HealthSportsClose Call: Dakar 2024 Leader's Near Collision with Fan on Stage 4

Close Call: Dakar 2024 Leader’s Near Collision with Fan on Stage 4

Al-Rajhi achieved his best individual stage finish of the 2024 Dakar Rally, coming in second to winner Sebastien Loeb in the 299km special between Al Salamiyah and Al-Hofuf.

It was a close call for the Saudi driver at the end of the stage, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a fan. The 42-year old was accelerating to get out of a dune at speed in his customer Toyota Hilux when he encountered a passing spectator with a pick-up truck, nearly hitting the vehicle at speed.

Despite the organisers being unaware of the incident, a video of the near-miss emerged on social media, showing the Saudi driver swerving to the right to avoid the oncoming vehicle.

Al-Rajhi himself posted a video message in Arabic explaining the incident.

A member of Prodrive racer Naasser Al-Attiyah’s team helped translate the message, in which Al-Rajhi asked fans to leave a safety margin with the rally cars as they go “very fast” on the sandy tracks.

In the video, Al-Rajhi also referred to an accident on the first stage of Dakar, where his team-mate Lionel Baud hit a photographer (initially thought to be a fan) who then had to be taken to a nearby hospital.

He also recapped the death of a spectator who lost their life during the 2016 edition of the rally-raid in South America.

Al-Rajhi, competing in his 10th Dakar, also called for spectators to be more responsible while watching the event from the sidelines.

With the incident now behind him, the Overdrive competitor will head to the fifth stage with a small but significant 4m19s lead of the Audi of Carlos Sainz Sr, who finished fourth-fastest on Tuesday.

Al-Attiyah has moved up to third place in the overall standings despite losing victory on Stage 4 to Prodrive stablemate Loeb in the final dash to the finish.

Lucas Moraes, the Rookie of the Year at Dakar in 2023, leads the factory Toyota contingent in fourth, over 19 minutes down on Al-Rajhi and his customer Hilux.

On-track incidents have dominated the 46th edition of Dakar so far. Apart from Al-Rajhi’s near-brush with a spectator and Baud’s collision with a photographer, Century duo Tim and Tom Coronel were involved in a crash with motorbike entrant Philippe Gendron at the end of Stage 3.

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