Dakar opening stage cancelled due to weather

Poor weather has forced the cancellation of Sunday's Dakar Rally opening stage because of safety concerns, race director Etienne Lavigne told AFP, a day after ten people were injured when a car crashed into spectators.

Ricky Brabec of the United States of America riding on and for Honda CRF rally team HRC competes in the Dakar Rally Prologue on January 2, 2016 outside Buenos Aires near Ariecifes, Argentina.   -  Getty Images

Poor weather has forced the cancellation of Sunday's Dakar Rally opening stage because of safety concerns, race director Etienne Lavigne told AFP, a day after ten people were injured when a car crashed into spectators.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain prompted organisers to scrap the scheduled 600-kilometre plus route from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz, with the conditions grounding safety helicopters and leaving parts of the course flooded.

"The Dakar doesn't stop when it rains but when it's not possible to guarantee the normal security presence for the rally”, Lavigne explained.

"The weather conditions are very bad. The relay plane (which helps with radio communications) was unable to fly. Helicopters can't take off. The situation isn't going to improve in terms of visibility," he added.

The first stage was supposed to include a 258km timed special for cars and a 227km section for motorcycles, but the entire field will instead travel to Cordoba under link section conditions.

The 38th edition of the Dakar Rally, which will cover more than 9,300km across Argentina and Bolivia, commenced with Saturday's prologue which was "neutralised" and then immediately suspended after a crash involving the Mini of Chinese driver Guo Meiling left 10 people hurt.

A 10-year-old boy and his father were seriously injured and underwent surgery overnight, with Lavigne adding both were in a "stable condition".

However, Lavigne said the condition of a third man "deteriorated in the night" with doctors offering a "guarded prognosis".