Marathon race the Dakar rally has witnessed yet more danger and drama after a truck driven by Anton Shibalov, of the victorious Russian Kamaz-Master team, hit an organizer’s helicopter in mid-air during a jump on the final day.
In a freak mid-air collision that was caught on camera, the truck was torn by the helicopter as it flew low and the vehicle sprung into the air while Shibalov was racing along the sands in Saudi Arabia, damaging the roof.
The accident came at the end of a fortnight of adrenaline-fueled action across the vast course that saw Indian motorcyclist CS Santosh placed into a coma after a crash and French competitor Pierre Cherpin die from head injuries.
“Anton Shibalov’s car arrived at the finish line with a torn open air intake on the roof of the body,” Eric Khairullin, of Shibalov’s team, said.
“It looked rather strange. It turned out that the organizer’s helicopter hovered too low over the track and at some point, when the truck was speeding, jumped, apparently, [hitting] a helicopter, which, of course, is very dangerous.”
“Fortunately, everything worked out. This is a question of organizing the safety of flights of organizing helicopters during the competition,” Khairullin added.
Former runner-up Dmitry Sotnikov won the truck category of the rally for the first time in his career, having been in the lead after all 12 stages of the race.
Kamaz-Master took a clean sweep on the truck podium, with Shibalov in second and teammate Ayrat Mardeev finishing third as part of the outfit’s fifth straight overall triumph.
Sotnikov finished in 48 hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds, with Shibalov almost 40 minutes behind him and Mardeev around 75 minutes further back.