Suddenly the hopes for Audi at the 2023 Dakar Rally were gone. Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel both had an accident with their Audi RS Q e-tron on the sixth stage at the same place. But what actually happened? This is difficult for Peterhansel to explain, after all he has retrograde amnesia.

    “It was seven or eight kilometers after a neutralization. I lost consciousness from the accident but I was on the gas. Edouard switched off the engine and applied the brakes. So we did a 360. A few minutes later I woke up and couldn’t remember what happened.”

    The memory gap was unusually large: “Usually you remember the last few seconds before the accident, but I didn’t have any memory at all until five minutes before! So I’m missing a total of around 15 minutes.”

    “I woke up and got out of the car. That’s when I saw Edouard [Boulanger; Beifahrer] lying on the floor with back pain. It made me realize that we had an accident. I asked him if he could feel his legs and hands. He said he could feel everything. Then the rescue helicopter came very quickly.”

    “Then I saw Carlos’ car about 50 meters away, the suspension of which was completely destroyed. Now I was really confused because I didn’t know what had happened.” Only later did he learn that there had been no collision between him and Sainz. Both had fallen down the same slope together, but independently of each other.

    Vertebral fracture at Boulanger ends rally

    “Of course it was clear to me that the rally was over for us because Edouard’s pain was too great,” continues the 57-year-old. “We had good medical care from the organizers and he was flown directly to the hospital by helicopter. I was flown out 30 minutes later in a second helicopter, where a full check was carried out.”

    While Peterhansel is unhurt, Boulanger has fractured his vertebrae. “It’s not a complicated fracture. He needs an operation by a specialist. But he’s young and the operation is relatively simple and should be quick.” The operation will take place on Monday in Munich. Peterhansel will travel to Cologne on Sunday and continue to Munich on Monday.

    “It’s a strange feeling, especially when you can’t remember at all,” he comments on his accident. Maybe that’s better. I am very disappointed for the team. Except for the tire problem at the beginning, we had a perfect car, with which we could have fought for victory. I was very happy with the car.”

    “The Dakar is a difficult race. You have to take a few risks if you want to win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our year. The important thing is that Edouard will recover quickly. We’ll throw ourselves into the next fight.” It is currently not possible to foresee which rally that will be.

    What role did the road book play?

    “Mister Dakar” was able to use the traces to analyze the accident. At first there were rumors that the road book did not correctly indicate the slope at this point. Peterhansel agrees in part, but doesn’t want to shift the blame onto the organizer.

    “It was a very long left-hand turn that had the drop-off on the edge. They’re driving [wenn sie das Roadbook schreiben] past it at 60 to 70 km/h and stay far inside. But at the speeds we arrive at, 120 to 140 km/h, we drive much further out of the corner.”

    “I don’t want to say that it was an organizer’s fault. We always have to drive in such a way that we can see the obstacles. If we’re too fast, mistakes can happen. So it’s not the organizer’s fault, it’s the driver’s fault. “

    “It wasn’t a sand dune either, it was fine gravel. This means that if you drive over it at 60 or 70 km/h, the tires stay in contact with the ground. But if you do it at 120 or 140, you fly through the air .”

    Career end at victory was planned

    Bitter: While Sainz suffered mechanical damage that took hours to repair, but the driver and co-driver remained unharmed, the rally was over for Peterhansel and Boulanger, although the car would still have been completely drivable.

    He is therefore considering whether the cars need to be adapted: “The weakest link in the chain is now often no longer the car, but the person. The day before we attacked in the dunes on camel grass and repeatedly had hard landings. Numerous drivers complain. The cars are now so stable that the human body is the limiting factor.”

    Although the accident was bad, it wasn’t the worst moment of his career, he adds. He feels responsible for the pain Boulanger has suffered. “But he will recover and in a few months we will forget about it.”

    “My worst moment was on the bikes when my friend Gilles Lalay had his accident in front of me.” Lalay died on a Yamaha in a head-on collision with a medical support vehicle in 1992.

    Stephane Peterhansel reveals another secret: “My plan was to end my career if I won. That would have been the best way to leave with the best feeling. It’s not that I no longer have any motivation.” Now the signs are that “Monsieur Dakar” will compete for the 33rd time. But he doesn’t want to commit just yet.