(Reuters) – Dakar Rally leader Carlos Sainz was handed a 10-minute penalty on Monday for an alleged collision with Dutch quadbike rider Kees Koolen earlier in the race.
The sanction means the Spaniard starts Tuesday’s 10th stage, a 373km timed section between Salta and Belen in Argentine, with his lead over Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah reduced to 56 minutes and 37 seconds.
Sainz denied hitting any quadbikes during Saturday’s fourth stage and Peugeot indicated they would appeal.
“Nobody really can understand this penalty,” Peugeot Sport head Bruno Famin told motorsport.com. “This leaves the door open to anything. If any competitor can say that he almost collided with another, we will all have a 10-minute penalty.”
Koolen, a former chief executive of online hotel reservation website booking.com, had complained that double world rally champion and 2010 Dakar winner Sainz had hit his quadbike and failed to stop.
There are five stages remaining to be run in the event which started in Lima, Peru, and ends in the Argentine city of Cordoba on Jan 20.
Monday’s ninth stage was canceled as a result of bad weather.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)