Toyota wins appeal against five-hour Dakar penalty for de Villiers

Toyota Gazoo Racing has successfully appealed against the five-hour time penalty Giniel de Villiers received for hitting a motorbike during the second stage of the Dakar Rally.

De Villiers was involved in two separate incidents in the opening two stages of the rally-raid in Saudi Arabia, leaving him out of battle for outright honours.

The South African was given a five-minute time penalty for the first offence involving Chile's Cesar Zumaran in Stage 1, before having five hours added to his total time for a second incident the following day.

De Villiers ran into Moroccan rider Mohamedsaid Aoulad Ali coming down a dune and, although he was able to avoid the competitor, he ran over his Morocco Racing Team KTM bike and left it unusable.

Following the incident, the 49-year-old offered to compensate the motorcyclist for the damage to the bike as well as pay his registration fee for 2023.

That seemed to be the end of the matter for de Villiers, but the FIA stewards reopened the case on Friday after Toyota presented new evidence related to the incident.

"Significant and relevant new evidence has been provided by Toyota Gazoo Racing that was not available at the time of the decision," read an FIA bulletin. "The stewards are therefore re-examining decision 14 on the basis of the new evidence provided." 

The new evidence included the exact GPS data, which was not available at the time of the decision on Wednesday.

"At the time of the hearing and the decision, Toyota Gazoo Racing did not have access to the detailed data from the tracking system," the statement continued.

On 6 January, a representative from ERTF (the supplier of the Sentinel system) examined the car and concluded that reception inside the car was "adequate, but not optimal." This may have caused the signal to be transmitted later, although this could not be confirmed. 

It emerged that de Villiers and his navigator Dennis Murphy were warned by the system just two seconds before the collision. The stewards judged that it was irrelevant whether the drivers of the car heard the signal, but acknowledged that a period of two seconds was too short to take action.

As de Villiers took sufficient action to avoid the motorcyclist, it was decided to withdraw the penalty.

"After reviewing and considering all the evidence, the stewards have concluded that no offence was committed by the driver, decision No 14 is withdrawn on that basis," the statement read.

The withdrawal of the five-hour time penalty means de Villiers jumps to fourth place in the provisional overall standings, 51 minutes behind outright leader and Toyota teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah.

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Updated standings after Stage 6:

Pos. #. Name Mark Time Gap Penalty
1 201 Nasser Al-Attiyah TOYOTA 20:37:24   00:00:00
2 205 Yazeed Al Rajhi TOYOTA 21:27:43 +00:50:19 00:02:00
3 211 Sebastien Loeb PRODRIVE 21:27:49 +00:50:25 00:00:00
4 207 Giniel de Villiers TOYOTA 21:29:20 +00:51:56 00:05:00
5 222 Lucio Alvarez TOYOTA 21:44:22 +01:06:58 00:00:00
6 203 Jakub Przygosnki MINI 21:53:49 +01:16:25 00:00:00
7 208 Vladimir Vasilyev BMW 21:59:32 +01:22:08 00:00:00
8 221 Orlando Terranova PRODRIVE 22:01:24 +01:24:00 00:12:00
9 209 Martin Prokop FORD 22:07:54 +01:30:30 00:07:00
10 223 Sebastian Halpern MINI 22:14:49 +01:37:25 00:00:00

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