are behind the dunes. It's unfortunate. 

“The investigation was not done properly [initially]. The good thing is the penalty is removed and we can race now, we are back in the race. I still think that we have to try to improve the safety even more because if you have bikes and cars racing on the same track in dunes like that, it is incredibly difficult,”

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Danilo Petrucci has been doing well, hasn't he?

As for the reasoning on how he couldn’t avoid the collision with Aoulad Ali’s bike, it appears the Sentinel warning system was malfunctioning at the time.

“The Sentinel system on my car also didn't work, which we complained about from the beginning of Stage 1. We were delayed 12 minutes at the start of Stage 1, it was not working properly. So we did not hear the alarm all the time. They finally fixed that two days ago. They realised that it was not working properly, so we could not get a warning in any case in this situation. 

“I was just very fortunate that at the last minute I came over the dune to instinctively avoid him because there's no way I could have seen him behind the dune. But the most important thing is that both the guys are fine. I spoke to both the bike riders and they are very nice guys. I completely apologised to them for what happened.”

“The first guy (Cesar Zumaran) is in the race, he is a very nice guy. I spoke to him and he completely understands [the situation]. And the second guy (Mohamedsaid Aoulad Ali), I feel sorry for him because his bike was damaged, he could not continue. We will make sure that he has a bike for next year, fix his bike, and we will pay for his entry.”

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Unfortunately, De Villers has been receiving barrages of online abuse for his part in these events. 

“The abuse you get on social media and even death threats, it is incredible, it's the first time I've ever experienced something like that. I must say it's not really pleasant.
“This is normally from people that don't know the situation, they are not here. They are sitting at home and it's very easy to comment on something when you don't really know the facts. But still it's quite upsetting to see this kind of thing. 

“So from that point of view I'm happy that this is behind us.”

More on the Dakar here: Sunderland holds Dakar 2022 lead after ‘great week’Petrucci is doing well!

Sources: Motorsport.com, RideApart

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