Injured French Dakar driver to return homeSunday, January 02, 2022
HAIL, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — A French rally driver has undergone surgery in Saudi Arabia after suffering serious leg injuries in a car explosion, and will now return to France race organisers said on Saturday.
The driver, Philippe Boutron, was involved in the non-racing incident along with five unhurt people in his car on Wednesday.
Race Director David Castera told France Info Boutron was planning to compete in the Dakar Rally for the ninth time and he is also president of third-tier French football club Orleans.
“His condition is improving and his repatriation to France is being prepared,” Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) said.
“His vehicle was brought to a sudden halt by a sudden explosion, the origin of which is still unknown at this stage.
“The Saudi police immediately went to the scene and began their investigations,” it added.
The Saudi interior minister backed up ASO's statement.
“There is no criminal suspicion in the accident that occurred to a support team vehicle for one of the drivers participating in Rally Dakar 2022,” it tweeted.
Later on Saturday, France's foreign ministry updated its advice on Saudi Arabia, contradicting ASO and the Saudi interior minister's comments about the incident.
“An appeal for maximum alertness — security risk,” it said on its website.
“An investigation by Saudi authorities is underway to determine the cause of this explosion. The possibility of a criminal act has not been ruled out,” it added.
Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah won Saturday's prologue between Jeddah and Ha'il in the rally class, with Australian Daniel Sanders leading the motorcycle race.
The second part of the opening stage takes place on Sunday, with the final day of action on January 14.
“Given this uncertainty and as a precautionary measure, we have decided with the Saudi authorities to reinforce all the security measures that were already in force in previous years and have been renewed for this third edition of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia,” ASO said.
“The entire route, the hotels and the bivouacs will therefore benefit from a significant increase in security,” it added.