2023 Dakar Rally: Carlos Sainz fractured vertebrae in Stage 9 crash

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Credit: DPPI/Red Bull Content Pool

After his wreck on the ninth leg of the Dakar Rally, Carlos Sainz revealed Monday that he had fractured his T5 and T6 vertebrae in the impact. He did not give a specific timetable for his recovery.

“On my return to Madrid from the Dakar Rally, the back pain I suffered after the incident of this year’s event persisted longer than usual,” said Sainz. “Following medical advice, I underwent further checks to assess in detail the extent of the injury. Unfortunately, the results haven’t brought good news because I fractured the T5 and T6 vertebrae. The good thing is that both vertebrae are stable and from this day on my priority will be to recover as soon as possible. Thank you all for the love and support I have received over the last days. I will keep you updated.”

The accident occurred after Sainz overshot a dune just five kilometres into Stage #9, causing him to roll his Audi RS Q e-tron E2. While his co-driver Lucas Cruz got out unharmed, Sainz reported pain in his torso that prompted an airlift to hospital. Sainz requested and was granted to be flown back to continue racing, which was granted as FIA Gold and Platinum drivers receive two chances to rejoin the Rally without impacting their overall standing, but the car was too damaged to continue.

He used his first re-entry after a disastrous Stage #6 for Team Audi Sport when he and team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel crashed in the same area on KM 261. Peterhansel was briefly knocked out in the wreck but ultimately not injured, though navigator Édouard Boulanger was airlifted out for what also turned out to be a broken vertebrae.

Sainz had started the 2023 Rally on a positive note by winning Stage #1, but mechanical issues two days later caused him to sink in the order. Although he managed to climb back onto the podium in Stages #4 and #5, the crash the next day ended any hope of him winning a fourth Dakar. Sainz and Peterhansel’s exits were the main stories in a frustrating Rally for Audi. Despite fanfare about their new RS Q e-tron E2 and being eligible for the World Rally-Raid Championship, they were overshadowed by controversy surrounding their Equivalence of Technology power boost after the fifth stage. Sainz was also subject to FIA investigation when his son Carlos Sainz Jr. helped close his door following a brake repair in Stage #3, though neither Sainz was disciplined beyond a warning. Mattias Ekström was the lone Audi driver to see the finish in fourteenth overall.

The 2023 Rally was particularly difficult on racers, with many being plagued by vehicle problems or taken out entirely. Many frontrunners besides Sainz suffered as well, which enabled Nasser Al-Attiyah to storm off to the T1 victory by over an hour and twenty minutes. Ricky Brabec, who won the Bikes overall in Stage #1, also sustained vertebrae fractures but hopes to make it in time for the next W2RC round at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on 25 February – 2 March.

Besides Abu Dhabi, Sainz will also have two months until Extreme E kicks off. Like Dakar, Extreme E’s 2023 season begins in Saudi Arabia on 11/12 March.

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