Czech truck crew drops out of Dakar Rally after accident

The Aleš Loprais crew, of the Czech Republic, has retired from the Dakar Rally after its Tatra Jamal truck got into a severe accident in the competition’s 9th stage. Racer Aleš Loprais was hospitalized with a spinal injury while one of the team’s mechanics who was driving at the time of the accident suffered a concussion.

Photo: Petr LuskPhoto: Petr Lusk The accident occurred during an untimed section of the 9th stage of the race when crews were transferring from one time trial to another. On a tarmac road between the north Chilean cities of Antofagasta and Iquique, mechanic Petr Almáši was driving the truck but fell asleep at the wheel. The team’s navigator Michal Ernst described the chilling accident.

“It happened very fast. We were all very tired and probably did not pay enough attention to driving. The truck suddenly went off the road; as we were driving quite fast at the time, at around 100 kilometres per hour, the truck plunged headlong into the sand and rolled over twice. The impact was severe, it was nothing pleasant.”

Photo: Petr LuskPhoto: Petr Lusk Two of the three members of the crew were injured in the accident and were taken to hospital in the city of Iquique. The mechanic, Petr Almáši, sustained a concussion while the leader of the crew, Aleš Loprais, broke a vertebra. But the team’s manager, and father of the racer, Milan Loprais, said he hoped both men would soon be released from hospital.

“The guys are in hospital for observation. Petr Almáši suffered a concussion and an injury on the side of his head, and Aleš [Loprais] has a broken vertebra. But the doctors here - as well as Czech doctors who saw the x-rays - say the injuries are not that serious, and I hope that both will be out of the hospital in the coming days or maybe a week or so.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The Aleš Loprais team won the previous stage of the 33rd running of the Dakar Rally, and was ranked second in the truck class. Despite their bad luck, Aleš Loprais, nephew of the rally’s 6-time winner Karel Loprais, said he would definitely be taking part in the race next year. Meanwhile, two other Czech crews continue on in the competition: Martin Kolomý, driving a Tatra, is 8th in the overall standings while Jaroslav Valtr, driving a Liaz, is 18th. Motorcycle racer Jan Veselý on his Yamaha, meanwhile, is currently in 84th spot.